Not many people fully understand what it means to struggle with Crohn’s Disease or colitis (forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease) on a daily basis. Symptoms can range from pain to anemia, severe fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite and joint pain. December is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month, so we talked with Brooklyn Abbott, a former L.A. television producer, patient with colitis, single mom, advocate and popular blogger who gave us some insight into the disease and her goals to help make it a household name. She says understanding the potential symptoms and the gravity of the disease early on can prevent a lot of pain and suffering.
Tell us why you started your blog, The Crazy Creole Mommy Chronicles.
I was extremely sick and I had just moved to Texas [with my son and son’s father]. I went from being a working woman to being a stay-at-home mom in a new city. I was searching the Internet for more moms like me who had autoimmune diseases and how they got through [different daily tasks] like cooking meals. I couldn’t find anything. So when I had my colon removed, my mom told me, “You have to tell your story, because if you had known about all of the different symptoms of colitis, then it wouldn’t have gotten this bad.” After I started blogging, I got an email from a woman who said she went through the exact same thing, and the emails just kept coming and I connected with people. It really helped me get through my post-surgery life, and especially while being a new mom.
How important has nutrition become?
It’s everything. Eating is going to change the way you feel, it’s going to change the way you react to your medication, it’s going to change how you are able to function. If I eat raw nuts right now and I have a blockage, I am not going to be able to walk. If you have colitis, it’s also important to know that [what you can and cannot eat] is going to constantly change. I suggest keeping a food journal. I make a list of things that work for me during certain times, and what is easy to make or pick up during a flare-up.
What does it mean when you have a flare-up? And how long do they last?
It’s basically just when your disease starts doing what it does. Sometimes it starts subtle and sometimes it goes right into colitis symptoms. Sometimes it triggers other autoimmune symptoms, so I get a migraine or I have an asthma attack or severe back pain and then my arthritis acts up. It really can be a wide range of symptoms, which is what makes it so frustrating. A flare-up will last anywhere from a couple days to months.
What are your goals for the future?
I am working on a dinner-party series for my blog. I am showing moms how to make side dishes and infant food that is organic with no added sugar, but that they can also use for the rest of the family. It’s geared toward families and people with colitis, cancer and lupus. If I had some of these recipes early on when I was sick, it would have made life a lot easier. I want to change some legislation. We have had some great support from Harry Reid. I would love to make Crohn’s and colitis a household name. It affects one in every 200 people, and that number is going to rise.
If you could offer advice to someone who just got diagnosed with colitis, what would you tell them?
The best thing I did was connecting with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation because trying to figure it out on your own isn’t going to cut it. Also, find one person in your life who is calm and collected and resourceful and make that your person to talk to. They may not be someone in your family, or a friend you already have, but you need to find that person. And don’t panic.
To learn more about Crohn’s and colitis go to www.ccfa.org.
Visit Brooke’s blog at www.crazycreolemommy.com.