Today’s post is a guest blog thanks to my dear friend Natalie. I admire her determination, her drive, and her commitment to her health. Here is her story, in her own words. Because I could not have said it better.
Growing up, thanks to my parents, I ate well. Mostly home-cooked Mediterranean meals. Teenage and college years I didn’t pay attention to what I ate or how it would affect me. I dabbled in sports and exercise for fun, not understanding its importance. I ate whatever I wanted, didn’t drink much, didn’t smoke, didn’t do drugs, and rarely got sick. If I got a cold, I chose to tough it out rather than take meds. Life was easy.
About a year and a half after I graduated from college, what I thought was food poisoning ended up being diagnosed as Crohn’s Disease. It’s an autoimmune disease that causes my body to attack itself resulting in ulcers in my digestive tract, primarily intestines. Over 700,000 Americans are affected by this chronic disease and have no choice but to treat it and live with it for as long as possible.
That’s when it all started. My new perspective.
We each naturally have a different perspective on everything, building from life experiences and personalities. If you care enough about the people beside you in life, the most you can do is try to understand and be open to their perspective and share yours. So I’m sharing mine with you today, in the hopes that you won’t feel bad for me, but rather be motivated by this story and take better care of yourself now, while you can.
I had to learn how to swallow pills. The biggest pill of all being that I was going to be “sick” forever with Crohn’s Disease, something I had never even heard of before. In time I realized that sometimes there are no reasons or answers. I just have to deal everyday and it won’t go away. Diet and stress management, taking my meds, keeping up with doctor visits, testing, prescriptions, exercise, research, natural remedies, and constantly listening and adapting to what my body needs is all I can do.
Symptoms vary for each person and vary further throughout the different stages of the disease. Keeping this G-rated, mine are usually one or any combination of low energy levels, belly pains, slight fevers, aching in my joints, lack of appetite, and sometimes when I’m going through a flare my ankles swell, I feel nauseous, and I spend too much time in the bathroom. Crohn’s has caused me to be anemic, have elevated liver enzymes, and vitamin D and B-12 deficiencies that I monitor and constantly make up for. It has also caused infection and intestinal blockage, which led to two surgeries. I’ve been on about ten different medications since I was diagnosed almost 12 years ago (Dec 3rd), some of which also have caused side effects.
I get frustrated if my body can’t keep up with my mind. I throw myself an occasional pity party, which then makes me feel worse. BUT the days when I feel good, watch out! I take advantage of that energy and I play catch up with life. My drive and stubbornness are comical. It’s quite a balancing act. Sometimes I overexert myself, but the feeling of accomplishment is so worth it. It’s so important to not allow Crohn’s to get me down. It’s not who I am, just something I’m stuck with.
My goal is to be in remission. There is no cure, but there were two wonderful years of remission that I enjoyed medicine-free and I’m looking forward to getting back to that! I do everything I can to achieve that goal, including quitting my job. Yes, very drastic, but necessary because balance in life is critical to good health.
People with Crohn’s may look healthy but it’s not easy to maintain control over the disease and be healthy. Finding that balance is tricky and I am thankful that Crohn’s has made me smarter and stronger. It has motivated me to pay attention to everything I eat and how it makes me feel. I am driven to prove that it can’t stop me. I can go for a run, take a bike ride, go hiking, feel my heart pound through my chest and enjoy that feeling of peace and fresh air away from everything. Without it, I may not be here today and I certainly wouldn’t be me.
I constantly assess symptoms and adapt by adjusting my diet. My reactions are more immediate, but there is no doubt in my mind that what you eat and not exercising will affect you. It may take some longer than others, but it always catches up. I’ve heard enough stories about perfectly healthy people doing everything right and still ending up with cancer or dying of a heart attack, but to put things into perspective… because you physically can, why not live out the days you have on earth feeling the best you possibly can?
I’ve maintained a constant, good weight and for the most part can control my symptoms. I do not count calories. I do not eat or drink diet stuff and do my best to stay away from fake crap. I love to cook for the therapy, fun creativity, and most of all because I know what’s in what I make. I challenge anyone to prove to me that dining out is cheaper than cooking healthy at home. Ultimately, good health is priceless. I simply listen to my body, eat right for me, and exercise every chance I have the energy to do so.
If you’re healthy, you’ve got no excuse in my book. Please make time for you because you can and because no one else is going to do it for you. Relieve yourself of the everyday stresses and busy life schedule and really live. Breathe. Eat right. Exercise enough. Release the toxins. Sweat it out. And check yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self.
*** Special thanks to Miller for being an excellent health advocate and inspiring me on multiple occasions to workout no matter how sucky I feel. Thanks for inviting me to guest blog, I am honored! Also, thank you to the loved ones that are always there through it all – highs and lows, emotions, moods, appointments, taking care of me when I don’t have the energy. Your love lifts my spirits and keeps me going when I don’t feel like I can anymore. I fight everyday for you. ***
Now that you know, it’s time to help. Natalie’s team TT’s Chroniez will be walking this Saturday, October 13, at City Island in Harrisburg. Support a great cause and a great friend by clicking the link below to donate.