The 23-year-old amateur runner and adventurer, who completed his first marathon in the second grade, kept a rigorous training schedule.
Then, wracked by debilitating diarrhea, cramping, and pain, Rob was diagnosed with Crohn's disease with ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel diseases.
Over the next year and a half, Rob's condition worsened. His weight plummeted — from 185 pounds to his lightest recorded weight of 105 — and it became clear that his large intestine needed to be removed. "When it came down to losing my colon or losing my life, it wasn't a hard decision to make," he says.
It wasn't until he was sick that he learned an aunt also had suffered from Crohn's — a fact never shared with family members at the time. As far as Rob was concerned, "Life with an ostomy was my second chance and I was not going to waste it."
Eight years after his life-changing surgery, Rob decided to challenge the social stigma surrounding intestinal diseases and living with an ostomy.
Rob Hill at the summit of Mt. Elbrus, Europe's tallest peak, in June 2002.
He began a personal quest to become the first Crohn's patient and ostomate to climb the Seven Summits, or the tallest peak on every continent, and in doing so, raise awareness about living with IBD and an ostomy. Fewer than 300 people over the past 20 years have successfully scaled the Seven Summits, a feat that is hard on anyone, much less someone without their colon, responsible for absorbing water and nutrients into the body.
"It's okay to talk about these conditions and not something to hide behind."
Through his involvement with ConvaTec as the Global Ambassador to the Great Comebacks® Program and his own Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society (IDEAS), Rob has set an example that an ostomy is not as much about removing an internal organ as it is about second chances and the opportunity to pursue your dreams.
Today, Rob continues to break down barriers for people living with intestinal diseases, letting them know that "it's okay to talk about these conditions and not something to hide behind."
From being barely able to make it up a flight of stairs due to the debilitating effects of his condition, Rob has now completed all of the Seven Summits in his “No Guts Know Glory” campaign:
• June 2002, Mt. Elbrus, 18,481 feet (5,633 m), Russia/Georgia, Europe
• October 2003, Mt. Kilimanjaro, 19,339 feet (5,963 m), Tanzania, Africa
• January 2004, Aconcagua, 22,840 foot (6,962 m), Argentina, South America
• June 2005, Denali/Mt. McKinley, 20,320 feet (5,895 m), Alaska, U.S.A., North America
• January 2006, Vinson Massif, 16,067 feet (4,897 m), Antarctica
• April 2007, Carstensz Pyramid, 16,023 feet (4,884 m), Indonesia, Oceania
• May 2010, South Summit of Mount Everest, 29,053 feet (8,850 m), located on the border of Nepal and Tibet, Asia