Welcome to a timeline of my adult life. I’ve opted to give you more than a snippet or promotional soundbite of my life, rather an idea of who I really am and some of what I’ve experienced, particularly around my health, without going into tons of detail. I hope you enjoy it.
1999 – Age 23
- After a few years working in financial planning, I decide it’s not for me and become a Recruitment Consultant.
- I marry the man I’d been in love with since the tender age of 21. We’re famous for a day as the last couple to marry in the UK in the 20th Century. We’re greeted by local and national journalists and photographers – our very own paparazzi!
But, I am seriously ill struggling with undiagnosed bowel problems for months, then a week before the wedding I’m knocked out with flu, which hits the UK at endemic levels. I weigh a mere 72lbs and have zero voice, only able to mouth my vows—supposedly they’re still binding!
Yet, I’m complete with my very own clichéd Prince Charming (for real, a more charming and loyal, adventurous and committed man you’ll never meet), but crossing the threshold into a new century is the beginning of a real-life fairytale complete with terrifying darkness and challenges determined to kill me before old age.
- I move to London to be part of the Dot Com revolution working for a startup producing a library of downloadable music in MP3 format. I’m collaborating with major record labels such as EMI, BMG and Zumba, TV and music studios including the BBC, Channel Four, Cartoon Network, Abbey Road and Air Studios—a lot of fun!
- My symptoms increase and the day we move to London (a hugely exciting adventure!) my doctor calls to tell me to find a specialist immediately as I have Ulcerative Colitis, an Inflammatory Bowel Disease and must be treated urgently. This news is about to take my life down a surprising road.
- By the end of the year, I’m signed off work for two months and realize I can no longer work in a wild startup environment so spend time considering what my dream job could look like. I decide to work for a charity, settling on the NSPCC, which supports victims of child abuse, something I know a lot about, unfortunately.
I learn to slow down and take the time to consider what it is I really want in my life, and how I want my life to look and feel.
2001 – Age 24
- Get dream job as a Major Gift Development Manager for the NSPCC and further develop my love of connection; creating relationships with donors, organizing events in palaces and the Houses of Parliament, organizing and collaborating on activities with volunteers, and successfully raise vast sums for the FULL STOP Campaign (which ultimately raises more than $250 million).
- The day I’m offered that job my sister-in-law is killed in a car accident, aged 32. A devastating tragedy for our family.
- With our losses came unexpected gains and I end the year feeling as though I’m working with a purpose. It’s healing work both for myself and the children my work at the NSPCC supports.
I learn that great loss can be a great driver but that moving through grief is full of ups and downs with no clear path through.
I also learn that I’m always divinely directed to learn the skills I need for my purpose, receiving amazing leadership, organization and events training at the NSPCC that build the knowledge I eventually need to support women to rediscover themselves.
- I’m promoted to manage the Core Individuals fundraising team. A huge achievement as I’m the least formally qualified for the role. A turning point in my fear of inadequacy.
- My health is struggling but my boss is amazing. She supports me and promotes me despite it all. She knows how to raise up women around her!
- My doctors tell me I need bowel surgery that might render me infertile so to consider having babies now. I get pregnant with my first child quicker than anticipated, having to tell my bosses just a couple of weeks after my promotion. Not the best way to announce a pregnancy!
I learn that it’s not what you have certificates in that prove your worth, it’s what you DO and what you’re committed to doing that counts; who you are and how you shine. That the things I often consider to be inadequacies are actually my biggest assets. I also learn to ask for what I need, no matter how much doing so fills me with fear of not belonging, not being good enough, standing out or being different.
Me, on the right, after months on steroids.
- My beautiful baby boy is born at home in my lounge. I’ve chosen a home birth as I’m spending far too much time in and out of the hospital with my illness. Plus there’s an outbreak of MRSA so our midwives have advised us that it’s safer for me to birth at home (How crazy is that?!) This is something I never imagined myself doing, but it seems my body and mind are stronger than I imagine! I don’t yet know that this is good endurance training for what is to come.
- We move out of London to start our family life back in Cambridgeshire where we originally met.
- Our baby is seriously sick. Over a period of months his health deteriorates and after being told I’m “an overwrought, first-time mom” and that he’s simply colicky, he ends up in the hospital where it’s discovered he has a partially imperforate anus and his bowels are obstructed. He has surgery.
- Over this time my health has deteriorated significantly – probably due to stress. My baby sits on my knee screaming as he tries to poop, while I’m sat on the toilet crying with the same challenge. Not the picture of family bliss I envisioned for myself.
Yet here I learn important lessons: to trust my intuition and own inner knowing and to trust that there’s something here for me even in the worst of situations. I also learn that when on purpose and motivated, stepping out of the box comes with ease.
- I make the heartbreaking decision not to return to my dream job after maternity leave. Baby and I are too sick.
