Dad with stoma bag determined to beat ‘inspirational’ Adele Roberts’ London Marathon record

By Staff 10 Min Read

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With the London Marathon on Sunday, Joshua Averill wants to take inspiration from DJ and reality TV star Adele Roberts, who broke a world record at the event last year

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Adele Roberts’ world record at the London Marathon has spurred on a determined dad – fitted with a stoma bag amid his journey with Crohn’s disease – to conquer this year’s race.

Josh Averill, 33, was inspired by the courage of the DJ and reality TV star after she became the fastest woman to finish the London Marathon with a stoma bag last year. The broadcaster, 45, was diagnosed with stage two bowel cancer in 2021 before undergoing treatment and eventually being given the all-clear.

Although Adele was fitted with a stoma bag – a device used to collect waste that usually passes through the colon – she completed the marathon in three hours 30 minutes and 22 seconds, and was awarded a Guinness World Record.

Josh, from Winchester, Hampshire, was only fitted with a permanent stoma bag himself weeks before Adele’s feat so her journey has resonated with him. The father of one has had Crohn’s disease for most of his life and it was worsened after falling ill with sepsis in 2021, when doctors became concerned for his life.

Treatment for his inflamed bowel and reduction of his intestine was unsuccessful and, due to this, doctors were left with no choice but to fit Josh with a permanent stoma bag in March last year. Josh, who works in sales, struggled with the stigma of the change, and felt there was a lack of awareness around adjustments he had to make.

Speaking to the Mirror, the dad said: “It was stressful, because I’d had a temporary bag and was put under for an operation to have it removed and I thought that was that. When I regained consciousness, I was told I’d had a permanent one fitted because my bowel hadn’t recovered as hoped. It was beyond repair and they couldn’t reverse it like they had thought.

“The doctors delivered a sobering message, explaining that without immediate surgery, my prospects for making it into the new year looked bleak. This news was a harsh reality, and I was startled by the lack of information available, especially for younger patients.

“So I thought I was getting it reversed and that was in my head, so it was a shock to learn that couldn’t happen. I was told I was going to have it for life and that is the case now effectively, and so that’s big but there is little out there or to raise awareness about this, particularly from the mental perspective of having a stoma. There’s nothing really to help you to deal with something like this.

“I had to deal with a whirlwind of emotions – anger, embarrassment, disappointment among others. Support seemed scarce, all that I could hear were all the limitations and changes I’d have to contend with.

“I read about Adele’s work last year and I found it inspirational. What she has done is amazing, and that has helped spur me on. I’d love to beat her record but it’s just about awareness as well really. I know first hand the challenges of severe Crohn’s disease – it’s a condition that has led to numerous hospital stays over the years.”

Josh has been raising money for charity Crohn’s & Colitis UK. Only around 0.81% of the UK population live with Crohn’s disease or Colitis. Crohn’s is a long-term condition where the gut becomes inflamed. The main symptoms are; diarrhoea, stomach aches and cramps, blood in your poo, fatigue and weight loss, NHS says.

Adele’s cancer journey saw her fitted with a stoma bag and she also underwent chemotherapy and colostomy surgery as part of her cancer treatment. Following her marathon triumph, she said on her Instagram stories: “Thank you so much to everybody who was actually in the race, there was so many lovely people on the course and also everybody who came out the cheer even though it was raining. We did it, up yours cancer.”

Josh recognises beating Adele’s time of three hours 30 minutes and 22 seconds will be a huge challenge, but he has been training for months, and did nine miles in one hour and 14 minutes on Sunday near his home in Hampshire.

“It is going to be a challenge to beat that record Adele set, but I am hopeful and confident and have been preparing well. I think even if I do it in four hours, I’ll be pleased,” Josh said. “I started running back in lockdown when I was particularly ill and it helped me manage my Crohn’s really. I think it keeps me fit mentally as well as physically and that’s really important, to keep your mind healthy.”

Writing in her book, Personal Best: From Rock Bottom to the Top of the World, Adele says she felt like her body “just gave up and surrendered itself” once she’d been diagnosed. As the tumour and her symptoms became more prominent and unbearable, Adele writes the cancer was “killing her” and she had an “everyday battle” to carry on.

Pascale Harvie, President and General Manager of JustGiving, said: “Josh’s story and incredible fundraising work is a clear testament to how much of resilient and selfless person he is. By sharing his own story he is undoubtedly providing so much support and inspiration for the millions of people across the world who are living with stoma bags. From everyone at JustGiving, we wish Josh the very best of luck in securing his Guinness World Record.”

To donate to Josh’s appeal, visit this link.

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