My struggle with crohn’s disease story has been published

Late last year I was interviewed about my crohn’s disease and the story was to be published in the magazine Inside Insights written by Crohn’s and Colits Australia. I happily obliged. This is the organisation I feel strongly about being a part of and if you remember, Amie and I won $10,000 for it on Millionaire with Eddie McGuire.

So, because I’ve shared it there, I thought I’d share it here. Why? Because I still get so many emails from blog readers asking about crohn’s. There are 70,000 Australian’s with this disease and my story is just like most of you with this disease. I bet that the majority of my readers know someone with crohn’s…

It’s a crohnic illness, that has me bed-ridden some weeks and then I bounce back like nothing is wrong. People don’t understand that every day is different and it’s a disease I cannot control.

At this very moment in time, I am struggling to control my crohn’s.

I’m having another flare. I have arthritis in my left ankle, it’s always swollen and I limp some days. I still have ulcers coming and going on my calf muscles. I am visiting the toilet up to 10 times a day, crohn’s is waking me in the night, I’m always thirsty, I’m weary, and I am exhausting all of my medication options. I have started yet another round of steroids to pull me in to line, but this is not a long term solution. Steroids are only for a few weeks…

I have no idea where my crohn’s will take me, but I am not worried, or frightned, or stressed. I was given this disease for a reason – I know that reason… because I can handle it. I can deal with it. I’m not dying. I’ll just get on with it!

So here is my story…

(disclaimer – I did not write this post for comments, so please, you don’t need to leave one today :))

KATRINA CHAMBERS: HER STORY
A reality-TV celebrity talks about career, kids, and Crohn’s disease

By Rita White

Motherhood is a tough job. Doing a reality-TV program for two intensive months is a tough job. Managing a chronic illness is a tough job.

Fortunately, Katrina Chambers, who at one point had all three on her plate, is tough, too.

At 34 years old, Katrina is certainly living a full life. She’s mother to three young boys, aged 9, 6 and 5. She’s a reality-TV celebrity. And she has Crohn’s disease.

Diagnosis

“I started showing symptoms when I was 18 and at uni,” Katrina says. “At the time, I was living away from home and having a great time, studying and drinking and going out. Then I started feeling unwell. Originally I thought it was just a lifestyle thing and I’ve just got to rest myself. But then I started bleeding from the bowel and I realised that this was serious.”

She told her mum what was happening, then went back home to Albury in New South Wales to get it all sorted. “We saw a specialist and I had a colonoscopy and we learned I have Crohn’s disease. I was 19. I didn’t know anyone else with Crohn’s and I myself knew nothing about it. It took me a long time to comprehend what was happening. At the doctor’s office, we were given some printed information, then I went home and researched it some more.

“When you’re young,” she continues, “it’s really hard to be comfortable with yourself as a person. And then you get dealt with a disease that you don’t know anything about and you don’t understand why it’s happening.”

Raising a Family

Katrina kept her condition from everyone except her family, and back at uni, things settled down a little bit with medication. “I didn’t miss any uni,” she says. “I didn’t fail anything and I still got on with it. I got through all that and graduated, then moved to Wagga for a job and I’ve been here ever since.”

Things stayed manageable and life went back to normal, although she did have a flare-up soon after she married her husband, Andrew. But then she got pregnant with their first son not long afterwards, and she found herself completely symptom-free.

“During each of my three pregnancies and when I was breastfeeding, I was better than I had ever been.”

Katrina’s sons are now 9, 6, and 5 — three healthy, robust boys who are aware that sometimes mum has bad days and needs to rest.

“They know that I have some problems with my bowel and that that’s just how I am. They also know that when I need to go to the toilet, I need to go to the toilet. They understand and I sometimes hear them tell each other, ‘Don’t go annoying Mum — she’s on the toilet!’

“Andrew is so supportive as well. He’s just awesome. I don’t keep any secrets from him, and he knows that on some days I just have to take it easy, especially if I’m still in my pyjamas late in the afternoon.”

Katrina from The Block

Early this year, Katrina was a contestant on Channel 9’s The Block, a show where contestants renovate a home and get it ready for auction. She and her sister Amie Godde worked together as a team and toiled practically nonstop for nine weeks to renovate a house, all under the scrutinising glare of the reality-TV cameras.

“Doing the show and getting the house sold was a buzz,” Katrina says, “but all that stress, coupled with not eating properly during the weeks of filming, took their toll on my health.”

She had a flare-up and dropped 10kg during filming. She lost a further 4kg since completing the show.

These days, Katrina is living a much quieter life back home in Wagga Wagga NSW, and she takes it easy whenever she can, taking everything in moderation and paying attention to what her body tells her she needs to do.

“A couple of Easters ago,” she relates, “I got myself in a bit of a situation when I ignored feeling unwell. I ended up dehydrated and had to stay in hospital for four days.”

Fortunately for Katrina, not many foods bother her. She tends to avoid bread because of the yeast, and she doesn’t take alcohol as it makes her sick. But as long as she doesn’t overindulge in rich foods, she usually has no problems.

“I pick my battles,” she says. “If I know I’m not going anywhere for the next few days, then I’ll usually eat whatever I want. Not even Christmas is a problem. The Christmas stress doesn’t get to me. I’ve got three boys! It doesn’t get much more stressful that that.”

A Voice for Crohn’s Disease

When she looks back on her past fifteen years living with Crohn’s disease, she still considers herself lucky. She has a great career, three great kids, and a supportive husband. On top of all that, with her current celebrity status, she’s now in a position to talk to people about something that she kept secret for a long time.