- Then become a freelance professional fundraiser, supporting charities with their major fundraising campaigns, working a handful of hours a week. I guess I’m now an entrepreneur – a stay at home working mom!
- Baby and I muddle along in recovery together.
I learn to slow down and accept my limits. I learn to set myself up as a freelancer and start my self-employed, entrepreneurial journey.
- I have months of chemotherapy and biologic treatments, the only non-cancer patient in a chair. This prevents pregnancy but I know I want another baby. Being the oldest of eight children, I can’t imagine my son not having siblings to share his life. I really want three children, but two is clearly my limit. I come off all meds to get pregnant.
- My 2nd pregnancy is hellish as my UC deteriorates. I also develop Gestational Diabetes as a result of prolonged steroid use.
- Fortunately, we have a fantastic team managing us, and I give birth to another baby boy in our latest home in January. I struggle to recover from the labours of childbirth.
- At this point, I’m going to the bathroom up to 30 times a day, and consequently in and out of the hospital with dehydration, and to have urgent steroid infusions to prevent my bowel from perforating.
- I start to dance, not mystically or spiritually (that comes later!), but literally. I’ve wanted to dance my entire life, but as a child that wasn’t possible, and since becoming an adult I’ve been too sick. But I’m tired of waiting, it’s likely I’ll always be sick, so I go for it regardless.
- Start my first blog, “Jiving on Regardless” where I document my life adventures with Ulcerative Colitis.
Movement and socializing are incredibly challenging, but I’m determined. I learn to dance Modern Jive and before long am a regular on the UK partner dance scene, even if some nights I can only make it through one dance. One dance is better than no dance.
My mantra “Something is better than nothing” is born.
- I work my way through various medical therapies but they all fail, ending in a variety of toxic reactions. There’s just one left, the new biologic, Remicade.
- I now dance West Coast Swing and Blues. My husband starts dancing too – it’s a case of, ‘if you can’t beat them join them’. When well enough we travel the country with dance friends, attending freestyles and weekenders. The dance community supports me through many challenging times and always give me something to look forward to.
I learn to dance literally and metaphorically, no matter what challenges life throws my way.
2008 – Age 32
- I admit defeat and agree to have my colon and rectum removed and a JPouch created, with a temporary ileostomy bag for six months. I’m lucky that I get to plan the surgery, though once the surgeon removes my bowel it’s clear it was only a matter of days until I would have needed emergency surgery—my colon disintegrates in his hands.
- This surgery is incredibly traumatic. I lost a lot of blood, needing a transfusion of five units. They then struggle to get my pain under control (the answer as to why this happened, is not to come to light until much more dramatic circumstances in 2013), and only hours after this double major surgery I spend three hours screaming in agony as they wait for an anaesthetist to get to me to administer pain relief – he’d left for vacation with no cover!
- I learn to live with post-operative PTSD.
- The surgery takes me a year to recover physically, and much longer to recover emotionally.
- I live with an ileostomy bag (external bag you poop into) for six months.
- Start a new blog: ‘Lottie Loves’ – I realize I need to support myself in my recovery by rediscovering more about myself and positively relearning who I am, despite my health challenges and the copious amounts of literal $hit I deal with. I start this new blog to document this new chapter of my life, post-surgery. This marks the beginning of my journey into vintage and vintage pinup.
- I share every single, tiny step I take. Eventually, there is an entire A-Z of 26 steps.
- Learn to knit and crochet.
- Despite mostly being in bed, I still manage to step into my fundraising/event planning role and raise £2000 for the NACC and our local preschool.
I learn that the darkest of times always, eventually move into the light.
Commissioned Art by Rebecca Feldman
- Have “Take Down” surgery to remove the ileostomy bag and connect my JPouch (you’ll have to Google that to find out exactly what it is). I’m now officially a JPoucher.
- Create an outfit to attend Ladies Day at Ascot to celebrate my recovery. For the first time in ten years, I willingly step in front of a camera, and my husband takes photographs that epitomise my rediscovery of true me—the woman who no longer wades in $hit!
- We take our first trip abroad in five years to Las Vegas, USA, to further celebrate my recovery and our tenth wedding anniversary. We renew our vows in the Little Church of the West, Las Vegas (We did, but no Elvis impersonator was present!) and have a week’s holiday, as husband and wife, no longer patient and carer.
- We decide I need sunshine and a new start, so we pick up our life adventure and move abroad. Our decision is made despite never being there when Noel mentions how much he loves California. What’s not to like about the sound of California?
- To great acclaim, I launch #ThinkFrockItsFriday on a slowly growing social media app, Twitter. Hundreds of women commit to wearing a dress on Fridays and sharing their photographs online. (Social Media was a new phenomenon then, and “selfies” didn’t exist, we were taking “outfit shots”.)
