Angela Spaulding: Crohn’s Warrior & Runner (E64)

In today’s episode, Angela Spaulding shares her 16-year journey with Crohn’s Disease. Diagnosed in her early 20s, she spent many years angry–angry at the diagnosis, at the disease, at the world–and in denial. Like many others, she was forced to navigate the highs and lows of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and eventually found humor as a way to help shift her perspective.

Over the years, Angela quickly learned that stress is a major trigger for her Crohn’s flare ups. She was on and off medications for the first few years, but never wanted to stay on them long term. Though she did well for a few years and stayed in remission after stopping medications, in 2010 she found herself in the hospital and facing surgery.

In the hospital, the doctors found that her appendix was close to rupturing and scheduled her for an immediate appendectomy. The surgery went well, but she wasn’t recovering as expected. After a couple days in the hospital, she was taken back into surgery where the doctor found that a fistula had been connecting her colon to both her appendix and small intestine. When the doctor removed her appendix during the original surgery, he had unknowingly broken the connection to the fistula, which was allowing its contents to leak and make her sick. Having made a larger incision this time, the doctor found that 19” of her small intestine were badly diseased and removed it.

After surgery, the road to recovery was long. She had lost a lot of weight and all of her core strength. Describing her recovery process, Angela shared what it was like learning to eat without fear, how walking was the foundation for her recovery, and how discovering her love for running gave her strength. Running, she found, was not only a physical release for anxiety and stress, but also gave her a much needed mental break by giving her the time and space to clear her head.

Since 2011, she’s been off medications and she’s been in remission for the past couple of years. She’s learned to work with her body, navigate through mini flare ups, and find peace in the present moment. It’s taken time, but over the years she’s also learned to shift her mindset from being angry at everything to one of positivity. Though she admits that some days it felt like one step forward and two steps back, gradually her outlook shifted and she’s learned to focus on the good things in life while using humor to help her get through the difficulty of IBD. “We’re not always OK,” she said, but that’s what makes her more grateful for the times that she is.

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