Paul & Lee Holdaway rowed individually 100km on Sunday April 28th 2019 at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea. James Bennett and Andy Ashby also rowed a marathon distance (42km). In total £3700 has been raised and will be presented to Haemochromatosis UK. You can read below Paul's journey and why this cause was worthy of just a tough physical and mental effort.! TL Sports has now launched the Sussex Hilly Half marathon to annually raise money and awareness of the genetic disease.
You can view the video of the challenge HERE

This is Paul Holdaway’s journey and account of his road to recovery. He is 38 years old, married with 3 children, and runs a sports events and coaching business

“This is my story and account of my Haemochromatosis journey. I hope it raises some awareness, so maybe someone else in my position, similar age and background doesn’t get missed, or to anyone starting their journey, it may give some positivity that with fight, knowledge and support, this doesnt have to define you.

I have spent my life involved with competitive sport, personally and career wise. Having focused on endurance sport for the past 20 years, my body has always been my tool, and responded to the increasing demands I would place on it to achieve my next goal!

This all started to change in late 2013, early 2014. I had decided to attempt to break the lightweight indoor rowing marathon record in May 2014, and spent 5 months training hard, during which time I noticed a persistent niggle in my hip, and my ankles were also getting very sore and stiff. For the rest of 2014 I continued to train, and run with some coached clients, but activity was becoming more and more painful.

I then decided to train to compete in the 2015 Lanzarote Ironman, and begin my journey to qualify for the Ironman World AG Champs. Throughout the process of training for Lanzarote, I had a level of fatigue which I had never experienced, also my body would sometimes feel 70 yrs old, my ankles would feel like running on stumps. At times I would wake up, push through training, then sleep for the rest of the day. During this 6 months my hip, and ankles worsened. The race itself was a disaster, I felt flat and tired from the start, and ending up walking for 30km during the run. I knew something wasn’t right, but the symptoms could have been attributed to overtraining, so I just thought I was unprepared.

I ended up visiting a sports medicine consultant in Cheltenham, who was concerned my chronic fatigue symptoms, and joint pain could be down to a condition called, Psoriatic Arthritis, an auto-immune disease. I was referred to various specialists, and was really becoming unwell, weak and very low. I was diagnosed with this condition in Sept 2016, and started on a course of steroids, and methotrexate. At this stage, I had very painful ankles, knees, elbows, hip, back and shoulder, terrible brain fog, and chronic fatigue. It was effecting every area of my life.

In Oct 2016 I had a double ankle arthroscopy, which resulted in being told my ankle cartilage had completely delaminated away from the talus bone, leaving bone on bone. The surgeon was very shocked with what he saw, not quite understanding the cause. My right hip continued to deteriorate and, unable to walk, I had a full right hip replacement in June 2017. Once again the same surgeon found the cartilage had peeled off the bone and the red coral effect in the joint. Just prior to the hip replacement my GP, had run some ferritin blood tests, and a Haemochromatosis gene test (recommended by my mum, as she had slightly elevated ferritin levels), he called me and shockingly revealed my ferritin was 3800, and a positive results for C282Y.

After the hip op and genetic results, it was confirmed that all my joint damage, and chronic fatigue, brain fog was due to GH, not Psoriatic Arthritis. I started weekly venesections immediately, did that for one year (until May 2018) and fortnightly to the present day with my current Ferritin level down at 628. Within that period I also ended up having a left ankle fusion, which was a tough recovery period, eventually coming off crutches 3 months later in April 2018.

Since April 2018 to this day, I have worked hard to rehabilitate the physical side, regain fitness and am pleased to be back fit and strong and aiming for fitness challenges and events again, first up is a 100km indoor row challenge this April to raise awareness for GH.

I have more energy than for many years, no brain fog and no further joints have been affected. The multiple x-rays showed bad cartilage damage in both elbows and knees, but with lots of strength around them I am feeling good.

I also had to address the psychological side of what I, and my family went through, strangely it really hit me hard as I recovered, around Sept / Oct last year. But, we are in a great place now, and excited about the future again, rather than being scared.

I have launched a new personal training / coaching studio and am back doing what I love, helping others train for events and lead a fit, healthy lifestyle.

I also found Haemochromatosis UK, who offered great support, increasing my knowledge and understanding of the condition. The forums were also helpful at the time, as illness can be a very lonely place, it brought a lot of comfort knowing there were people who truly understood what it felt like! as the fatigue and brain fog are awful but people cant see it, and everyone feels tired! I dont know what the future holds, how my joints and arthritis will progress, but I live in the moment. My wife and I have changed many aspects of our lifestyle due to learning what is really important to us, and it has given me the strength to continue to live life to the full and appreciate the opportunity to do certain things while I can, and have no regrets. It is only when things get taken away from you that you realise how fragile life and health is, without health, everything crumbles.

Thank you if you read my journey.


Helping people live with iron overload