- ‘Lottie Loves’ grows in popularity, and I launch Finishing School (this is an early version of what became Rediscover YOU in 2014, which marks the launch of my Rediscover YOU brand.)
- I start working with a sex therapist, as years of poop and pain have drained me of my sexuality. I start Burlesque dancing to get back in touch with said sensuality – it works a treat! I love it, and for the first time in my adult life, I discover that I am sexy, sensual and beautiful, rather than a $h*tty mess!
This year, I genuinely begin rediscovering my body, sexuality, and sensuality. Again, I’m divinely directed to acquire knowledge that will eventually support me in my work as a life coach.
- My first vintage photoshoot with a photographer other than my husband! (Photo Credit below: Yuri Pires)
- ‘Lottie Loves’ has grown and I’m now a fully-fledged part of the UK vintage lifestyle and blogging scene.
- Dancing four or five times a week, I’ve learned most of the swing dances. I can even Lindy Hop in wellies!
- Emigrate from the UK to California to start our new life in the sunshine.
- We’re fully immersed in our new ex-pat life, adapting to the culture. It takes a good six months to feel at home and comfortable—Culture Shock is a natural and challenging phenomenon to navigate, but we get through and start to thrive. My boys are soon American in all but passport.
- My health is improving, and I feel like a regular human being for the first time in years.
- We travel to California and visit Europe and Hawaii. My love for global travel is cemented and I want more of it. After years of being housebound, even worse than that, bathroom bound, this newfound freedom is intoxicating.
- Volunteering for my son’s school and for various communities events.
- Quit blogging to focus on writing a book that doesn’t happen (it’s coming though).
- I style and model in my first professional vintage photoshoot. I’m still struggling with various health issues as a JPoucher who can’t absorb nutrients and vitamins well and living with frequent migraines, but my general health is improving. The photos show me how far my body image and health has come. (Photo Credits: Kelly Hsiao)
- I plan the launch of new a website and online business ( it doesn’t get very far as 2013 happens!)
- The travel bug continues, though keeping it more local, travelling California extensively and spending the summer in the UK.
2013 – Age 37
- January – My health deteriorates. I start to suffer regular incapacitating small bowel obstructions. After the second hospital admission, I need more major surgery, this time to remove part of my small intestine.
- June – I have a Small Bowel Resection, another major, open surgery. This surgery goes well, but minutes after they wheel me into recovery, things take a turn for the worse, and I spend five hours fighting for my life. You can watch a video about that on my Facebook page.
- July – depressed and struggling with my recovery, my friend and photographer, Kelly, calls to say that a vintage company has picked up my photos for one of their campaigns and urges me to get better to do another shoot. I don’t know how. I feel lost, in shock, and de-motivated, but then I remember I documented every step I took to recover from my 2008 surgery – what if those steps work again?
- I work through the steps in two months, spend a harrowing few weeks coming off high doses of Fentanyl (having a new appreciation for the trials of those with narcotic addictions), and by October 2013, I’m determined to do the photoshoot.
- November – Kelly and I create the photoshoot and have a fantastic time, producing beautiful photographs.
- The family and I have to go back to England to renew our visa and enjoy a break with family, which I need, my homesickness is hitting high levels.
- Read around 60 books, largely losing myself in fantasy novels full of elves, fairies and magic, and books expanding my spirituality – you get through a lot when you’re in bed for months on end.
I relearned what I had already learned in 2008/2009, the magic of which re-energises my commitment to sharing this important work with others. And my family is traumatised after this year and we need some serious attention paid to our healing.
Photo credits of bottom two photos: Kelly Hsiao
- 2014 will be the year to embrace this third chance at life – three chances, what can I say? I’m slow to get the message!
- Launch a new website and online business – ‘Who’s That Lady’ is born.
- Time to fully honour my creativity, particularly my writing, and do more and get published. I have a run of publishing success all year, including numerous magazine spreads and online publications. My first viral post is eye-opening (back in the days when 75,000 views was a lot!). Arianna Huffington shares it, and suddenly PRs are contacting me for television appearances, more article requests and hundreds join my community.
- I am diagnosed with chronic migraines, pouchitis, GERD and Sleep Apnea. I feel like I’m playing illness bingo. Anytime now I’ll call “Full House!” – I start to wonder what the big prize is? It turns out it’s called Life, and mine will get better.
- I share my vintage photographs with magazines and have numerous spreads published. It’s a bizarre thing to see myself, someone who once had up to 30 bowel movements a day, posing in a swimsuit, in public, in a magazine!
- Launch a Facebook support group and create and launch an online course – Rediscover YOU and my Rediscover YOU branding is born.
- Do another vintage photoshoot with Kelly Hsaio.
- Read around 40 books and complete one training course.
