Robert Hills Story, In 1994, I was a fit, healthy 23-year-old, an amateur runner, an athlete. Until that time, I had never really been sick. I didn’t even have a regular doctor. When the illness started, it progressed rapidly. Daily diarrhea. Sustained stomach cramps. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory condition of the digestive tract. It got worse my weight plummeted from 185 to 105 pounds. After a year and a half, it became clear that my large intestine needed to be removed.
Not long after surgery, I started getting active again, running and eventually competing. In the lowest moment of the Crohn’s flare-up, I was not been able to climb the stairs in our house so regaining my fitness became a very personal challenge. Recovering mentally would take longer.
When I was ill, learned an aunt also had Crohn’s, a fact she had never shared, even with close family members. Through her experience and my own, I realized how destructive the stigma surrounding intestinal diseases and having an ostomy can be. How it can isolate you, keep you from reaching out and getting help.
I decided to do something about it.
The Seven Summits campaign, which we call “No Guts Know Glory” grew from my love of sports, adventure and the outdoors. By taking it to the extreme, and on a global basis, hoping to show people everywhere that having these diseases or having an ostomy, like I do, shouldn’t stop you from leading a full life. You may not be able to climb mountains, but there are so many other things you can do.
To further this goal, I started the Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society (IDEAS), from home in Vancouver, British Columbia.
I approached ConvaTec, whose ostomy products I wear, to sponsor climbs, and became a member of the Great Comebacks™ family. This global program has allowed me to be a guest speaker in many countries, alongside climbs and through local patient and professional organizations.
While reaching the top of each mountain is a great accomplishment, with respect, removing the social stigma associated with these diseases and having an ostomy is a far more daunting task. A task which will require much more than his voice on its own, so Rob hopes you add yours in letting people know they are not alone. One of the young people I recently met said, “this isn’t really about climbing mountains, it’s about moving them.”
My final 7 Summits climb in the spring of 2010–up the south route to the top of Mount Everest in Nepal–thanks to the generous support of Abbott Laboratories and ConvaTec.
Robert Hills Story If you’d like to contact Rob directly, please send an e-mail to rob @ nogutsknowglory.com