“Apart from my family, I never told a soul about my Crohn’s disease for a really really long time. I hid it all the time. In hindsight I realise now that it’s easier to deal with it when people know about it. There would have been no more hiding, instead of people looking at you and saying, ‘Oh gosh you’re always so sick!‘ And although you really are lethargic and you’re not focused and you’re not motivated, if you’re forever just saying that you’re not well, others wouldn’t understand.

“I’m a really motivated person and I want to do well in everything. If you’re like me and you become unwell, it gets really hard. So you need to let people know: it’s a disease that you can come in and out of all the time, and sometimes you’re really well and sometimes you’re unwell. You need to let people know about it and they’ll understand that you have no control over it.

“When I finally started telling people — just around two years ago — everyone seemed positive. I tell them that it’s a recognised and fully known disease, and not something that I conjured up in my head. It’s really hard to manage, so I let people know about it.”

For Katrina, it’s been a journey not only of health, but also of self-knowledge, and an awareness that IBD needs to be brought out into the open. Speaking about bowel disease need not be embarrassing. Being open and honest about a condition that afflicts almost 70,000 Australians can only lead to greater understanding of the challenges that those with IBD face every day, greater acknowledgment of their needs, and greater support to find a cure.

Katrina Chambers has been through much, and we at CCA are grateful to her for sharing her experiences with us, and for her supporting what we do. We are also very grateful for the sisters’ donation of $10,000 to the organisation. Katrina and Amie won the money for their charity of choice during an appearance on Channel 9’s Hot Seat. They donated it to CCA as a way of showing their support to the IBD community.

Visit Katrina’s website at www.katrinaleechambers.com for more information on her latest projects.

Comments

  1. Tahlia says

    Hi Katrina, Just wanted to say what an amazing person you are. My mum has chrones disease as well so I know how tough it can be. I don’t know how you did the Block while going through this, but you did and I would like to say well done. Its so awesome to see that you just deal with it and keep living life as normal. You’re an inspiration for others , you really are. I told my mum about your chrones, so now she follows your blogs to keep updated. I will be sure to tell her to read this story. Well done Katrina you’re doing fantastic and you should be so proud of yourself. You have one lucky family :)

  2. says

    You are an inspiration. You just get on with it. You are so positive and motivated and funny and loyal. I admire you Katrina. #thatisall A-M xx

  3. Jo says

    Hi Katrina

    Thanks for bringing attention to Crohn’s Disease. My husband is 55 and was diagnosed at 18 with Crohn’s and like you never spoke of it – people always thought he was always crook. He had surgery at 37 and has been quite well ever since. Our Daughter was diagnosed at 27 (last year) and is going through the highs and lows of this rotten condition now. My husband and I cried and cried when we found out and would make it go away if we could – sadly that’s not an option. You are an inspiration. Thank you

      • Jo says

        Katrina – fingers crossed – it may never happen – we have 3 daughters and always asked about it being hereditary and were told it wasn’t – but we were ignorant to the fact that it is genetic.

        • says

          Yes it’s definitely genetic. I have a great-uncle, my Mum’s cousin, my cousin and my 2nd cousin is being tested for it. It just seems to be spreading so much!

  4. says

    great article. my daughter has hirschsprungs disease which is also a bowel condition however she is at a stage where she keeps it secret so people don’t understand her bad days. I’m going 2 get her to read this
    alicia

  5. Leanne says

    Thanks for sharing your story Katrina. Yesterday I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, so thanks so much for sharing. It is very over whelming and confusing, so again, thanks for sharing!! Keep well!!

  6. Holly says

    Great story! It made me giggle the part about your boys.. I have a 9 year old brother but ever since he was old enough to understand he would go into panic mode with me and help me find toilets when we were in public places!

  7. says

    Katrina,
    You know that I have my own daily struggles with my bowels but I am so fortunate that it isn’t as bad as what you and other sufferers of Crohn’s face.
    I admire you not just for your courage in speaking out about your disease but the positive way you live you life and project yourself to the world :)
    Lib

  8. says

    My Mum has Crohn’s and finds it difficult to talk about, so sharing your story raises awareness. I have ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory form of arthritis and tummy flare-ups/sensitivity goes with it – usually without warning. My daughter and I laugh about the time I once had to push her out of the way at a public toilet when we both had to go, but I REALLY had to go…it must be dreadful to live with it all the time.

  9. says

    You are wonderful to share your story. I am sure you have helped so many people who have or know someone with Crohns.
    Just sorry that you are having a flare up again. I hope it settles down soon for you lovely.

  10. says

    Was talking to my nana on the weekend & my two cousins (they are sisters) have both only just found out they have Crohn’s so I will be passing this story onto them.

    (((( Hugs )))) XXXX Kisses XXXX

  11. Lynn says

    Hi Katrina, firstly thank you for sharing your struggle with Crohn’s and Colits I know as a busy working mum how hard living with this desease would be,it affects every part of our life.I to have had my struggles on and off with Colits and I do take regular medication which seems to keep mine under control but as you may already know all of these inflammitory deseases are aggrivated by our own stress levels and stress levels are very hard to control so there are no easy answers for us.I won’t mention any brands but I do take daily probiotics and find that it definitely helps me because our gutt is part of our immune system and stress definitely affects our immune system.

  12. BBT says

    I AM STRUGGLING WITH CROHN’S DISEASE FOUR YEARS.BUT I’M NOT WORRIED.I KNOW WITH THE LORD’S HELP US. THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR STORY. GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.

  13. says

    This was a great piece to read Katrina, my Dad was diagnosed close to four years ago now and he struggles with it. A diagnosis of MS did not help either but like you, he is positive and recognises his limits. Xx

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