Matt and Gill's Kilimanjaro trek for BASE

Matt and Gill's Kilimanjaro trek for BASE

The owner and Chief Executive of Millwood Servicing, Matt Wood, is planning a sponsored walk in aid of BASE. Matt spoke at our 2019 conference and is a commited supporter of our aims. In 2021 he plans to to trek to the peak of Kilimanjaro; an adventure that will see Matt trek with a publicly nominated volunteer with a disability. 

This is part of Matt's self-funded 3 Mountains in three years - Challenge for 3 amazing charities and so every donation will be split equally three ways as each charity has a close connection with his family. 

  • The Pyrenees - Freedom Trail in 2020 for MIND
  • Kilimanjaro for BASE in 2021
  • Mont Blanc for Missing People in 2022

Matt is to be accompanied on his Kilimanjaro trek by Gill Haran, a registered nurse from Durham. Here, Gill introduces herself:

"Hi. I’m Gill I’m 46 and for the most of my adult life I’ve been battling Crohns Disease, major operations, post complications, other surgical operations that literally nearly finished me. The impact this has had on my life has been huge, and certainly prematurely ended my Nursing Career. 

"In May 2020 Matt Wood, selected me from a vast number of online applicants to accompany him to trek to Mount Kilimanjaro Sept 2021. We’re hoping to raise vital funds and awareness for BASE charity which supports disabled people getting into employment. As the disabled component of the trip I’ve taken on this challenge ( with help from Matt and Brian the PT) to prove that personally I’m still able to contribute helpfully to Society and have a goal in life to focus.

"Obviously I’m no athlete, but enjoy fitness and achieving this challenge will create a much needed boost to my confidence. Proving to future companies that being ill and/or disabled shouldn’t be a barrier to employment as we are very determined, resourceful, peer group. I look forward to the upcoming training and challenge and would very much appreciate any donations that you would like to add after reading this to support me. Thank you."

Gill will be writing about her preparations for the trek in the blog below. Her story is remarkable and she is facing many challenges in her battle for fitness.

Matt has secured kit sponsorship from Lowe Alpine and Rab Equipment. Gill has set up a fundraising page on Virgin Money Giving and donations are welcomed.

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving



Gill's Blog

February 2021 update

So with us finally getting out of January and I’m hoping for spring to arrive soon. That’s when snow and icy cold weather occurs. What better weather than for me to do some cold weather training, testing my kit out to see what combinations work and what doesn’t. Layering clothing is key I’m told - Base layers, Mid layers, Merino wool or not, Soft shell Goretex jackets, 1000 mile socks, liner socks -  the list goes on. As the trek starts in hot weather and then we summit the mountain in icy glacial surroundings I’d best get myself out there. 

Yesterday was -3°C, slight NNE breeze and I set out only for an almost blizzard to set in for the next 20 minutes or so. I kept dry and apart from hands and feet (they’re always cold) I was pretty toasty. I won’t bore you with a minute by minute account but needless to say a pair of socks were removed by the end of the walk, and my padded jacket under my waterproof jacket was damp from sweat. I should’ve opened the vents perhaps. 

Again, not enough snacks to eat and I drink way less in the cold (need to work on that). What surprised me was the energy depletion towards the way home. I’ve done this circular route before. I even decided to cut a couple of miles off as my feet were aching, wanting to pace my energy out for the rest of the week. The penny dropped that whilst I was feeling pretty warm in my clothing my body is still working overtime to keep warm being out in these temperatures. Walking in my trek boots slows me as you kind of stomp around as there’s no flex in the sole. 

Walking on snow and ice is hard work, like walking on sand. It’s working more muscles with an uneven slippy surface. I know I sound like it’s the first time I’ve done it, but I don’t have a car and this is the first time since childhood I’m willing to spend more than 5-10 minutes out in inclement weather. I’m normally wrapped up indoors, avoiding icy paths as I’ve previously fallen (arthritic joints and a kneecap that subluxates easily) a number of times and fractured my hand or wrist. I don’t need the inconvenience of a plaster cast for 8-12 weeks. 

