Updated 25 January 2018

Top fitness model with IBD has fatal brain disorder

He became a fitness model despite suffering from ulcerative colitis and wearing a colostomy bag, but is now fighting for his life against a deadly brain disorder.

Blake Beckford, a 34 year old man from the U.K who overcame a devastating diagnosis of ulcerative colitis to become a top-performing fitness model with a colostomy bag is now suffering from a serious brain malformation.

Blake had big dreams for himself and was training hard when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2003 at the age of 21. Ulcerative colitis is a painful inflammatory bowel disease which causes ulcers to form on the lining of the bowel. The ulcers can cause rectal bleeding whilst the inflammation results in diarrhoea or frequent bowel emptying. 

For 10 years he battled with the condition, trying a number of different medications and was hospitalised on several occasions. As time went on Blake was taking over twenty different tablets every day to manage his condition. Blake also began suffering from a range of other conditions related to ulcerative colitis, including uveitis (inflammation of the uvea in the eye), anaemia and temporary arthritis.

Life-changing surgery

Eventually in 2013 after experiencing a severe flare up, Blake decided he needed to sort out his health once and for all. He met with a doctor at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford where, after a colonoscopy, he was informed that he would need to undergo surgery. When he learnt that he would need to undergo a total sub-colectomy and would be required to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of his life, Blake was terrified:

"I knew I was in excellent hands but I still had so much going through my head that day – I am 32 and my perception was that old people have stomas? How would I continue day to day living? Could I train at the gym? What are people going to think? I never met anyone my age or a young person with a bag?" 

The initial procedure was carried out in October 2013 where Blake's colon was removed and he underwent an ileostomy, a surgical procedure to create a stoma - an opening in the abdomen that allows for stools to be passed from the body into a colostomy bag.

Read: Aspiring model brings awareness to Crohn's disease

Taking back control

Through the support of the online inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) community, Blake managed to regain his confidence and by the end of January 2014, he was back to training in the gym. He was determined to defy the odds and be able to compete in the fitness industry.

blake beckford

He started #FightWithBlake -  a campaign aimed at raising awareness of those living with IBD and to help reduce stigma associated with inflammatory bowel disease and having an ostomy (colostomy bag). 

blake beckford

Image Credit: Matt Marsh

Blake was featured on the cover of Muscle Fitness magazine in October 2014. A month later, he competed in the body transformation category at the Pure Elite fitness event and managed to place first.

Watch Blake's amazing transformation:

Read: What it takes to be a female body builder

A devastating turn of events

In February 2015 Blake suffered a heartbreaking setback. He was diagnosed with a structural brain defect known as Arnold-Chiari malformation. The NHS explains that with Arnold-Chiari malformation, the cerebellum and the brain stem tissue extend through the base of the skull (foramen magnum). Typical symptoms include balance problems, neck pain, muscular weakness and dizziness.

He was also diagnosed with syringomyelia, a chronic progressive disease affecting the spinal cord.

In March 2015, Blake underwent brain surgery but suffered a number of complications including chemical meningitis.

Blakes condition continues to worsen and he remains hospitalised with mounting medical costs. A good friend of his, Tracy, has set up a Go Fund Me account in his name to raise funding for Blake's treatment. To date the account has raised over £ 6000 since it was created in April this year.

Blake in hospital after suffering a number of serious complications as a result of surgery to correct his Arnold-Chiari malformation (Image courtesy of his Go Fund Me account)

blake beckford suffering from brain defect

The information for this story was taken from the biographies on Blake's website and his Go Fund Me account.

Read more:

How to change a colostomy bag

Fitness model Greg Plitt dies in freak accident

From 105 kg to bikini model


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Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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