Throughout high school, I seemed to always have a stomach ache and I ended up missing over the maximum permitted days every year. I didn't have a great pediatrician at that time, and was so busy being involved in countless activities that I never really slowed down enough to see that I was developing a serious problem. Once in college, what was once just stomach pain had progressed to the point of being unable to keep any solid food down at all. I lost over twenty five pounds in only several months, and had countless (and fruitless) trips to the emergency room, always leaving without an answer.
Finally, in the spring of 2007 during yet another hospital admission, my family had done their own research out of frustration and suggested to the doctors that they test for Crohn's disease. It was then that I FINALLY had an answer - I was diagnosed with severe Crohn's disease. Unfortunately, because it had gone untreated for so long, I had developed a blockage and required a bowel resection immediately. Since that bowel resection, I have tried a myriad of different medications to keep my disease at bay. At the beginning of 2009, I began receiving Remicade infusions. While I have never been fortunate enough to achieve symptom remission, I am thankful that it continues to allow me to eat solid food and has notably slowed the progression of my disease.
I have had two additional bowel surgeries since my first resection, as well as three additional abdominal surgeries, a chest port placement for my infusions, and numerous serious infections and complications. Crohn's can also have many extra-intestinal manifestations, and I am currently working with specialists to help manage those (which for me include inflammatory arthritis, kidney stones, frequent mouth ulcers, and liver issues).
With the support of my husband, I made the difficult decision to stop working several years ago. One of the main triggers for Crohn's, and many autoimmune disorders, is stress: not just emotional stress, but also physical stress, and for me, working outside of the home was putting too much physical stress on my body and was constantly flaring my disease. Since making that choice, I have been able to improve my quality of life dramatically, and now focus my energy on advocating for IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) awareness and research. For the past several years, my amazing support team of family and friends have rallied around me to help raise substantial money for CCFA - in fact in 2016, we were the number one fundraising team in the Western PA/WV area! I am beyoned humbled to be the Honored Hero this year, and plan to use that as a catalyst to raise awareness! Together, we can fight this, and we can win!Continue Kristi's story by reading her blog or by meeting her at this year's Take Steps Walk!