I will have hiking poles to aid my balance whilst on the trek, so hopefully then I’m just battling fatigue and cold. Oh, and that little challenge of altitude. Easy eh? I’m sure the pace of our trek will be slower than I walk when I’m out so that’s the bonus. And apparently the slower the pace the less the altitude sickness will make impact. Matt and I do have altitude training planned for when lockdown is lifted so I will get to experience it before making the trip. 

On the nutrition side of things, I’ve fallen into bad habits since Christmas - cake and crisps mainly - so Nikkie Windsor @thejunglegoddess is helping me get back on track with this. However, my bowel is totally complaining when I try to eat what small amounts of vegetables I’ve been able to get away with previously. So, currently, I’m dairy free as dairy stops me absorbing iron. I can get away with eating mushy peas with no pain and small amounts of mashed potato. So mainly I view my meals as fuel rather than tasty dishes I used to be able to eat. Fuel being predominantly protein and vitamins and minerals and ensuring less sugary snacks. For example, I ate stir-fried turkey with BBQ seasoning, and mushy peas after my walk yesterday. Yes, it’s a weird combination but it was actually okay. I had some recovery protein powder before bed mixed up with water, but I’m just using the last bits up as it’s dairy based. It has magnesium and zinc added and is supposed to aid sleep also. I will revert to collagen powder as this is dairy free.

I will touch on sleep and rest as it’s an important part of my training. I average approximately 3-4 hours sleep but this is broken up by frequent bathroom visits to empty my ostomy. Once in a blue moon I will sleep right through the night but I can count on one hand the amount of times it’s happened in 16 years. Some nights are better than others but I always find it hard to get back off to sleep. I use meditation, music, soothing nature sounds, limit caffeine, don’t have a tv in my bedroom. I have a pre-sleep routine and I’m still battling being able to fall asleep and stay asleep. This is quite a common problem having an Ileostomy but even before my first operation I was having less sleep due to my Crohn’s disease flare up symptoms.  I don’t normally allow during the day naps, as I found they made night time worse. However, if I do nod off after I’ve been active I’m allowing it. My body needs to get the rest so it can to recover. Most times it’s just a heavy shut eye. I can still hear my surroundings, road traffic etc but if I’m feeling relaxed. I’ll take it.

Just know that in between the blogs and training I’m having my fair share of up and down days and I hope everybody is keeping safe and well and warm during this lockdown.

Apart from mums lockdown Birthday that’s been end of Jan/ February so far…..


December 2020 update

The power of saying No! ( to my pushy inner voice)

I had a brilliant idea to do my next blog on why I had chosen to be nominated for the draw to do this trek challenge, and ¾ of the way through I had to take time out of training, not completely down time but a blood test and a chat with Gastro hospital team via email, as well as my GP via a telephone appointment. It seems the lessening strength during training has all been down to iron deficiency anaemia (again!). My blood results show not just iron deficiency but that I might have inflammation causing slight bleeding aka Crohn’s flare? I haven’t noted any fresh blood via my ileostomy. My diet can’t tolerate the big iron veggies like cabbage, spinach due to my adhesions. I’ve been trying to eat iron rich meat (turkey instead of chicken, beef) I’m already on B12 injections every 12 weeks as that was identified in 2016 to be low and since then I’ve had a few more bits of small bowel removed. 

It’s agreed that I don’t absorb nutrients and medications very well. I’m not under weight! Thankfully. Cut a long history short another iron infusion was required….. I went on Friday morning - 9 attempts to cannulate a vein failed by 2 doctors, 1 nurse and 2 HCA’s. I didn’t mind them trying. I felt desperate for the iron infusion as my symptoms have been quite troublesome. After 4 hours we gave in and I returned after the weekend, Monday morning second attempt success! And infusion all complete, it takes a few weeks at a cellular level for my iron stores to replenish so not instant effects, less palpitations though today anyways. All the dizziness, lightheadedness, feeling cold, headaches, weakness, afternoon naps which I don’t usually allow hopefully will diminish. My instant thought when these symptoms arise especially the first time was that my anxiety was worsening as they all could be symptoms of anxiety for me.

