Kettering brow beauty expert ready to wow customers a year after lifesaving op

Lucie Pittam has lived more than half her life with severe complications from Crohn's Disease

A Kettering beauty therapist given a 50/50 chance of life-saving surgery being successful and being able to live a life with less pain has bounced back and will reopen her expanded business today (Monday).

Lucie Pittam, 34, underwent radical bowel surgery last year at a specialist hospital to remove sections of her Crohn’s Disease-damaged intestines that were constantly being blocked by a buildup of scar tissue.

Living in constant pain and getting through her days on morphine, Lucie was told without the operation her body may only last seven years before her blood vessels became overwhelmed and she would end up being fed through a tube.

Lucie Pittam owner of Brow Wow Beauty

The mum-of-two and owner of Brow Wow Beauty in Market Street Mews, Kettering, who has lived in severe pain on and off since she was a teenager, opted for the surgery last year.

She said: "During the course of having my little shop I have undergone three separate surgeries, two of which were colostomy surgeries to try and help my Crohn’s Disease. Nothing felt like it was working, my health deteriorated even more and I had been living off morphine and Red Bull for about seven years. I had become a shell of a person but it still didn’t stop me working, even if I was popping upstairs to be sick during appointments. My wonderful clients were marvellous and supportive.

In Feb 2020 Lucie had her latest eight-hour surgery. She had been told that because she had so little bowel left and she was getting regular blockages the outcome didn’t look hopeful.

She said: "I was either going to end up with a feeding tube or get a blockage that would burst my bowel and that would kill me.

l-r Niamh Hyldon, 20, Lucie Pittam, and Chantal Franceschi, 20

"Unfortunately KGH said that they weren’t experienced enough in this area and I asked to be referred to St Mark's Hospital in London, a specialist bowel hospital.

"I spent two weeks in London and was given 50/50 odds if it would work or not. I just knew that I couldn’t carry on the way I was going as my body was shutting down. The surgery was hard, but being that far away from home trying to recover away from my partner and my children was harder."

After two weeks, Lucie was discharged still feeling very sick, had an open wound, and she had contracted Covid-19, but she was determined to get back to work for March - then the national lockdown began.

Lucie's Crohn’s Disease journey began as a young teenager when she started experiencing abdominal pain and diarrhoea. With rapid weight loss she was originally misdiagnosed with bulimia.

The Brow Wow

It was only when she was 17 and saw a different doctor by chance in her struggle to find answers that Crohn's Disease was first mentioned as a possible cause for her symptoms.

She said: "I felt like I was going mad. People said I was lying. My beauty therapy uniform at college had been tight, then the waistband got bigger until my trousers were falling off me. I was quite a big girl. I went from 12 and a half stone to six.

"I went to the GP and there was a new doctor. She gave me a list of symptoms and it was as if it was written about me. I had never heard of Crohn’s Disease before but she said my symptoms added up and sent me for testing. I felt so emotional.

"The testing was long and hard and my body was going through so much, eventually after camera tests through private hospital we had a diagnosis, and that’s where I really deteriorated, beauty had to be put on a back burner that was until my eldest came along."

One of treatment rooms

Pregnancy eased Lucie's symptoms but six months after she'd given birth to daughter Maisie, at the age of 21, her symptoms returned. Two years later she had her first bowel resection - surgery to remove part of her intestine that had been damaged by her immune system. Another resection surgery followed 24 months later. In 2017, she had a colostomy when surgeons removed her colon.

She said:"When I became a mum I realised I needed to work around Maisie and my illness. I needed flexibility and to follow a passion. I went back into beauty and specialised in my favourite treatment, brows.

"Brows had always had a special place in my heart. I remember very vividly sitting at the top of the field at Bishop Stopford School with a pair of tweezers in my hand and a friend's head placed in my lap and I plucked away until near extinction, thankfully I learnt how to shape correctly and mastered the art.

Starting her business from her kitchen table with a loan from her partner Ross, she invested in equipment expanding to the spare bedroom, and then to a purpose built log cabin in the garden when son Edward was born to make room for his nursery.

After another house move to allow a bedroom-based salon eventually opening her beauty studio in 2017. Not allowing her illness to get in the way of business she was very disappointed to have to close her doors just as she was feeling better.

During the enforced break she continued to get stronger and her health improved allowing her to home-school her children, and to refurbish and eventually expand her beauty business using the available grants.

Hey Good Looking

She said: "After my surgery the return to work was good but as soon as we were back l, we had to shut again. I didn’t know if I could keep the shop going anymore so i decided to take on an extra job and become a Trainer for HD Brows working at their Milton Keynes academy.

"I was able to be the mum I’ve wanted to be for such a long time, I did my salon up and I prepared to return to work. In December, I got the opportunity to take on the shop next door, and I couldn’t resist growing my little shop. That was until the lockdown 3.0."

As well as starting East Northants IBD Support a group for parents and children affected by inflammatory bowel disease, Lucie has expanded her business Brow Wow Beauty to offer full beauty treatment including massage, pedicure, manicure, facials and eyebrow expertise.

She added: "I wasn’t going to let lockdown stop me. It seemed that the world was against me but I needed to prove a point. I carried out renovation work and knocked through.

"I now have a stunning beauty salon with many different areas which allows for even more treatments, I’ve rebranded, employed members of staff for the first time and have gone the extra mile to make the salon the perfect retreat in the middle of the town centre.

"I have always been so blessed to have such an amazing team of people behind me. Even though life has been tough on me, I have never let it get the better of me.

"The only thing that is going to stop you is yourself. When the world is against you, you can still do it and be strong. Ross and the kids have been my growing force and I’ve had to just get on with life.

"I missed my customers so much and now I’m going to enjoy my beautiful space and I cannot wait for the public to be able to come and enjoy it."

For more information about Crohn's Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease click here

The manicure area