Voices of IBD (14) - Natalie's Story.

Welcome to PART 14 of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease series, where we talk to people from all walks of life with this condition; to give everyone a platform to share their story, and help to raise awareness.

This week we talk to Natalie about her battle with Crohn’s Disease.

What is your name and age?

Natalie Hayden, 34 years old

What is your occupation?

I'm currently a blogger and freelancer. Prior to having my son, I worked as a television news anchor and reporter for nearly a decade. I've also spent a few years doing public affairs PR and media relations.

What form of IBD have you got?

I have Crohn's disease.

How old were you when you were diagnosed?

I was diagnosed in July 2005, I was 21 years old.

About the disease...
What were your main symptoms that led to your diagnosis?

Luckily, it only took two months for me to receive a diagnosis. My symptoms included excruciating stomach pains, extreme fatigue, high fevers/chills, inability to eat without feeling pain immediately after and lots of bathroom breaks.

How did you feel when you got diagnosed?

I felt like a ton of bricks came crashing down on me. I knew a couple of people with Crohn's, but I had been perfectly healthy my entire life. Knowing that you have a chronic illness, for which there is no cure, at age 21...was a lot to process. I felt overwhelmed and isolated.

What support did you get during and after your diagnosis?

Back in 2005, there really wasn't a whole lot of conversation on social media or online. I didn't have anyone but my friends and family for several years.

Do you take medication , if so, what?

When I was first diagnosed I was on 22 pills a day (prednisone, cipro, flagyl, asacol, prevacid)...in July 2008 I was hospitalized with a phlegmom abscess and was put on Humira. I've been on Humira more than 9 years. I also take Lialda along with several vitamins (Vitamin D, calcium, a prescription prenatal and folic acid).

What are your experiences with hospitals? Have you had many stays in hospital, or colonoscopies? Do you have an IBD nurse?

I have had several hospitalizations and ER visits since being diagnosed in 2005. I believe I've had seven stays of 5-7 days and then multiple ER visits. I've had one Crohn's-related surgery. In August 2015, I underwent a bowel resection and had 18 inches of my small intestine removed. I've had three colonoscopies, I go for another in January (19th). My GI doctor has great IBD nurses, but when I've been hospitalized, I have not had a specific IBD nurse for my care.

What seems to affect your IBD the most? What triggers it?

Stress and excitement are my biggest triggers. I find my emotions really play a big role in how my gut feels. If I'm flaring, certain foods can also be difficult to digest and give me pain. Luckily, I really don't have any dietary restrictions. I stay away from diet soda, beer, nuts and popcorn.

Do you currently, or have in the past, struggled with mental health? If so, what?

Luckily, I have not had any mental health issues. Each day with IBD you have a constant inner dialogue that can make your anxious and feel uneasy. The worry of the next flare is always looming over you.

How do you cope?

I cope by writing my feelings and sharing them with others. I find it to be incredibly empowering to blog and inspire people through my own patient journey.

What is your go-to routine for when you are flaring?

I put myself on a liquid diet to calm my bowels and rest.

What do you do to give yourself a break or relax?

I used to be able to relax, lay on the couch and take it easy...now I have a son, so being a mom can be a challenge at times. There is really no downtime, I have to push through, even when it's not the best day.

What lifestyle/diet/changes have you made to cope with your IBD?

I've learned not to spread myself too thin and to be more aware of the signs my body is giving me when something is not right. I find exercise and breathing exercises help to clear my mind and put me at ease.

What advice would you give to someone who may think they are experiencing early signs?

Don't be afraid to tell someone and speak up about your worries. Do what you can to get answers for yourself before your disease spirals out of control. If you catch it early on, you will be better off. Know that you are not alone in your fears and concerns. Those of us in the IBD family have been where you are and we are readily available to offer comfort and advice.

What advice would you give to the friends and family of those with IBD?

Show empathy. Have compassion and patience. Don't pretend your loved one or friend is perfectly fine and never ask them how they are doing. When they are in the hospital or flaring and you know about it, do a random act of kindness. Don't act like you get it, if it's not your own personal reality. Educate yourself and those around you. IBD is an invisible illness, those of us who battle it are very good at pretending everything is fine, even when it isn't.

If there is one thing that keeps you motivated and focused through it all, what would that be?

Yes, my son and my husband inspire me to be strong.

What is your favourite quote?

"Keep Swimming"


"Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it. Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfil it.

Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it. Life is life, fight for it” – Mother Theresa. 

Thank you Natalie, for sharing your story here on BecxBlogs. If you are affected by Crohn's or Colitis; please go to the Crohn's & Colitis UK website for further support and information.

You can find Natalie on her social media:

Instagram: @natalieannhayden
Twitter: @nataliesparacio

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