Friday 30 January 2015

Gok Wan on working through his daily back pain misery

Gok has had two back operations recently

Fashion consultant and TV presenter Gok Wan talks about the daily pain he suffers from his back and how his pet puppy's helping him recover

Gok Wan's wrapped up against the cold, with his eyes shielded by sunglasses as he walks his dog, the flamboyantly-named Dolly Albertine Dishcloth.

He jokes that the French bulldog puppy insists he gets up early to go for a walk and he's clearly devoted to her.

"She makes me come out in the morning no matter what sort of shape I'm in or what aches and pains I'm suffering from," he says with an indulgent smile.

It would be all too easy to assume a high-octane celebrity lifestyle is taking its toll on the fashion consultant, author and TV presenter who seems to be rarely off our screens, but in fact he's currently suffering from a severe back problem, which means he sometimes has to use a walking stick.

"It's been a really tough year," he admits. "I've had to have seven operations on my back which was a real shock. It started in March when I went to the gym and felt this pain, which turned out to be slipped discs.

"I had physio treatment but one morning as I bent over in the shower I was plunged into absolute agony. I was losing the feeling in the lower part of my body because the pain was so intense."

Within a few hours he'd had the first of two discectomy operations, where the soft part of the damaged disc is removed to take pressure off the nerve in the back, and has subsequently had surgery five more times to treat the area.

"Most people recover within around five months, but mine is still a problem. The nerve canal in the spine is inflamed and hasn't settled so all sorts of doctors are looking at it trying to work out the mystery of how to sort it. Trust my back to be attention seeking!"

It's part of his style, and his charm, to dryly mock his trademark camp, gay persona but it's his prodigious talent which has helped to make him a household name.

A natural communicator and bubbly extrovert, he found fame as a consultant on TV shows encouraging women to love their bodies and dress with confidence no matter what their size. In 2006, he starred in the first of his own hugely successful shows in Channel 4's How To Look Good Naked.

He's since written books on style and fashion, launched his own clothes ranges, this year presented a cookery show, Gok Cooks Chinese and is currently hosting a dating show, Channel 4's Baggage.

Stoically, the 38-year-old refuses to see his back problem as anything more than a temporary set-back and won't scale down his workload.

"No way, I'm a proud workaholic. I love my life which goes at a million miles an hour and if I'm really busy it's not unusual for me to put in around 100 hours a week," he says.

"Dolly's so helpful as she makes me focus on her needs and distracts me from focusing on being in low level daily pain."

Overcoming challenges is not unfamiliar to Gok, the son of an English mother, Myra, and Chinese father, John, who was brought up in Leicester.

In his autobiography, Through Thick And Thin, he revisited painful memories of being bullied at school because he was a gay, overweight teenager, and at his heaviest 21 stone.

Press Association

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