Inspiring interview with Crohn’s sufferer and advocate!

Happy Friday!!! So looking forward to the weekend. My foot is getting a littttle better and I’ve actually been enjoying swimming this week! I think I’m going to incorporate into my exercise routine more often.
So as ya’ll know, I’m attending community college this year, meaning that I’m able to see some friends from high school! It’s always comforting being around people I’ve known for a while. One of these people is this kick-ass girl named Shelbie. Shelbie has Crohn’s disease – an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea and even malnutrition. Inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease can involve different areas of the digestive tract in different people.
The inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease often spreads deep into the layers of affected bowel tissue. Like ulcerative colitis, another common IBD, Crohn’s disease can be both painful and debilitating, and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications.
When were you first diagnosed with Crohn’s? What were your symptoms?
“I was diagnosed when I was 12 years old; I had just started 7th grade. My symptoms included severe stomach pain, fatigue, the inability to keep food down, constant diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. I was so malnourished when I was diagnosed that I weighed a mere 67 pounds.”
Circa 2005, right around itme of diagnosis.

Circa 2005, right around itme of diagnosis.

It was extremely hard for her to even partake in daily life. She was so sick all of the time, just being awake and trying to go to school was a huge struggle. Plus, She was hiding her symptoms from her peers and most of her teachers.
“I mean, what 12 year old wants to explain why they’re running off to the bathroom every 20 minutes? Having Crohn’s disease is messy. Your symptoms are often seen as “taboo” or not talked about because they deal with the gross aspects of the human body. i.e. pooping. Needless to say, I didn’t have a social life. I was too fatigued to even comprehend trying to maintain friendships.”
When she was first diagnosed, she was put on a heavy amount of steroids as well as other drugs.
About 6 months after diagnosis and starting treatment. "As you can see, I am a lot heavier and my face was really puffy. Weight gain and a rounded moon face are common steroid side effects.

About 6 months after diagnosis and starting treatment. “As you can see, I am a lot heavier and my face was really puffy. Weight gain and a rounded moon face are common steroid side effects.

“The steroids kind of suck. The side effects are terrible and include weight gain, heart burn, body hair growth, and puffiness in the face causing the appearance of a “moon face.” The first four months I spent on steroids, they did absolutely nothing for me. I was just as sick as ever. Finally in January, my doctor started me on Remicade, a form of infusion therapy. The remicade ended up being my saving grace and after a few months I was put into remission. I was able to eat normal food again, and live a mostly normal life. The downside to the drug was that it has a lot of lifelong side effects, including being very hard on your liver. Let’s just say my liver will never be able to handle the alcoholic lifestyle I initially planned for myself. :P”
All of her life, Shelbie has been very active. From the first grade, she started cheerleading and doing gymnastics.
Shelbie at one of her last cheerleading games. :(

Shelbie at one of her last cheerleading games. 😦

They were my passion, and as corny as it may sound, it was my dream to become a professional cheerleader. My whole life revolved around that sport, so when I got sick and couldn’t physically do it anymore, I felt like my dream was shattering. It was certainly really hard to give up the sport, especially at such a young age.
Since then, I hadn’t really cared much about living a healthy/active life until a little over a year ago. I had just gotten home from living in Australia, and had experienced some unwanted weight gain. I saw what my lifestyle abroad had done to my body and I was determined to gain back my confidence. Both of my sisters are big runners. I mean big, like “let’s go run a marathon this weekend” big.
Shelbie (left) and her sister at a recent Color Run

Shelbie (left) and her sister (right) at a recent Color Run

I decided I wanted to become a runner like them. I started using the couch to 5k app and ran 3 times a week. I also went to the gym nearly every day and ate very healthy. I lost 30 pounds and ran in my first 5k (the color run) last September. Since then I’ve been running increasing distances and now I’m training harder than ever for my first half marathon!!
Shelbie (right) and her sister (left) after the run

Shelbie (right) and her sister (left) after the run

I know what it’s like to have to temporarily put life aside due to a medical condition, having to only focus on getting my body back to health – but Shelbie deals with it everyday. Shelbie, and people like her who suffer from chronic diseases, are true soldiers in my eyes. She is one of the most positive, upbeat people I’ve met and is so kind. It’s always a pleasure to run into her in the halls at school!
Honestly, I wake up every morning telling myself that I’m going to feel good and that I’m not going to feel like sh*t. My plan is always the same: to get ready for my run, make a protein shake, and go. I wish everyday were that simple, but it’s not. Sometimes I wake up, go to the bathroom, and end up spending 40 minutes on the toilet. It it what it is. When I feel better, then I go on my run. It’s all about being flexible with what your body needs and being to adjust accordingly. Staying positive has helped a lot. Mind over matter. It works.
Shelbie signed up for Team Challenge in the beginning of July. Team Challenge is an organization associated with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Basically, people all over the country sign up for Team Challenge and then need to raise a certain amount of money for IBD research before they run their half marathon. It’s similar to Team in Training.
Shelbie is running in the Las Vegas Half Marathon in November, so she needs to raise $3,800 before then. If not, she’ll have to make up the difference!!
To help raise the funds, Shelbie is planning an outdoor fundraiser that will  have live music, food, baked goods, raffles, and kids activities. She’s even raffling off 2 tickets to an Eagles 2013 Football game. There will also be a run/walk/hula hoop aspect to the event for those who love to stay active like her! It certainly isn’t mandatory to participate in the run/walk/hoop, but it’ll still be fun! It’ll also be good for new runners who want practice/want to meet other runners without feeling the pressure of a more serious race setup.
Here’s how you guys can help!!! 
By coming of course!! Shelbie needs all of the support she can get, so why not support her by coming out and having a good time? $20 gets you an awesome t-shirt designed by Shelbie, as well as free food, music, and access to the run/walk/hoop.
All proceeds made at the fundraiser will go directly to the CCFA (Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America) where they work for finding a cure for these illnesses. After all, 1.4 million Americans are affected by Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis every day.

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