Today's Friday Fellowship Guest is my friend Lenette. Lenette and I met several years ago at church. She is such a kind and caring person and I'm so thankful she is my friend. We are in a Sunday School class together and we also serve as PTO officers together this year. Lenette is my friend who always sends thoughtful texts and always has a kind word to say when I see her. She is sharing a health struggle she faces today and I know her hope is to encourage anyone out there on the same journey. She gave me a huge scare earlier this year when she had complications from surgery. I'm so thankful she is with us but she struggles silently daily.
Hey everyone! I'm Lenette. Since I shared my testimony here a few years ago, a lot has happened in my life. I wanted to share and bring awareness to a new path my life has taken. A little over 2 years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Crohn’s disease is an incurable, often debilitating chronic disease that affects the GI tract. From CCFA.org- We are not exactly certain what causes Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC), or how to predict or prevent these diseases. Scientists suspect that a combination of four factors leads to IBD: a genetic component, an environmental trigger, the balance of intestinal bacteria, and an inappropriate reaction from the immune system.
Your immune system usually plays a protective role in fighting infections, but in IBD, it reacts inappropriately and attacks the cells in the digestive tract, resulting in inflammation (redness, swelling, and pain). This abnormal reaction occurs in people who have inherited genes that make them susceptible to IBD, and likely starts when the body is exposed to an environmental trigger (such as an infection). Changes to the bacteria that normally live in the intestines may also play a role.
You may hear that IBD is related to stress or diet. It is important to note that while stress may play a role in the symptoms, it does not cause the disease. Similarly, while maintaining a proper diet and ensuring good nutrition are important to managing IBD, your disease was not caused by something you ate. However, studies are now underway to evaluate the impact of diet on intestinal bacteria.
Based on my history of symptoms (abdominal cramping and pain, small bowel obstruction, fistula, bloating, weight loss, extreme fatigue, etc.,) I likely developed Crohn’s about 10 years ago, but was not diagnosed until December 2014. I’m grateful that I have a diagnosis, but having a chronic disease is not the path I would have chosen for my life. We have been battling since then to get my Crohn’s under control. Since my Crohn’s had gone untreated for so long, my bowels were very strictured and diseased and medication is not able to reverse that damage. I had a bowel resection surgery at the end of last year and it was one of the hardest things I have ever went through. I ended up having a leak in my bowel after the surgery and came close to being septic. I had to have a second surgery to repair the leak and I came away with a big vertical incision down my abdomen.
The recovery was very hard and I’m just now beginning to feel like myself again. I have had a hard time wrapping my mind around that this is my new normal. I’m thankful that I have had wonderful support from my family, friends, doctors and even people with Crohn’s that I have met online. Sadly, not everyone who is diagnosed receives such support. It means the world to a person with a chronic disease if you try to find out more about what they are going through and learn how best to support them through it. Crohn’s is referred to as an “invisible” disease because a person can look normal on the outside but be suffering greatly on the inside. The saying, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” has taken on a new meaning for me. I could go on and on about how it has affected my life, the resources I have found and many other things, but if there is anyone out there who is interested in knowing more, has just been diagnosed, knows someone who is diagnosed, or has lived with it for years and wants to reach out, my contact information is at the bottom. I would love to connect and share any knowledge or resources that I can to help offer support or information.
1. What is your favorite Food?
I had a bowel resection at the end of November and before the surgery, I would have said that food was an enemy. It had become unenjoyable to eat and always caused me pain. This was horrible for me because I LOVE food. Since the surgery, I have been able to enjoy eating again. The surgery may have been worth it for that alone! My favorite thing right now is Orange chicken and chow mein from Panda Express. It’s embarrassing how much I get that when I’m out! I would say that Asian food and comfort food are my two favorites.
2. What is your very favorite piece of clothing right now?
Leggings are a god send after an abdominal surgery. I’ve also learned the art of “athleisure” clothing. I love dressing nice and cute, but if I’m expected to be productive most days- it’s a ball cap and yoga pants!
