Nicole Candelaria: Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Perianal Crohn’s (E57)

In today’s episode, Nicole Candelaria shares her IBD journey that began in 2007 during her first semester in college. After ignoring the symptoms for a few months–attributing them to stress–she finally went to the hospital and a colonoscopy revealed both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. From there, life became a roller coaster. 

Like many who are unfamiliar with IBD, she was overwhelmed. Her life changed dramatically as flare ups prevented her from doing the things she loved. From band to athletics, she started losing a sense of who she was as IBD started to define her.

She was put on a number of different medications over the next few years, from antibiotics and steroids to 6MP and Remicade, but nothing gave her the relief she was searching for and a few resulted in serious side effects. Nicole’s search for remission led her to a naturopathic doctor, and although she was able to achieve a brief period of remission by listening to his advice, changing her diet to a vegan one, and taking a variety of supplements and herbs, it didn’t last.

Over the next couple of years she found herself back in the emergency room on multiple occasions. She experienced intestinal blockages, partial blockages, fistulas, and had part of her small intestine collapse and deteriorate over her large intestine–dangerously close to ruptering. During one surgery, she had 10 inches of her large intestine removed and 12 inches of her small intestine. Between her surgery and blood infusions on separate occasions, Nicole said it was eye opening to just how serious IBD and the long-term effects of inflammation are. 

In 2017, Perianal Crohn’s Disease was added to her list of diagnoses and changes to insurance forced her to switch doctors. It started a search that led her to multiple physicians and discovering the difference that a doctor who specializes in IBD can make. Her search for relief eventually led her to a doctor in New York, over 1,200 miles away from her home in Florida. It was during her search that Nicole also realized the importance of advocating for herself and listening to what her body was telling her. 

Like many others, her journey has been–and continues to be–a long and winding one. Though she found herself wishing for the guide book on how to cope and accept IBD, she recognizes that everyone’s journey is different and that there’s not one clear path. In this episode, we break here in Nicole’s story and will pick up next week as she continues her journey with a new gastroenterologist in New York who specializes in IBD.


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