Each week I have a weekly online zoom meeting with Matt, Maria and Becca we all congregate to update on my progress as Ambassador for the WoodMor Foundation charity. I explained feeling very under pressure as I knew my physical progress wasn’t matching the effort put in. The other three all said I was being too hard on myself, and putting unnecessary pressure on myself and my job for the following week would be to work on being less hard on myself! I’m so used to being a ‘YES’ man! Yes, I can do that no problem! How often do you say this at work…. I used to say it all the time. I didn’t want to be letting the ball drop on my watch- ridiculous! I was replaceable and the place ran well when I wasn’t there, I just felt guilt for the times I was off sick and was constantly trying to make up for it (all pressured from me and my mind). 

Luckily the weather was not so great, I popped over to the shop. I needed chocolate to help ruminate how to slow down in lockdown, “C’mon Gill you’ve got this” and with a bag of Revels, and a new subscription to Netflix, I didn’t want to be laid on my bed for hours as I had previously done going through a depressive period. I instantly feel guilty, especially when I think about everybody else who works, but I have to remember all the times I had to ring in sick being acutely unwell, letting my colleagues down, I don’t want to go back to that ever. A few box sets later, some Christmas orders done online, I’ve done some reading online within the mental health communities and every time I feel guilt I change the internal monologue to a voice that speaks as though I’m talking to my best friend. It’s a lot nicer and supportive. Rest and recovery is equally as important to my training schedule.

It’s not easy changing bad habits of a lifetime. Trust me, I’m a work in progress. To prove to myself I wasn’t slipping back into depression I messaged my Personal Trainer, Brian, and explained everything and he sent back an incredibly supportive email that made me shed a tear. Only a couple though. So I joined in circuit training that week but did 40 minutes of very very low impact, not quite keeping up, and mostly sitting on my mat when the dizziness was too much to stand back up, and I felt actually quite good for joining in. In my head it was giving me thoughts of “what’s the point if you can’t do it all?”, and “ you will feel so bad for putting the effort in and then getting upset when you can’t do it”. Also “you might end up crying throughout the session” which happened one week when my ileostomy bag was leaking and being very overactive. Critical inner voice is horrendous to listen to it and when you lose control of it. 

Nightly gratitude whether you write it in a journal or practice it mentally, helps so much. It doesn’t have to be a major gratitude… mine lately is “I’m so grateful for a quiet living space and a comfy bed”. I’ve been in both that didn’t feel comfortable or safe. Reminding myself of the small things that make my life easier when I’m struggling is a better mindset to try and start going to sleep.

So the upshot of a challenging situation is now me feeling less under pressure, finding my love of Revels again, almost finishing Christmas shopping ( I usually make a list and buy it all in December) and realising that ‘stepping back’ from a frustrating situation and doing something completely different sometimes helps clear the mind, and to find solutions to problems that are puzzling or indeed overwhelming me. 

I did a “Twelve days of Crohnsmas” for my Instagram account @gillianu_dh. Most are short videos on the different effect of Crohn’s on my life or a picture. It certainly was a weird run up to a different Christmas this year but luckily mum and I had a quiet enjoyable day.  I hope you all could celebrate however big or small this year. 


November 2020 update:


Who else is struggling through the daylight saving time change? Dark mornings ugh! Bring the sunshine back, it wasn’t too hot and humid at all! Although it’s making the workout/ exercise temperatures easier, the numb hands and feet on my cycle ride last week was a bit much.I do hope everyone is adjusting to the new season well. I know it’s been a bit of a struggle but with most things I eventually find a way around it, usually adjusting timings of exercise or meals etc - all things which are easier to do as I don’t work. 

