LIVING with a chronic disease, Pottsville surfer Brittani Nicholl is used to fighting hard during her ups and downs.
Recently in the middle of a relapse in her battle with Crohn's disease, an email advising her she'd been selected to captain her country at the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games in France, was a dream which could have been out of reach.
Unsure of whether she could accept the honour or even travel, Nicholl set about giving herself the best chance of competing in the games.
"I was unsure on whether I would be able to accept or travel, but since receiving the offer, I have been trying to do all I can to allow myself the best opportunity to make it to France and compete not only for myself, my team and country, but also others who may be going through difficult times,” Nicholl said.
Like she has before, Nicholl willed herself to recovery and will lead Australia into the surf when the eight-day ISA Games kick-off in Biarritz in France's south-west today.
It's the same drive and dedication which has seen Nicholl repeatedly get off the canvas in the past to make a return to competitive surfing.
From being diagnosed with Crohn's as a seven-year-old to almost dying during surgery to remove part of her bowel at 16, Nicholl, 26, was making her way up the professional surfing ranks before another setback forced her to sit out of the water for 10 months, before returning in February last year.
An ambassador for Crohn's since 2011, Nicholl managed to fight her way to the ISA's last year in Costa Rica and despite her relapse, set her sights on repeating the feat.
"I've been in this relapse for almost a year now, although I am now two months into my treatment plan and everything seems to be tracking okay,” Nicholl said.
"Being selected to represent Australia is a dream come true. To be team captain is a privilege and full on responsibilities, although it adds to the experience of representing Australia.”
After helping Australia to a ninth overall finish out of 25 countries in 2016, Nicholl said the side's main focus this year would be hitting the podium.
"Although it's an individual sport, it's very team orientated. We will all be doing our best to progress through our heats, encouraging and supporting each other along the way,” she said.
"The main goal is bringing home a medal for our country.”
With mounting health and travel costs, the inspiring surfer is in need of support.
Nicholl said while athletes can access donations via a partnership with the Australian Sports Foundation's new Athlete's Fundraising Program, further funds would be needed with her treatment set to increase following the ISA games.
"All donations will contribute towards the expenses of this trip, as well as the ongoing medical expenses associated with my ongoing treatment in Sydney,” she said.
Nicholl said all donations over $2 were tax deductible and could be made at asf.org.au/athletes/ brittani-nicholl.