This time last year I was watching Wimbledon curled up on the couch. I hardly made it through a point, let alone a set, without drifting off and pouring my Ensure drinks all-over myself. It was around two months after my surgery and I was starting to get stronger, but watching a single point was a massive battle.
A week later I had my first alcoholic drink; sitting on the edge of my seat watching Andy Murray going through his own personal battle. He went on to win the Wimbledon final, while I went on to lift the trophy for the longest time I’d managed to sit without falling asleep or running to the loo. It was a moment of sheer joy and happiness, tinged with tiredness and an overwhelming urge to burst into tears: for the first time in my life I’d managed to watch a whole set of tennis without racing to the loo in agonising pain.
I think that was the first time I’d ever watched Murray, or anyone else, play live without being in pain, or having to constantly pause the match while I rushed to the toilet. I am used to hearing the whoops and cheers from the pubs outside, while I stare at a toilet door, whenever someone wins the final tie-break or scores a goal (in football) – it is rare that I ever see the winning goal, but I always hear about it from the loo.
But if you’d told me that a year later I would be sitting on Henman Hill eating strawberries and sipping Pimms while watching Andy play on Centre Court, I probably would have told you to “stop shitting me” and fallen off my chair!
If you’d told me I’d get up at 5.30am and join thousands of people to drink coffee and read (and re-read) a guide to queueing, while I waited in, what was to be, the longest queue of my life to get into the grounds and simply sit on a hill, I would have called you “ridiculous” and walked away – the very idea would have brought me out in a sweat!
I have an ingrained fear of queues. They actually bring me out in hot flushes. I seem to get ill the moment I even see one; the slightest sign of a line at a till or break lights in traffic seems to trigger my Crohn’s/Colitis at its very worst. Even now my ostomy goes into overdrive the moment I join the end of a line. I’ve had panic attacks and near nervous breakdowns, and yes, I’ve once or twice been so desperate for an outfit that I’ve tried to ignore the pain from my abdomen and I’ve had an accident waiting to pay – what can I say it was an amazing bargain, but it took a long time for me to go shopping again after that.
But last week me and Andy (no, not Murray) packed our bags, boarded the train, and headed off on our once-in-a-lifetime Wimbledon adventure. That’s what a difference a year makes; well an ostomy bag makes!
Our aim wasn’t to touch the Centre Court grass; to sit in the courts with the “quiet please” shushing staff and balls flying at our heads – not to mention the £80 cost. We simply wanted to join the masses on Henman Hill. To join the hundreds of happy if exhausted fans, waving flags, drinking and dancing on the hill-side while Murray plays on the big screen.
I wanted to be one of those happy people the BBC show waving manically at the TV camera when they cut to the hill – it’s something I always dreamed of, but would have been unthinkable before my surgery.
I’ve never been a good queuer. I’m not impatient, but my Crohn’s/Colitis has always made it impossible to retain a place in line. I’ve even struggled with queues in supermarkets, and I’m the person who starts fidgeting even when there’s only one person in front of me. I would go so far as to say that my IBD is triggered by queues; that includes traffic jams. The moment I join one the pain starts, I flush bright red and I start to feel heat spreading through my body – then I have to race to the loo.
I always have to weigh up if I want something badly enough to have an accident. Usually the answer is NO. And that’s why I’m not a shopaholic – well, that was until the birth of internet shopping (but there again I always miss out on Ebay for the same reason!).
Anyway, this time last week me and Andy bit the bullet and joined the queue. As I saw the massive crowds (it was 7.30am) and was handed my queue ticket I felt the predictable rising sense of panic and twinges around my stoma. It took everything in my power not to turn around and run, but we’d got so close and I would be damned if I was turning back now. Why was I panicking you ask?
The only thing I could think about was toilets. I’m obsessed with them, but if you had this illness you would be too. I clocked them as soon as I entered the queuing area. I was extremely excited to be there, but the first thing I did was to look for the loos. I was terrified they would be disgusting, or that my ostomy bag would explode while I was waiting in line with the thousands of other people. I needn’t have worried. The Wimbledon organisers have an amazing system; they have two people constantly checking the loos to make sure they have toilet rolls and they are clean! It was the best system i have ever seen.
Queueing was awesome! I couldn’t believe how much fun we had, seeing as we were only sat in a field, but the atmosphere was incredible. I was nervous about Winnie, but after a few hours I forgot about her. We made a friend in the queue, and ended up spending the day with Stacey, who had come over from Australia!!! We sat reading, and re-reading the official queuing guide, eating and drinking and gradually making it to the front of the queue.
We got into the grounds at around 11am. Queuing had been a doddle! I couldn’t believe how scared I had been. Yes, I wouldn’t have been able to do it before due to the severity of my illness, but I would recommend joining the queue to anyone. I was lucky Winnie was fairly well behaved and didn’t need changing – but if she had there would have been facilities. It was so much fun and seemed to take no time at all, even if we were exhausted and smelly by the end of it.
And Wimbledon was awesome. I loved every single second, and it was exactly how I had always dreamed it would be. The hill was heaving by the time Murray played, and in a weird twist I appeared to be sat next to someone off The Only Way is Essex or Made in Chelsea or something along those lines – anyway I recognised him, but I don’t know where from!
A warning if you go – the hill is very very steep, and gets very crowded very quickly. So if you have IBD and need the loo it might be better to sit lower down. My calves were killing me after running up and down, stepping over people to get to the loos, oh, and maybe to get more Pimms.
We probably will never get the chance to go again, but I’m so glad I finally managed to put aside my fears, and my illness, and go and do something I’ve always wanted to do. Murray even won, just to put the icing on the cake!
Oh, and in other news, we saw the Pride parade – the only people in the world to stumble across tens of thousands of people while trying to find somewhere to shelter in the pouring rain! Awesome!