Blake Beckford, 33, was preparing to compete in a body-building competition when he was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis – chronic bowel disease – in 2003. Over the next decade the devastated personal trainer was treated with a variety of different drugs to keep the illness, which causes stomach pains and ulceration and inflammation on the colon and stomach lining, under control.
Mr Beckford was forced to give up his strict training regime, which involved a two-hour gym session six days a week, with the dream of making it big in the fitness world.
Blake Beckford had his heart set on working in the fitness industry but, after he started to feel lethargic and lost weight despite focusing on training and nutrition in his teens, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
He was forced to give up his dream as the debilitating disease hampered his strict training regime and meant he suffered chronic pain over the next 10 years.
An extreme flare up at the end of 2012 left him constantly fatigued and needing to go to the toilet up to 20 times a day, before he underwent surgery to remove the large bowel – leaving him bedridden for six weeks and fitted with a colostomy bag.
Despite the setbacks, he decided he had nothing left to lose and researched different ways to regain fitness, starting with yoga for core fitness and moving on to hill walking and cycling, combined with a nutritional diet.
All of this has resulted in the Adonis we see before us today.
‘The bag has given me a second chance,’ said Mr Beckford, who has amazed doctors with his transformation. After all, it’s tricky for anyone to get to this level of fitness, let alone someone suffering from a chronic disease.
Mr Beckford, who lives with his girlfriend in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, said: ‘I am determined to show people and society that having a stoma doesn’t change who you are.
‘It doesn’t mean you’re not normal. You can achieve anything you want to do, you can be attractive, and you can lead a normal life.’
He admits that it took some time to get used to his new appearance.
‘When I came out of hospital, I had to get used to having a stoma,’ he said.
‘I knew it was there, but found it hard to accept the fact I had this bag on my stomach and what it did.
‘It was strange because I didn’t even want to show my family at first.
‘It took a while to build my confidence again, to talk to people openly about having a stoma, to show anyone what I had.
‘But over time I realised “this is me”.
‘The operation had also made me feel like a new person. My energy levels were much better and I could enjoy life more.’
He now plans to enter his first competition in the physique class of the Miami Pro UK Championships in October this year.
He added: ‘After the surgery I remember thinking if I would be happy even if I could just potter around the garden or spend time with my friends and family.
‘I never thought I would be able to get in this shape and be competing for the first time.’