Despite an agonising stomach condition, I was determined not to be held back from my ambitions. Now I want to inspire other girls not to suffer in silence…
By Amber Gamble, 22, from Sheffield
Being told at the age of 14 that I had an unpleasant, incurable condition was overwhelming.
Ulcerative colitis is very embarrassing – it means I’m always having to think about going to the loo, and the abdominal pain and the exhaustion caused by the fact that I’m not absorbing nutrients from food can be very difficult to deal with.
When I was 15, I narrowly escaped having to have part of my bowel removed.
Today, I take at least five different pills a day, and take steroids when I experience bad flare-ups, usually once every three months.
Even though I’m a student and am expected to party with friends frequently, I can’t drink as I can never predict the effect alcohol will have on my tummy.
This might all be too much to bear for some people – but I’ve learned to be tough.
I’m really into exercise and I make sure I always look fashionable, which has helped me to maintain my dignity.
I also love taking part in beauty pageants – I was crowned Miss Buckinghamshire in 2010 and took part in the Miss England competition later that year.
Later this year I’m going to Egypt to take part in an international competition.
I won’t let colitis stop me doing everything I want to in life.
Thankfully I have a good support network, including my boyfriend of three years, Alex, a trainee medic.
I also support Crohn’s and Colitis UK, who are launching a campaign in May and June to raise awareness of the effect exhaustion has on young sufferers.
Like thousands of young people with the condition I’m ready to say that I won’t suffer in silence – and colitis won’t defeat me.