3. Tell us about your Family?
I have been married for almost 14 years to my husband, Tim. He is a former football coach and current school administrator. We have two kiddos- our daughter, Catelyn is 11 and our son, Braden is 10. They are Irish twins (11 months and 27 days apart) and it has been busy, but fun having them so close together. I can’t imagine it any other way! We moved to Bentonville in the summer of 2010 after Tim had been working in the school district for a year already. We have been here 6 years now and it just feels like home. It is such a great place to live and raise a family. It’s growing like crazy here though! It seems like every street I turn on, there is a new building going up!
4. What is the most important quality in your Friends? OR tell us something that a Friend has done for you that you can't forget.
I can’t even count the ways that friends have blessed my life over the years. Whether it was taking my kids to play when I didn’t feel good, driving two hours to get me and the kids after my MIL passed away and I couldn’t drive from crying, bringing us a meal, calling or texting to let me know they are thinking of me, or my beautiful friend who diligently sends her daughter’s clothes to us after she grows out of them. To me, friendship is a verb. It is reaching out and doing for someone when they are in need or just because you want to show them some love. I have some friends that live far away and some that live really close by. Some of my friendships are pretty deep and others are not quite as deep, but they still add joy to my life. I value all of my friends because they are loyal, honest, transparent about life and they make me want to be a better friend. Can you imagine a better compliment?!
5. What's something you have learned recently in your Faith journey? And/or share your favorite scripture right now and why or your favorite Bible Study or book you have read recently.
To be honest, this was a really hard one for me to want to answer. Since my surgery at the end of the last year that ended up having complications and almost life-threatening complications, I have felt what I describe as "a shell of my former self." I was very sick and had to have a second surgery and woke up with a massive incision that wasn't supposed to happen. I'm not on the other side of it yet. I'm still struggling with my identity and outlook on life.
When you have a chronic illness, you are faced with the truth that you can’t always do everything that you want to do. It has really opened my eyes to the need I have for God in my life every day. I had known that before, but I didn’t really get it.
Last year I read, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. It is one of the best books I have EVER read! I highly encourage everyone to read it.
6. What is your biggest Fear?
What could be around the corner for me health-wise and dying in general. I know that’s a big downer, but those are the biggest fears of mine!
7. What are some of your Favorite things right now?
True crime podcasts, Dr. Pepper, reading, and tuna salad.
8. What has been your biggest Failure?
Things I’ve said throughout my life without thinking first. I’ve created a lot of heartache and strife with family and friends by just opening my mouth. I’m much more careful about when and what I say to others now. Sometimes, things and opinions just don’t need to be said. Or, I think over how I’m feeling and think of a way to kindly say things instead of just spouting off when I let my emotions control things. I’m still not perfect with this, but I’ve made huge strides.
9. What do you do for Fun?
I love to read. I always have a book on my nightstand, and usually multiple books! I love lazy weekends at home with my family, but I also love traveling with them. Seeing new places is one of my favorite things! As a family, we love game nights, movie nights and days where we get outside and go hiking.
10. Tell me about what animals you have? (Furry things)
I have a sweet cat that will be 14 in April. We have had her since the day she was born and she is my sidekick. She literally follows me around all day and seems to have radar to know when I sit down! She has been such a comfort to me through my recovery from surgery and just life in general.
11. What is your favorite FILM? (movie)
I’m such a kid of the 80’s. I love Fried Green Tomatoes, The Indiana Jones movies, Star Wars, Back to the Future movies, Beaches, and Steel Magnolias. Weren’t movies so great back then? However, lately, I have really been loving movies that tell true stories- Argo, Spotlight, The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Concussion.
12. What is one Fact we might not know about you?
I’m soooo uncomfortable around new people until I get to know them. I was incredibly shy as a child and it still comes out in those situations. However, once I get to know someone and feel comfortable around them, I will talk their ear off! I love when you meet someone new that makes you feel comfortable right off the bat.
My Crohn’s journey on Instagram: @_lifewithcrohnsdisease_