I acknowledge my learning to focus on what ‘I Can Do’, ‘One Step at a Time’ and ‘Just Keep Going’
- I become a full-time business and mindset coach working with women to rediscover themselves through their lives and businesses.
- I start working with my life-changing coach, Michaella O’Connor, who teaches me coaching and business skills, and takes me on adventures across North America for two years.
- Continue to grow my online business and community; list building, creating audio classes, an online course and online coaching.
- Launch four successful and inspiring masterminds for women entrepreneurs.
- We get our Green Cards to be Permanent Residents of the USA!
- I read 42 books, mostly business and self-development, and complete two training courses.
- Travel to the east coast of Canada, the UK, Italy, and various places in the US.
Photo credits: Kelly Hsiao
2016 – Age 40
- I grow my Facebook support group creating an amazing community of over 600 actively engaged women.
- Launch two intensives; six-month business masterminds.
- Continue to grow my full-time 1:1 coaching practice.
- Start my Time to Think training, having fallen in love with Nancy Kline’s work and deciding to become a certified Time to Think™ Coach.
- Launch a series of collaborative offline workshops.
- Create a series of meditative guided visualization audios called The Magical Forest Series.
Buy Magical Forest Meditations
- Read 48 books and complete three training courses.
- Travel to the west coast of Canada, the UK, Italy, and numerous places in the US.
- Turn 40! Celebrate with a beautiful 1920s tea party.
- I participate in the Women’s March, an unforgettable moment in my personal history and that of the world.
- Take my youngest son to his first concert, 21 Pilots. He hated it (too noisy!). I LOVED it ?
- Become a certified Time to Think™ Coach. Coaching practice now full.
- Get a puppy! Pixel the Shih Tzu.
- Complete e-book, Rediscover You: Create More of What You Want Despite Your Chronic Illness.
- Finally, find relief from extreme back pain through a series of sympathetic nerve block procedures.
- Start the journey of alternative schooling for my dyslexic children—not fun!
- With renewed health and freedom I travel a lot, to the UK, Canada, and various parts of the US.
- Read 29 books – more time writing this year!
This year opened my eyes to truly being present and living in the moment. And to trust myself.
- I start writing my first novel, set during WW1 and WW2, inspired by my family’s experiences. The above photo is my grandad.
- I fulfil a life-long dream to tour the sites of WW1 and 2 in France to complete my research for the novel. Such a moving experience. I lay flowers at the memorials of relatives and family friends.
- I read 25 books – having to sacrifice reading time for writing and research.
- I visit my brothers in Sydney, Australia for the first time, after they’ve lived there for fifteen years, and also get to my friend’s wedding in Melbourne.
- A year of learning and writing. I complete the first draft of my novel and start working with a Story Grid development editor, Kim Kessler.
- I attend workshops with and continue studying the work of Gabor Mate around addiction and trauma.
- I attend my first book writing retreat with Linda Sivertsen.
- Fun trips with friends to break up the intensity of all of the above.
- My brother’s wedding. The first time all eight of us have been in England at the same time in ten years.
- We celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Yes, I am too young for such a feat!
My mantra of “Just keep going” sees me through many ‘I’m not worthy’ moments as I embark on this next step of my writing career. Writing a novel is no easy business!
- Get suspected COVID in March. No testing available to confirm.
- After ten years in Palo Alto, CA (Silicon Valley) we move to Orange County, CA (during a pandemic! An interesting experience,)
- My oldest son graduates high school a year early and starts college (online!).
- My youngest son graduates from middle school and starts online high school)
- I complete the final draft of the novel.
- Read 23 books (though also many online history manuscripts and essays!)
(My son doesn’t share photos online hence the obscured pic.)
Who hasn’t learned a ton about themselves during this historic year? I’m sure I’ll write about my experiences one day, but like many of us, I’m still processing.
- Start working with fabulous writing mentor Deborah Swift (check out her historical fiction novels) through The History Quill. Deborah and I work on a final edit of the manuscript.
- Work on a copy-edit with Richard Sheehan, who also does fabulous fact-checking.
- Despite the pandemic and 6-12 hours a week, I feel lucky to pull together the best health team I’ve had in a long time in my new home area. Neurologist, Pain Team, OBGYN, Urogynaecologist, Gastroenterologist and PT Team all working together and pain reduced by 50 per cent! Quite a feat of determination and time on my part (and 25 years navigating health systems!)
- Coaching practice is full and intense as working in a pandemic presents continued challenges for all.
- Crochet thirty blankets and numerous toys (especially in love with Carla Mitrani’s patterns from Crochet Iconic Women)
I learn that editing a novel takes a long time! With that and the Pandemic, I’ve strengthened my relationship with patience.
I hereby invite you to Rediscover YOU.
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With all of my love,