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My Life With Crohn's Disease

by Whitney Corbett

My Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2011 at the age of 16. I had two strictures in my small intestines that were surgically removed. They caused me to throw up almost every time I ate. When I couldn’t stand the pain or discomfort I would make myself throw up. But the bowel resection helped immensely. Along with surgery, I immediately started Remicade.

Because of the surgery I was able to graduate high school in 2013, get to a healthy weight, play tennis, have energy and a social life. I moved away from home and started college at Utah State University.

My second year of school things started to get worse. The Remicade stopped working and by this time I had been on it for almost 4 years. My symptoms were changing. They were in my colon this time. I started to feel like I couldn’t control anything anymore. I constantly worried about when I would need to use the bathroom, where a bathroom would be or if I'd be able to be social or make it to my classes. I started to feel arthritic. I could barely walk or move. Everything hurt.

I came home from school for a few weeks and I started the Simple Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) for the first time. I did it for about 2 months. But because the food at beginning stages of this diet are very limited, I began to loose weight again. I honestly couldn’t tell you if that diet helped me or not, partially because my doctor put me on a round of prednisone right before having me start Humira that summer and everything overlapped. I finished my second year of classes, but because of my health, it was really hard. I was on Humira for only a year when I decided to stop.

I had to inject myself with the pen every two weeks. This was before they took out the ingredient that made it sting. It was awful. It caused so much stress and anxiety as each injection day approached. Especially because this medication did not help my symptoms whatsoever.

Finding Other Ways to Heal

This was when I decided to truly try to find things that worked for me naturally and holistically. Western medicine hadn’t fully helped me.

For the next four years I tried many different diets, supplements, herbs, oils, massages, and saw many functional medicine doctors and naturalists.

During this time I transferred to Utah Valley University to get my Degree in Culinary Arts. I had stopped Humira and was managing my symptoms with diet and supplements.

I was still sick at this time but I was able to go to school, work, and have a social life. I didn’t want to believe how sick I actually was. I wanted to live my life.

In 2018 I had graduated with my degree in Culinary Arts and felt like all the energy and adrenaline that I had to get me through stopped once I was done. My body was telling me to stop, rest and heal.

I felt like I could finally do that. I finished school and now I could really focus on my health.

For the next two years I worked with my aunt who is a functional dietician and we tried many foods, diets, and supplements. Nothing ever fully helped.

Things that should have been “gut healing” made me sick. I was devastated. Why do so many people claim “this” or “that” healed them. It caused me so much sadness and hopelessness. What did my body need?

I was referred to a Methylation specialist who was a great addition to my healing. She worked with me, and my aunt. She helped with underlying emotions working with the “Emotion Code” and helped me become more aware of my body’s needs.

As much as she did to help it wasn’t quite enough. My body needed additional help.

I was so scared to go back to a doctor. The medications hadn’t worked for me and I was really worried about ending back up in the hospital. I could tell something was wrong. None of my efforts were fully working. I needed Western Medicine to intervene but wasn’t sure how to get back into that life and to find the right doctors.

I ended up in the E.R. in March of 2020. For reference, I am 5 feet tall and weighed 86 pounds when I ended up in the hospital. They discovered a rectal-vaginal fistula. I had surgery two days later to create a temporary ileostomy to help heal my colon.

I thought I had failed. I should have done more. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me.

The recovery was truly awful. I had moments where I thought I shouldn’t have gone through with the surgery. It was causing me more pain and new symptoms. Things were really hard.

Now 5 months later I’m living with an ileostomy and on Stelara. I have gained 40 pounds, I am able to work, live my life and feel hope again.

Everyone's Healing is Different

Through this experience I found an amazing medical team. My surgeons were amazing. My GI doctor understood why I was scared to go back or try any other medication. He agreed that nothing had worked and was empathetic towards my decisions.

Everything ended up how it was supposed to. I would have always wondered if I could have healed naturally if I hadn’t tried. But I felt I had exhausted alI of my efforts and at least during that time that wasn’t what my body needed. My body needed the help that western medicine could offer.

I am now able to focus on what I need. Finding foods that help with healing and fueling my body without coming from a restrictive mindset.

I’ve learned to slow down, breathe and manage my stress.

I’m not finished learning. Our bodies are always changing and adapting. And what works for me now might not be what my body needs in 5 or 10 years.

Things haven’t been easy but I am grateful for what I have learned. It has taught me empathy in a way no other lesson could teach. Along with respect for everyone’s individual journey.

I’ve started to publicly share my story. It can be hard when you hear stories of people who have healed their disease and claim particular foods or herbs will heal you. I think those claims can be discouraging if it doesn’t work for you. If you find something that worked for you, share it. But everyone is different. You need to figure out what works for you and what your body needs. Learn. Do your research. Educate yourself. Do what feels good.

Whatever that is, it’s right for you.

About Whitney Corbett

My name is Whitney Corbett. I’m 25 years old. Born and raised in Utah. Growing up I danced, played tennis and the violin. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2011 and currently living with an ileostomy since March of 2020. I have a degree in Culinary Arts from Utah Valley University. I love to cook and bake. Especially wedding cakes! I also hope to create yummy recipes that are simple, fun and exciting. I’m going back to school this fall to get my bachelors in Psychology to then become certified as a Child Life Specialist. I hope to use my experience to help children as they go through their surgeries and procedures.


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