… I was lucky to have a couple of bonding and life changing moments with family when I was in hospital, which I’ll never forget.
Firstly, one with my brother which turned out to be especially important and life changing. I was having a ‘woe is me’ moment (to be expected really), commenting that I wouldn’t be modelling again, that was it and I’d have to give it all up, when my brother replied, 'Don’t let it control you Ad, you control it!' and it was at that moment my mindset shifted and gave me the strength to cope not only with that moment in my life but many others since.
The second bonding moment came with my father, who, after his divorce with my mother when I was 12, had felt less and less like an important and integral part of my life. Due to the kind of surgery I had I was given epidurals to block the pain from my waist up to the bottom of my chest. These failed epically on two occasions when the catheter (tube) came out of my spine and over the course of 30 minutes my pain went from 0-10, too fast for the nurses to get someone who could sign off and administer morphine. On one of these occasions my father was visiting and luckily by my bed side squeezing my hand, I think he felt he was getting in the way so he asked, “Do you want me to leave?” to which I resoundingly replied, “No, I need you!”. From conversations we have had since, that moment gave him back the feeling that his son needed him in his life. It was worth the pain just to give him that.
There is something very special and unifying when a family member goes through a health crisis. It really brings people together, transcending individual differences and situations, highlighting what and who is important in life. That’s why people say that they wouldn’t change a thing after going through a traumatic life experience: the experience itself is painful and one to forget but it’s what it teaches us about ourselves and life that is so precious and invaluable as we move forward with our journeys.
I was back in the gym six weeks post operation building my strength back up very slowly, having lost lots of weight and all the muscle I had proudly displayed only one month earlier when shooting the Healthy for Men magazine cover. I had never felt so weak and it was a real shock to the system to now find myself having to start all over again, but with the help of the Rocky soundtrack and a bit of ‘Eye of the Tiger’, I focussed on Progress not Perfection, a mantra that I now use throughout my life.
Building muscle, only to lose it all again each time I went in for surgery, taught me a lot about my body and the many evolutions and transformations that we go through in life. You don’t just do it once, it’s a continuous journey, as is life. I’ve taken my body on many physical transformations, which has given me a great deal of awareness and understanding of the process, dedication and determination needed.
Later that year in October 2006 I had the biggest of my operations, this time it was planned as opposed to an emergency, and was for the removal of my large intestine, as it had been too badly damaged by the colitis to save and leaving it in would have put me at a greater risk of colon cancer in later years. During the same operation they performed a procedure to create what is called an ‘Internal Pouch’, to function as a replacement for my colon. They bring down your small intestine and loop it back on itself to create a holding area, so that your body has more time to absorb water and nutrients, rather than it just leaving the body, a very similar function to a large intestine (colon). I affectionately refer to it as my ‘Bionic Bowel’.
The operation becomes more complicated in people with longer torsos. My surgeon told me that the same operation on a 5ft lady had taken him one hour to perform as opposed to the 5 hours mine took (I’m 5ft 11). This is due to all the nerves and blood vessels attached to the small intestine that need to be carefully brought down with it, and the longer distance in someone taller.
The recovery process was a long and brutal one with many very difficult moments throughout. After that big operation my white blood cell count went up and Dr Carapeti was concerned that I may have had a secondary infection, so that night I was taken back down to theatre and opened up again, which made it much harder for my staples to take and the wound to heal.
My healing was further challenged because of the fact I could not keep down any food and needed a feed tube to be inserted through my nose, into my throat and down into my stomach, as my bowels were still ‘asleep’ (a common problem after digestive surgery). You can imagine the gag reflex I was having as they inserted the tube, and where do you tense most when you’re gagging on something? Your stomach muscles. You can imagine that this is pretty painful after they’ve been cut in half, twice within 48 hours.
When I returned to my bed in the ward I decided to take a quick look at my scar, and to my horror there was blood everywhere, not dissimilar to a horror movie. In a panic I got the nurse over, but she just said, 'Oh don’t worry, this always happens'. I was shocked but also welcomed her calm nonsensical response; it was just the top layer of staples that had come loose and opened up, not the lower layer of stitching - nothing too serious (for those outside my body) but this now gaping wound needed to be filled and dressed on a regular basis even after leaving hospital, and definitely prolonged my recovery.
It has left me with an impressive scar the length of my abdominals, but once again I recovered fully, got back into the gym and back into modelling before I had my final operation in March 2007 to fully reconnect me and plumb my digestive system and ‘bionic bowel’ back in again. At the ripe old age of 29 I had to relearn how to use the toilet again and regain control of the muscles we take for granted that hold everything in for us.
