Not everyone would refer to a chronic inflammatory bowel disease with no cure as a blessing, but not everyone is a warrior like Natalie Hayden.
A former TV news anchor, Hayden first noticed symptoms in 2005. As a then-college senior, she chalked up abdominal pain to too many late-night tacos. But her pain, weight loss, fatigue, and other symptoms worsened and became debilitating, and a two-month battery of scans and tests revealed the culprit: Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation of the GI tract. The disease is marked by periods of flares when patients experience symptoms like diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, low energy, and an urgent need to go No.2; and remission when they feel fine.
As a 21-year old looking to start a career on television, being diagnosed with an incurable disease was devastating. But after nearly 16 years and plenty of setbacks and hospitalizations, Hayden now considers it a blessing.
“This disease has become a part of who I am in a good way,” Hayden says. “I’ve learned to manage it, I know how to read my body, and I’m ready to go up against it when it wants to battle again.”
Today, Hayden is a Crohn’s patient advocate through her blog, Lights, Camera, Crohn’s: An Unobstructed View and work with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. She’s also mom to two young children along with her husband, with a third on the way. Hayden knows that remission may not last forever, even though her Crohn’s journey will. But she refuses to let the disease stop her or slow her down.
“Pregnancy and Crohn’s has been a wonderful experience because it’s given me a renewed love of my body,” Hayden says. “I feel in control of my condition even though I know it can blindside me any moment, because I know when that happens I’m going to be mentally and emotionally prepared.”
Watch the video to learn more about Hayden, Crohn’s, and being a happy warrior.
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