As I was still really socially isolating and haven’t been able to return to any normal meet ups with my walking netball gang, this second lockdown that we’ve entered hasn’t really impacted as much as the first one did for all of us. I don’t usually say this but roll on December! I know for most people this is incredibly frustrating and too isolating. So how have I and do I cope with the isolation of no work normally…..  since retiring from nursing I’ve had a couple of hobbies that have provided much needed distraction, but even that’s a bust as the two I did most (sewing night class and attending a choir) would still be out of bounds. I’m lucky that I live in an apartment block and although the residents don’t socialise as much now , we have a communal caretaker and landlord on site making sure more vulnerable tenants are looked after. Saying that it’s always hiya at 2 meters mainly at the car park as we come and go and the smokers have their cigarettes in the car park.They’ve all noticed that I’m being more active and probably looking more tired than usual… they know I’ve got health matters that are ongoing, whilst taking on this challenge. I heard a knock on my door and 2 cream cakes delivered this afternoon. They’re certain I'm in need of the calories and I’m being too healthy. I was very touched by the gesture as most things in moderation is my motto, and there’s fruit on the strawberry tart - yummy!

Other things get me through the day when I’m not blogging or journaling or researching health related issues. I get certain magazines with crossword/word search competitions and enter them. I listen to music lots, the one band that I think helped direct me away from the anger of retiring from my much loved career is Thirty Seconds to Mars. I’ve been very lucky to make a few awesome friends through the band on social media, met up at concerts with them and still in touch with one who lives in The Netherlands, a few in USA, Australia, Ireland and the U.K.   As hard as life gets or indeed can seem bleak, their message is to continue your path as a dreamer and have faith. Sometimes harder to do when you can’t foresee or think of purpose in your life and I have been there many times. Thankfully this trek has provided ample focus.

Ultimately we’ve had to put back the plan of first Altitude training session due to lockdown which is a shame as I was really looking forward to meeting Matt in real life. However there's plenty of time to rearrange and certainly make use of the facilities and training aspects they provide. 

I thought I would take the kit that’s been provided to me for it’s first proper test last month. I  hiked from Nunthorpe to Roseberry Topping and then went to the top of Roseberry Topping. I didn’t think it would take me 2 hours to walk to the actual car park lol but this is all about building my self confidence and getting out and about off concrete paths and on moorland and uneven surfaces and, more importantly, inclines. It was tiring but I loved it and really look forward to doing more walks after lockdown. 

How to  incline train in lockdown I hear you say? Find a moderate hill that’s on your walkabout ( in local nature park) then, with hiking poles, traverse and descend said hill repeatedly , I did ten repeats. Slow pace, we certainly won’t be rushing it on Kilimanjaro. It certainly gave my feet something to complain about so now I know what part of a day on Kili will be like – brutal! There’s time to toughen up I whisper to myself under my breath, praying I’m not the slowest on the trek. I also saw some awesome dogs and their owners so I got to fuss a still puppy springer spaniel, and a golden retriever which are my new favourites as they so freaking friendly and loveable, I think I need photographic documents of the friendly dogs I meet, obviously with owners agreement. Watch this space.

I had excruciatingly sore skin around my stoma still, and managed to complete the hill walk whilst my stoma bag leaked underneath the sticky baseplate and on the sore skin. I can only describe this as an itch that goes to a burning acidic hot pain. I managed to get home and deal with it. Sore skin but no messy clothes. 

To know me is to know my daily health quirks as it does cause some cussing and grimacing at times. Time for a cuppa and cream cake I think! 



October 2020 update:

After a busy week having an MRI scan, Pre procedure Covid swab test, then a Gastroscope at the end of the week, I have to say that week pretty much took it out of me, physically and emotionally.  MRI scans  for bowel involves drinking a litre of fluid that tastes disgusting….luckily they’ve fed back this information to the companies, and now it just tastes of sugar water the relief was immense. I was nervous for the scope it’s not the first one I’ve had I didn’t think I would get as upset as I did! It’s all over now but the happy place I can usually resort to and keep calm had completely disappeared. 

