6 December 2022

The priest cycling to raise awareness for inflammatory bowel disease

Reverend Jimmy Young cycling in the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek. Image: Supplied.

Kirralee Nicolle

31 May 2022

Reverend Jimmy Young can often be found in one of several natural habitats – at St John’s Cranbourne, at his Clyde home, and on his bicycle in the Dandenongs.

In March 2022, Jimmy attained a coveted achievement among cyclists: he was an official finisher in the brutal Peaks Challenge Falls Creek, a 235km cycling event in Alpine Victoria.

Jimmy cycles 150 to 200kms in a standard week, which is impressive for anyone, but is especially impressive when you consider that his health journey has not been straightforward.

In the lead up to the Peaks Challenge, he cycled 250 to 300kms a week.

“It was the hardest thing that I could think of to do, so I wanted to do it,” Jimmy said.

“There is no greater challenge for a recreational rider like me than finishing that ride.”

Following several health challenges as a child, Jimmy developed chronic fatigue in his early teenage years, which led to him completing year 12 over two years.

Jimmy was then later diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a condition which causes his blood pressure to drop rapidly when he changes position.

Then, two years ago, Jimmy was given a new diagnosis: ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease which causes chronic ulcers and inflammation in the large intestine.

Not only did this disease affect Jimmy’s life in new ways, it also showed him a different culture around chronic illness.

Jimmy said that while many people may be happier to speak publicly about an illness such as chronic fatigue or POTS, ulcerative colitis is considered too private to talk about.

“Because it is to do with the colon and bowel movements, no one wanted to talk about it,” he said.

“I had to go first.”

So, Jimmy did talk about it, and he used cycling to tell his story.

He entered the Peaks Challenge for the first time in 2019 but was forced to withdraw partway through due to illness.  

This time round, he was in better shape, and had the added motivation of raising funds for Crohn’s and Colitis Australia, an advocacy agency for those experiencing the disease.

He also used it as an opportunity to talk publicly on his Facebook page about his recent diagnosis.

Jimmy said that he had noticed a trend among those he knew from internet groups for those with chronic illness of feeling limited in their abilities and unable to do things which brought them joy or excitement.

“When people have these diagnoses, they shut down. Their diagnosis becomes their identity very quickly,” he said.

“Having a series of health troubles makes you believe your body is a bit messed up.

“God’s vision for our bodies is that they are good and discovering what they can do is a good thing.”

He said a defiant “I’ll show you” attitude had become something of a mantra for him when warned by doctors to avoid physical activities.

“God has blessed me with a huge appetite for adventure and challenge and having diagnoses like this doesn’t mean that has to end,” Jimmy said.

The Peaks Challenge ended up being a gruelling experience for Jimmy. He developed severe cramping, became separated from his group, and finished with just under four minutes to spare before the cut-off time of 13 hours.

However, he kept thinking of the mantra “you belong here”.

He belonged in the race, despite what doctors had told him.

“If I could bottle that last ten minutes, that was just about the best feeling I have ever had,” he said.

“All the hard work, all the pushing, all the really early wake ups, it’s a pretty special feeling.”

Jimmy has also raised just over $2,000 for Crohn’s and Colitis Australia. To donate to his campaign, see here.

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