How I Pursued My Passions Despite My IBD
by Lori Stanley
Every young girl sets out on a dream to be someone extraordinary, to be someone strong, independent, and ambitious. I was that young girl, until a diagnosis made those dreams seem unreachable. That had to change. I was 14 years old, I had just made the freshman cheerleading squad, was dancing in my local performing company studio 20 hours a week, and had every momentum to pursue life without reservation. The nagging abdominal pain I had been experiencing the last 5-7 years was still there. It was still brushed off as moderate constipation. Suddenly, that nagging pain became unbearable, unimaginable, and insufferable. Crohn’s disease was finally a name my family and I could blame my symptoms on. We had relief. What we didn’t have were the answers to a life-long commitment to my health, for not only initial remission but lasting remission.
The Beginning of My IBD
12 years ago, after my diagnosis, I was immediately put on IV infusion treatments of a drug called Remicade. Every week I came to the hospital for a four-hour infusion. Eventually that changed to every two weeks, then three, then six, then back to two, and so on. During the first year of this new lifestyle, we struggled to decrease my intestinal inflammation and move me into remission. Steroids were a top choice, a potent anti-inflammatory medication with potent side effects. Moon face was a common adverse reaction to the steroid called, Prednisone. My face blew up like a balloon. I was unrecognizable to some. Still fighting for relief and remission, I was stared at, whispered about, pointed at, and gossiped about. Peers were hateful but the adults were even worse. Swirling with confusion that human beings could act like that took a toll on my mind. Depression, a relentless cancer of the mind; one I imagined over and over again would win in so many ways. I was too anxious to go to school, dance class, and church, but I did. I did, because I never once told anyone what was going through my mind. I never once let it out that I was scared, sad, and anxious about everything happening to me. Finally, surgery was the only option after another painful flare up. After that, everything changed, and I found my saving grace.
My Saving Grace
After my recovery from surgery, central lines, nasogastric tubes, and all types of other tubes in my body, I was able to heal my mind. Once home and able to walk without assistance, I returned to my dance studio. I stepped into that studio room, tears flowing down my face, and danced with my friends hand in hand. Something inside of me, somehow, at that moment, reminded me how precious and beautiful life is. 12 years later, I am still dancing and embracing the beauty of life. 12 years later, dance is still my saving grace.
My Relentless Pursuit of Passion
After my diagnosis, I lost my inspiration and confidence that I could be anything I wanted in life. I forgot that even though I had a new lifestyle, I could still pursue my passions. I quickly realized that I could pursue those passions even more relentlessly than before. So I did. Four years ago I became a pediatric registered nurse. Four years ago I started working at the hospital that saved my life. And four years ago I became colleagues with the nurse that was at my bedside years before. After my surgery, I vowed to myself that I would become the nurse that my nurses were for me. I vowed to myself that I would save as many people as possible in life. I decided to expand my education and am currently finishing my Master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner.
Wanting to do more, I ruthlessly chased my dream of dancing in the big leagues.
At age 24, I became an NFL cheerleader for the Indianapolis Colts. This franchise has not only given me a platform to speak to our community but the confidence in myself to share my story. It wasn’t until I became a part of this organization that I felt comfortable speaking out about my past experience, struggles, and battles I still face today. I am so grateful that I am not only able to dance as part of my job but embrace my life, those lives around me, and impacting my community. Today, I am a three-year veteran for the Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders. Today, our team is meeting people throughout our state, creating impact, and making a difference for our community in more ways than I ever imagined possible.
At the end of my second season in 2018 as an Indianapolis Colts cheerleader, the organization went out of their way to show their support for not only myself, but for the women on this team. I was awarded the first ever Woman of the Year award. Humbled, shocked, and beyond blessed were just a few initial emotions.
At age 24, after marrying the love of my life, we opened a small local business. My husband left everything he knew as a CPA, and we opened a brewery taproom. We vowed to one another and our community that this business would be more than a local hangout. Each month, we host at least one fundraiser for a local non-profit organization. We have used our life experiences and my fight with Crohn’s disease to fuel our motivation to help as many people as we can in as many different ways as possible.
My Will To Fight
You can achieve anything you want in this life; there is no such thing as a permanent barrier. There is not anyone that can tell you that you are not good enough. You are good enough. IBD does not define who you are, it does not dictate who or what you will become. And one day, it won’t exist. Until then, we fight relentlessly without reservation.
IBD tried to take away my will to fight, my courage, and my ambition. IBD lost, and it continues to lose every single day. I use my experience as motivation to live everyday to its fullest. Most importantly, I talk. I tell someone when I am feeling low, when I am in pain, or when I feel weak. I ask for help and take a day off when needed. I cannot help others if I am not helping myself; I cannot accomplish my goals if I don’t put my health first. Today, I am healthy, receiving IV infusions every eight weeks, in remission, and creating the dream.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition.
About Lori Stanley
I am 26 years old from Indiana. I am a pediatric registered nurse and am finishing up my degree to become a nurse practitioner. I have been married for almost three years; we have two little kitties and a rambunctious rescue pup. I strive to help as many people as possible in my lifetime. I work closely with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation-Indiana Chapter and was the emcee for their 2019 Great Gutsby Gala in Indianapolis. I will continue to raise awareness about Crohn’s and Colitis in my community and celebrate the beauty of life everyday.
Facebook: @Lori Stanley
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