How the weeks fly by, it’s another Warrior Wednesday! Please meet beautiful Alyssa. She doesn’t let IBD stop her from reaching her dreams, and she always keeps a gorgeous smile on her face! It’s hard to keep that mentality when you’re facing a chronic illness everyday, but she does it, and she does it well. Don’t forget to check out the t-shirts she designed to raise awareness for Crohn’s and colitis. She’s rocking one of them in the photo below. Links are at the bottom of the page.
Here is a little bit about Alyssa:
My name is Alyssa Clements and there are many things in my life that define me, but my Crohn’s disease is not one of them. I am a first year medical student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (currently on a medical leave), I was lucky enough to be Miss Ramapo Valley 2014 (a local title holder in the Miss America Organization) even while being ill, I am always looking for a new challenge and planning for the future. I try to raise awareness for Crohn’s and colitis, and health and wellness in general, and am passionate about raising funds for a few charities close to my heart. I recently competed for the title of Miss New Jersey and was voted People’s Choice! While it is hard to always stay positive and energetic when struggling with a chronic illness, I know that doing so will help me defeat this disease. So for now, I’ll just keep smiling!
What type of chronic illness/autoimmune disease (s) do you live with? I suffer from IBD, more specifically Crohn’s disease.
When was your diagnosis? How did you cope? I was diagnosed at the end of February of this year, 2014. At first, I was not very worried, as I was doing very well with a few mild medications. Then suddenly I was hospitalized again and again for obstructions. I had to be placed on heavy immunosuppressants and spent so much time in doctors’ offices and hospitals. I coped by keeping myself busy, by doing something I never thought I would do, compete for Miss New Jersey. I also spent a lot of time raising funds for my favorite charities, including the CCFA.
What medications/treatments/surgeries/lifestyle changes have you gone through to manage your disease symptoms? In the beginning, I was just on Lialda and Entocort. I also was placed on a no fiber diet, so I could not, and still cannot, eat any fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and the like. After my disease got worse I was placed on Humira every other week, which was helpful but feels like acid going into my body! I was also on prednisone tapering up and down for many many months. Then, I continued to get worse so the Humira was upped to every week, and hey added Azathioprine. Finally, after 8 weeks on this regimen, it was decided that my terminal ileum was so strictured and scarred that it would need to be removed. Two days before my ileocectomy was scheduled they found two abscesses in my sigmoid colon, which results in moving the surgery back a month and making me NPO (nothing by mouth) and on IV steroids 4 times a day and TPN (total parenteral nutrition) through a picc line I had place. This lasted for a month. Finally, last week on 12/10/14 I had my ileocecectomy, the removal of my terminal ileum and cecum. I was started on food the next day, and released on my birthday, the 13th! I am still in a lot of pain but it was so worth it. I feel like I am getting my life back. In 4-6 weeks I should be fully healed and on a normal diet. I will restart my Humira as a preventative measure to stop the Crohn’s disease from spreading.
If you could tell yourself one thing looking back on your diagnosis, what would it be? Definitely to get the surgery way sooner, because I wouldn’t have had to take yet another year of medical school and suffer for so many more months. They truly believe this surgery will give me the remission I have been dreaming of.
What do you do to relieve stress? I really enjoy playing the piano, it helps me to express myself and take my mind off of what is going on. I also love going to the movies and hanging out with my boyfriend and family. I also love to raise money for IBD and design t-shirts to raise awareness and funds. I call them IBDtees!
Do you have a saying or quote or song that you turn to when you need to be uplifted? “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney. Walt Disney is a true inspiration to me, he was so creative and innovative. I really believe that fighting Crohn’s is like doing the impossible, and that I am a superhero for doing so!
What keeps you hopeful? Having great physicians, supportive family and friends, and an inspiring boyfriend keep me hopeful. I also am very optimistic and stay strong through it all.
Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens. ..what are some of your favorite things? Two things, my little maltese puppy Louie, and Walt Disney World! (I have been there 61 times and am only 23!)
Social media accounts /website? Instagram & Twitter: @Alyssa_Alda and @IBDtees, Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/IBDtees