At the time of writing this it is 13 years since the whole episode began, I’ve turned 40 and my health couldn’t be better, although I wish I had known then what I know now about the damage that stress can cause, the healing properties of a plant-based diet and the body’s ability to heal itself, if given the right conditions.
The first thing I would do would be to switch to a plant-based diet, meditate and reduce all the chronic stress in my life as much as possible, both physically and mentally. I would have also used natural supplements and plant medicines such as herbs, essential oils and psychedelics to heal me on all levels, mentally, physically and spiritually. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I can totally relate to what people say when they go through a traumatic experience and the invaluable lessons it teaches you.
It was horrific and scary at the time but looking back I wouldn’t change it, because the lessons I learned and the inner strength it gave me was profound.
Modern medicine is great for emergency care and putting a ‘band aid on a bullet wound’, but from my experience useless at preventing the inevitable because it focuses on the symptoms and not the root causes. I really do hope this will change in the future. We need to look at and treat the individual, rather than just the disease.
No one ever asked me if I was stressed, worried, unhappy, or if I was
sleeping well and what I was currently eating, they just sent me away with
a different pharmaceutical every time. It’s not the GP’s fault, either; it’s
the system we have created around health care and the profits that are made
out of illness.
I will always be eternally grateful though for my skilled surgeon Dr Emin Carapeti, the wonderful nurses at Guys and St Thomas’s Hospital in London, and my family and friends, especially my mother who looked after me with so much love through some very dark days.
I believe everything we need to heal is in nature, we just need to reconnect with it, in every aspect of our lives, working with it, rather than against it. Trust me, you are stronger than you think.
This is the best Tofu Scramble I’ve ever made, but then you’d hope that I’d only put the best in my book, right? It was the dark miso, paprika and turmeric that made it super tasty.
Tofu is without a doubt one of the blandest foods out there but is a really great blank canvas, because when you mix it with lots of herbs and spices, it takes on those flavours and provides awesome texture and nutrition to dishes.
You could eat the tofu on its own, but adding it on top of some mashed avocado and sourdough toast gives you a filling and hearty plant-powered breakfast, packed full of flavours and textures.
For the uninitiated, yeast flakes are made from primary inactive yeast, without artificial additives or preservatives, and are the ideal condiment to sprinkle on soups, stews, casseroles, toppings, salads and breakfast cereals to enhance the flavour.
Also commonly known as ‘Vegan Fish Food’, it has a cheesy flavour and it provides a wealth of vitamins, minerals and protein. These are a must for anyone adopting a plant-based diet as they will not only add texture and flavour to your food but will help to add essential B vitamins into your diet, which are harder to come by eating a vegan plant-based diet. Some products are fortified with B12, and those are the ones to go for. You can buy them from Amazon, Ocado, Waitrose, Holland and Barrett, and most health food stores.
Servings : 2-3 servings depending on appetites
- 200g firm tofu
- 5 big organic tomatoes
- 1 handful of spinach
- 1 onion
- 1 fresh clove of garlic
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon dark miso paste
· 1 tablespoon yeast flakes
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- Salt and black pepper
Mashed Avocado on Sourdough
- 1 avocado
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
· 1 tablespoon yeast flakes (with added B12 is my favourite)
- Salt and black pepper
- Sourdough toast
You will need :
- 1 large frying pan
- 1 spatula
- 1 large bowl (for breaking up tofu)
- 1 small bowl (for mashing avocado)
- 1 chopping board
- 1 sharp knife
- 1 fork for mashing
· 1 tablespoon for measuring and serving
· 1 teaspoon for measuring
1. Sauté a chopped onion and a clove of garlic in a little coconut oil and hot water, I like using hot water to help sauté as it softens the veg quickly without burning the veg.
2. Add 5 big tomatoes chopped into small cubes and a tablespoon of dark miso and leave to simmer, adding a little more water to keep it loose in the pan and to create a bit of sauce.
3. Then in a large bowl crumble a 200g block of organic non-Gmo Tofu and add 1 tsp Paprika, 1/2 tsp turmeric, pinch of Himalayan salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and add to the pan, with a big handful of spinach, and put the lid on to heat through. The Tofu will soak up all the lovely juices in the pan.
4. Add 1 tbsp of yeast flakes to the mixture just before serving.
5. Then mash up some avocado in a small bowl with salt, pepper, 1tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1tbsp of organic olive oil and 1tbsp yeast flakes and spread on top of some toasted sourdough.
Top with the tofu scramble mixture and some sprouts, then marvel at how damn tasty a dish you’ve just made from plants!