A PEEBLES man has opened up about his struggles with ulcerative colitis ahead of this weekend's Great North Run.

Chris Wilson, 45, will be taking on the half marathon on Sunday (September 10) on behalf of the charity Crohn's and Colitis UK.

Chris first started feeling unwell in 2009.

He said: "As a youngster, like many I didn’t look after my body. I was active but I smoked, binge drank at weekends and my diet was nutritionally rubbish.

"When I first became unwell in 2009, I had no idea what was causing it.

"Cramps, pain, blood in my stool, weight loss, never out the loo – the doctor diagnosed me with IBS [irritable bowel syndrome].

"But the biggest thing was the exhaustion of being in pain all the time.

"Like too many young people, while I was confused, I ignored it for far too long."

A GP, who queried why Chris had not had a stool sample taken, sent him for a colonoscopy, at which point he was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

Despite efforts to control the condition with medication, Chris, who was then 32 years old, was transferred to the Western General Hospital and underwent a surgery to remove the majority of his large intestine (colon) and was given a stoma bag.

"I can’t really explain how badly it affected me mentally," said Chris. "I felt ashamed and embarrassed, felt constantly dirty and unclean.

"Young men don’t really talk about that kind of thing.

"I still think to this day there’s a stigma around something as personal as your bodily functions.

"I felt robbed of a normal life, unable to do all the things I loved most."

A year after his surgery Chris received a reversal which meant he no longer required the stoma bag – however, his self confidence and mental health continued to struggle.

More than 10 years later, Chris, with the help of his wife Joanne, has learnt about better nutrition and rediscovered his love for being active.

Chris added that being vulnerable and sharing his story is "terrifying" but that ignoring his symptoms is one of his "biggest regrets".

He said: "For years after I pretended that it never happened. But I’ve realised that to be able to truly consider myself recovered, I want to be open and hopefully raise awareness as it can happen at any age.

"So never ignore symptoms, be aware that stopping smoking suddenly can be a catalyst for dietary changes that can cause digestive issues, and know that there is so much help available around nutrition and mental health support.

"While I’m incredibly grateful to the NHS and charities, like the one I’m running for, I know I didn’t use the support enough because I was embarrassed.

"Lean on the people who love you – talk to them about it and don’t suffer in silence."

Chris has raised nearly five-times more than his original fundraising target of £350, and at the time of publication he has hit £1,685.

And Chris has also tried to contact anyone who has made a donation.

He said: "It's been amazing. I have contacted people if they have left their name, and not donated anonymously, to say thank you so much.

"People I have not spoken to since school have donated too.

"It [fundraiser] has actually helped to bring people together."

To support Chris's Great North Run fundraiser, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/chriswilson2023