Local Heroes

Take Steps Honored Heroes represent the Crohn's disease & ulcerative colitis warriors living in our community. They share their story of life with IBD to raise awareness and inspire others to join the fight against digestive diseases. Meet our 2017 NYC Honored Heroes!


Jenny Zouroudis, Adult Honored Hero

Jenny Zouroudis_2017 NYC Take Steps Adult Honored HeroWhen I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 2004, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. It was a bittersweet feeling learning that my year-long battle finally had a name. I had spent my first year of middle school experiencing severe abdominal pain, nausea, weight loss and fatigue. An endoscopy and colonoscopy eventually confirmed that I had Crohn’s Disease. I immediately started on thirteen pills a day, which helped my illness go into remission. Finally feeling well, I was able to catch up in school and study for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test. In 2005, I was accepted into Bronx High School of Science, my target school. That day, I decided that I would never let Crohn's keep me from achieving my dreams. 

Since then, my journey with Crohn's Disease has had its highs and lows. It has brought lactose intolerance, arthritis, anemia, and osteoporosis. It has led to several different medications including pills, steroids, infusions, and injections. In 2011, while away at college, my body began to fight the inflammation and caused extreme abdominal pain. I needed an ileocolic resection to remove the end of my small intestine and beginning of my colon. The doctor recommended that I withdraw from the semester to have emergency surgery, but left the decision up to me since I was still able to digest normally. I chose to wait two weeks until finals were over. Icy Hot and loose clothing became my best friends. I would not let Crohn's Disease set me back. I spent one week in the hospital and several months in a surgery-induced remission. I felt invincible being disease-free, but my illness returned a few months later.

That year, my family and I participated in our first Take Steps for Crohn's and Colitis walk. Since then, we have walked every year in order to raise awareness and educate the community about these uncommonly-known diseases. I walk in appreciation of my family, friends, and doctors who battled Crohn’s as much as I did for the past thirteen years. They have taught me to cherish the feel-good moments and look past the relapses. Because of them, I am working full time and attending my first year as an MBA student at NYU Stern despite my debilitating symptoms. 

This year, I am so grateful to be awarded the title of Honored Hero at the walk. I look forward to showing others affected by these diseases that they can live normal lives. I hope to show them that they are not alone. I aim to use this platform to teach others about these invisible diseases and raise awareness about CCFA and all it has done for me. I have lived with Crohn’s for over half my life and have seen so many advancements since I was first diagnosed. Without funding for research, we wouldn’t have come so far. This year, Team Zee has set our highest fundraising goal of $15,000. If you would like to make a difference with us, please consider joining our team or making a donation to bring us one step closer to finding a cure.


 

Peri Denmark, Pediatric Honored Hero

2017 NYC Take Steps_Peri Denmark Honored HeroAre you ready for this literal crappy journey? I know I was not ready for this at just seven years old. Who knew that me not growing and having to go to the bathroom all the time would lead to me having Crohn’s disease? After visiting many doctors to find out what was going on with my stomach, I finally found my first doctor. I had my first colonoscopy and endoscopy at seven years old, something a “normal” person wouldn’t have to get until so many years later. When my doctor saw the inflammation and realized it was Crohn’s disease, I started medication immediately. I had never taken pills before so he gave me little candies to practice with. I had a hard time swallowing them so I just ate the candy and pretended I swallowed them so I could get it over with. These medications helped for a period of time until my body got immune to them.

Around the middle of sophomore year I started to feel a burning sensation in my upper stomach and pain in my stomach overall as well as joints. No matter what I ate or how much, my stomach would start to feel like it was on fire. In order to put that “fire” out, I would drink water and that would help for about a minute. I felt so sick all the time and could not eat anything without feeling sick or like I was going to throw up. I began to lose weight and not know what was happening to my stomach. I thought the only way to stop this pain was to rip my intestines out. I switched doctors and had my second colonoscopy and endoscopy when I was 16 years old. At this point I have had twice the amount of colonoscopies and endoscopies as my parents. This time, the doctor found some more inflammation in my esophagus and small intestines, along with ulcers in my stomach. I started new medication immediately. 

Within weeks, I started to lose most of the symptoms of my stomach being on “fire” and managed with occasional stomach aches. I continue to get tests done where I have to drink the gross chalk smoothies, but I manage to get through it even if it makes me sick. 

I am so thrilled to be the 2017 Pediatric Honored Hero for NYC Take Steps Walk. I want to inform people of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and bring awareness to the people that may have no idea what these diseases are. I believe that in my lifetime, I will see some sort of cure to these two debilitating diseases. One of my goals is to become a nutritionist because of having Crohn’s disease. In my future, I plan on helping people who feel the same way I do. I hope you will consider donating to Team Peri’s Poopers as funds will be used for critical patient research and advancements towards cures.

Please support me this year by helping me reach my goal of $10,000 by walking and donating to Peri’s Poopers. It will be my seventh year walking and I can’t wait to celebrate my fundraising success! 


 

Colleen Webb, Healthcare Honored Hero

I am both honored and humbled to be this year's Healthcare Honored Hero.  Choosing a nutritionist for this award speaks volumes about the Foundation's role as a leader in IBD research, education and patient support.  As many of you already know, there is a tendency in the health care community to overlook the importance of nutrition in IBD.  Fortunately, the Foundation and others are actively involved in raising awareness about nutrition’s role in managing IBD as well as in exploring the missing link between IBD and the environment, including what we eat. Lots to look forward to. In the meantime, we know for certain that what we eat and how we live our lives dramatically impacts our health, and one of my life’s greatest pleasures is helping people with IBD take better control of their lives through dietary and lifestyle changes.  Because there’s limited research on the topic of nutrition and IBD, a lot of what I’ve learned comes from listening to my patients with clear ears and an open-mind.  As a health care provider, I have so much to learn from them, and so I’d like to thank everyone with IBD who has shared their stories and allowed us to play a role in your care.  You are the true heroes.  I look forward to working with all of you, fellow health care providers, and the Foundation to raise money and awareness for IBD during the 2017 Take Steps Fundraising season and beyond.  

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