A STRABANE woman hopes that her husband’s remarkable recovery can inspire others who may be struggling in life.
Nicole McMillan (née Elliott) explained how her husband Michael was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease back in 2004, when he was just 18 years of age.
However, despite battling the debilitating illness for years amid symptoms of weight loss, chronic exhaustion, loss of appetite and pain, Michael has realised a dream of becoming a Judo black belt.
Representing the Ulster University Judo Club Michael (33) recently became a 1st Dan following a recent Northern Ireland Judo promotion examination at Belfast’s Campbell College.
He returned to Judo in January this year, believing he wouldn’t be able to compete because of the stoma bag. He says he has never been as happy to prove himself wrong.
Moreover, this weekend, he will be representing Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Judo Championships in Birmingham (September 27).
Nicole (28), originally from Belldoo but now living in Portstewart, admits it has been an emotional and also tough journey for the couple.
“He was told he probably wouldn’t be able to do anything competitive,” Nicole explained. “He had lined up to do refereeing just to stay in the sport.
“We never thought that he would be able to do anything physically. But he’s back doing weights in the gym.
“I started about six months ago to go along with him. But I enjoy it. It’s a laugh if nothing else. Plus I get to throw my husband around!”
Michael is also going back to university in September to do a Master’s degree in History at Ulster University Coleraine.
He explained, “I want to be a motivational speaker, tell people my story and help them know that when you are on your back and life has you in a chokehold you think you can’t get out of, there is a way to get back on your feet and fight again.”
Nicole added, “I’m 100 per-cent proud. I was proud of the fact that he went and had the op (for the stoma bag). He decided to go for it. Every day he makes me proud. It sounds a bit cheesy but he has achieved so much.
“He won’t let anything bring him down. He’s a positive person. He never ever let Crohns gets in his way.
“He’s trying his best to raise awareness about Crohns and to show there’s life after.
“I would work in the bowel ward in the Royal and when I tell the patients’ Michael’s story they see that they could go back to sport and study and work.
“There’s a big world out there beyond the stoma bag.”