I also had a visit from my Community Stoma Nurse who is going to help me with a change of bag system as I’ve been struggling over the summer with more leaks, and having to change my bag more frequently during the day and skin excoriation. I’m assured this can improve with the right system, I just need to get samples and try them out, which is where the nurse comes in to organise. I’m intrigued, finally after 15 years of sleepless nights of multiple visits to empty my stoma bag, there’s a new system  that allows you to drain the contents rather than keep getting up! This is awesome news for me, I don’t have the easiest Ileostomy it’s always been high output, and I’ve never been aware of developments for this until 2 years ago. 

Usually people get there stoma and get set up on a system of bags and luckily they move on with there life and get back to some kind of routine. After my first 2 operations I had this granted that was 5 years of almost normality with a Crohn’s flare up.

Why do I struggle? My Ileostomy retracted post operatively so it’s harder to keep the seal around it in contact with the skin so it leaks easier. There’s no point panicking , trust me I used to when I first had to start looking after my stoma. If I feel the all too familiar itching when it starts leaking I don’t ignore it, I  change the bag STAT!, hopefully avoiding spoilt clothes etc. Tricky at night if I have dozed off.  I would still rather have my bag than how I was trying to cope before my first surgery! It was that bad. 

This will be something I’m going to utilise on the trek as we are in humid hot weather, drinking approx 4-5 litres/day , that’s a lot even for me, I will need to be on top of replacing my electrolytes, but the overnight drainage will stop me getting up so many times so my body can rest. This is such a relief! I was worried about this, I can easily conceal the tubing and bag. The things you have to think of are a bit mad sometimes when dealing with chronic ill health but I’m lucky such products have been developed. Anything that doesn’t flush away, I will be double wrapping and carrying in a separate dry sack, my environmentally friendly conscience wouldn’t let me entertain leaving any stoma bags or supplies on such a beautiful mountain. Everything can be drained and rinsed (sterilising tablets) so it’s clean but not sterile.

As this had interrupted my training somewhat I decided not to focus on the loss of exercise sessions and just get through the best I could then start back up and listen to my body. I’m having to ease up on abdominal work as it could cause an hernia where my Ileostomy is located, I wear a support belt to prevent this happening, but some twinges around my stoma lately have made me think I need to see what the MRI is showing in terms of inflammation or bowel loops near the stoma entrance. I had been told a enlarged lymph gland was what had blocked the stoma entrance and caused my bowel blockage after the CT scan a few weeks back, wether this is still complicating things I don’t know? Safe to say my insides are a mess, and my doctors agree it’s all higgledy piggledy in there with all the bowel scar tissue! 

I’ve found a new app that helps you plan hiking / walking routes so I’m getting ready to do a short hike but a hilly one, since my knee is getting stronger and with the assistance of my hiking poles I’ve had my eye on Roseberry Topping near Pinchenthorpe, so in the next couple of weeks I will complete that. Now I have some very decent hiking gear provided by a generous sponsor, In case of any inclement weather up here in the North East – never! Being originally from Hartlepool I’m used to the North Sea bitter cold gale force breezes. If lockdown doesn’t progress further , I won’t hold my breath, hopefully I can visit my cousin in Yorkshire and go for a hike or two with him. 

A couple of other things are happening in the background, slowly building self confidence with Nikki Windsors help with positive affirmations that I’m currently working on improving, I’ve started basic yoga, and listening to some meditation podcasts and my Fitbit app has included them now so trying to fit it all in. I think I need a weekly wall planner, my calendar in the kitchen doesn’t have enough room to fit in all my activities. My memory is rubbish, brain fog! I need to have things written down or I forget or quite often skip a week ahead of myself. 

It was World Ostomy Day 3rd October so I bravely posted on Instagram a picture of me and my ostomy bag. I don’t do it often it’s just not how I am, even though it helps raise awareness I guess my scar down the middle of my tummy does make me feel rather self conscious at times. I’m not perfect, but I’m happier feeling fitter than I have before and that’s what counts. 

All this time spent working on me feels very self indulgent, I’m not used to positive focus, maybe all my ill health had me in just a very reactionary place in life as at times there were multiple things going wrong. It’s no way to live yet lots of people do. I really hope I can be part of something to help change this.