Photo: Lights, Camera, Crohn's
Natalie Hayden is 34, and a former TV news anchor. When she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, and it changed her life. She endured multiple hospitalizations, was taking too many medications to count, and had seemingly constant flare ups. In 2015, she went in for her first surgery.
Throughout her struggles, she had the love of her life, Bobby, by her side, there to keep her smiling. In March of 2017, they welcomed their son Reid.
Despite the hardships she has endured as a result of Crohn's disease, she wants others to know that it does get better, and that you can overcome your obstacles, celebrate your wins, and live a happy life. That is why she has made it her mission to be an advocate for those in their own battles with inflammatory bowel disease.
In July of 2016, she started her blog, Lights, Camera, Crohn's to give others with the disease insight into what she was coping with, and also to offer moral support to others. Natalie explains the decision to start the blog: "When you're diagnosed with a lifelong, chronic illness you can either sulk and feel sorry for yourself or try to find the blessings and sunshine through the difficult days. More than 12 years ago I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. After 10 years of suffering in silence while reporting and anchoring the news on television, I decided to share the news that life outside of the studio was anything but perfect. Now, more than two years out of the 'business' as a newlywed and a mom - I'm sharing my journey with the hope of helping the five million others around the world who battle Inflammatory Bowel Disease on a daily basis."
Lights, Camera, Crohn's
You might be wondering why Natalie decided to name her blog "Lights, Camera, Crohn's," but when you understand her background, it truly makes sense. As a former producer, reporter, and morning news anchor, her life has always been in the spotlight. Throughout her career, she developed a genuine love for writing and journalism, which led to her ability to start this blog.
Natalie explains the title further, "I want this blog to shed light on what it was like living in the spotlight while battling a disease that no one knew I was fighting to what life is like now. The past 11 years I've had several bowel obstructions - an 'unobstructed view' means a clear, transparent, and 'healthy' look without holding anything back."
Her goal is to empower those with Crohn's, and she shares what happens in her life - both the good and the bad. Not only that, but she wants her blog to be a platform to communicate with others who have the disease as well, and give them an opportunity to share their stories.
One of her first posts advised readers on how to get through surgery, and how she managed despite her fears. She said: "Find your happy zen - think of this as a fresh start. Make a checklist and purchase PJs and comfy clothes without waistbands, enjoy nature, stay away from Google, talk to your doctor about the incision beforehand, get inspired, lean on others and don't worry about being independent, celebrate the small victories, guard your belly, and share your story on social media." While going through surgery is one of the biggest and toughest milestones in Crohn's disease, these pieces of advice can actually apply to many different aspects of treatment of the disease.
The importance of avoiding ignorance
She also gives advice on how to ignore people who make uneducated comments that can sometimes be hurtful. She focuses on surrounding yourself with the people that will support you, and not making time for those who only bring you down. After all, you will be dealing with very serious things. For example, Natalie underwent surgery where 18 inches of her intestine were removed, her ileocecal valve was taken away, and her appendix was also extracted. So, at the end of the day, after you have been faced with such graphic and personal issues, you want someone who is going to care for you as a friend, not someone who is going to make jokes or belittle you. She refers to it as having a "network of love," and they can be anyone. She relies on her husband, her brothers, and now her baby boy to feel supported. Many people ignore the necessity of feeling loved, but it makes all the difference in recovering from anything difficult.
Raising money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation
Her little brother brings her so much joy. For her birthday, he ran the Chicago Marathon in her honor and with her in mind. He explained his goal, "through the years, I've aspired to complete in the Chicago Marathon; I just didn't have the guts to participate until my sister had to have 18 inches of hers removed. Natalie's strength, courage and determination to take on each day and not let her disease hold her down inspires me to lace up my running shoes and gear up for the 2016 Chicago marathon. I am running to raise money and awareness for Crohn's and Colitis Foundation (CCFA). I am running so my sister can stand on the sidelines for once and be the one who gets to offer strength to me." This tremendous act of love emphasizes the fact that even though you may need assistance throughout the course of your disease, and you might not always be strong, you can be a light to those in your life and act as an inspiration, even when you don't know it.
Her blog includes some practical tips, like the best ways to take shots, how to feel empowered near doctors, and more, but her writing really took off when she became pregnant. She wanted to show the world that she had Crohn's, but it was not going to stop her from her dream of being a mom. She shared her journey every step of the way, and wanted to include her followers in the journey. Again, she let people know that everything was not easy - in fact, a lot of things were very hard, but that with a positive outlook and lust for life, she was going to make it through successfully. Once she had her baby, the posts didn't stop, but instead became about how to raise a child while dealing with Crohn's. Of course, running after a child is a lot of work, especially when you are dealing with such a disease - but there are ways to make it through!
The blog has seen significant success, and has been published on multiple outlets, including Today Parenting Team, Everyday Health, Prevention Magazine, The Mighty, CrohnsDisease.com, Her View From Home, HealthyWomen.Org, Ostomy Connection, Perfectly Peyton, Mamalode, and Instacrohns. She has also been interviewed on various podcasts for her insights into the disease, including Change Your Story, Change Your Life, People you Should Know, and The Wellness Crossing.