Name: Angie V. Age: 31
An IBD Titan is someone who has battled with Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. The battle might have just begun or have lasted decades. Some have beaten cancer while others put up a hero's fight. A true IBD Titan has braved the pain, conquered the tests, lost weight, gained weight, taken the medications, the infusions, or fought bravely in the face of the unknown-whether for themselves or alongside them. We salute you!
Angie was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at age 28. A typical day when symptoms were active included:
We interviewed Angie and here is a brief summary of our interview with our very first IBD Titan:
1. What was the hardest part for you physically after your diagnosis?
"When in a flare up my inability to do ANYTHING has been the most difficult for me. Thankfully my two major flare ups lasted roughly 5 weeks and 9 weeks respectively. Which isn’t that long considering I have met people who have been in flare ups for years. Physically after my diagnosis I felt like I had aged, I am not as energetic as I once felt even after hours of sleep. My body needs more rest physically than it ever has before."
2. What was the hardest part for you emotionally after your diagnosis?
"The hardest part were people that couldn't understand how HORRIBLE a flare up is to those who have IBD. To the naked eye, I looked generally well, even while in a flare up. I feel like no one understands except others who have autoimmune diseases. But, what they can't see are the many ulcers bleeding all along my GI tract that caused me so much pain that I could barely move, eat, or sleep. I, like many other people, have dropped weight so rapidly during a flare up. Some women think “losing weight", fantastic. Well then, the disease can’t be all that bad. What they don't hear or see is the horrible pain, medications, and insomnia I had to withstand. It's not fun at all nor is it a diet plan. Emotionally, going back to the gym after a flare up, was hard. I felt like I looked so tiny and frail compared to how muscular I was before I got sick. I would get frustrated and emotional when looking in the mirror at my frail, lifeless body. I had put so much time and effort into my physique at the gym. It was like starting over. A flare up literally sucks the life out of you physically and for someone who loves lifting weights, it was emotional to see all my hard work just disappear."
3. What advice would share with someone who is going through the process of initial doctor visits and has symptoms?
"Be honest about everything; diet, fitness, and stress are huge factors of Crohn's Disease. Be specific about your daily habits to get to the root of your disease. I know for myself, I learned that over time, stress is a huge factor and not diet. By really diving deep into looking at the common denominators during my flare-ups it was always stress at the forefront. I also know that you need to have a doctor you can trust and that can give you lots of time to answer all of your questions. Thankfully, my dad is my physician and I call him daily now because I am just newly out of a flare up. I am grateful to be able to talk to my dad (and doctor). Also, make sure you research all the different medications. There are so many and they all have different side effects. Make sure your doctor finds the right one for you and one that helps rid your Crohn's symptoms the best."
4. What else would you like to share with the Bottoms Up IBD community regarding your personal IBD journey?
"Although Crohn's has been difficult when in a flare up, I believe in my heart God gave me this disease to force me out of a toxic relationship I was in back in 2018. My first major flare up happened during the break up. I would have never left the relationship had I not seen that I was with someone who was unwilling to help me and support me when I was sick. I learned the hard way that it was a bad relationship and I look at having that Crohn's flare up as a HUGE Blessing in disguise that got me out of a really, really bad situation. Also, Crohn's has kept me in check spiritually. After my last flare up, I committed to a meditation practice almost daily since October, 2020. It helps me sleep and find peace and calm every single night.
I also have learned to be more balanced: I workout less, sleep more, take time to focus on relationships that are important to me, pray daily, connect with others, etc. I do these things more often today, which is better than me staying stuck inside my head full of anxious thoughts. When I flared up last time, it was because I was hyper-focused on my job and that took a toll on me mentally and physically. I believe Crohn's has taught me that balance is not just a good thing to have in life, it’s an ABSOLUTE key factor in order to stay healthy.
I would also suggest that sleeping is a huge factor in the body healing itself. I try to get 7 hours minimum each night if I can and nap often after work too. Our bodies are working so much harder then someone without an autoimmune disease. We need sleep to rest and relax fully. I also would suggest to people with Crohn's Disease to work through any emotional issues you have with yourself or others in order to feel less stressed. It's necessary to work through trauma and resentments you may have toward people."
Update: Angie is back to feeling normal! She's extremely active with lifting weights daily, running 1-2 miles a few times a week, walking 3 miles 3-4 times a week and taking weight training classes. She does find that she is stiff in her low back and legs a lot after her diagnosis and does take more naps to combat her fatigue. Angie just announced she is engaged! She is busy planning for her big day and we couldn't be happier for her success. Angie is truly an IBD Titan!