Photo source: Express UK
23-year old pop star from South Wales, Lloyd Macey, spoke out about his six-year battle with Crohn’s disease, a long-term condition that triggers inflammation of the digestive system.
At the age of 18, Lloyd was in the middle of his second year of studies at Cardiff University when one evening, during dinner with his roommates, he began to suffer from sharp abdominal pain. The pop star explained that the entire group got food poisoning from the spaghetti Bolognese they ate that night; however, as his roommates got better, Lloyd began getting worse and worse. “For six weeks I didn't pass any stools and I began to put on a lot of weight. And then I lost nearly seven stone because I stopped eating because I'm afraid of eating. That's when my relationship with food completely changed. I was scared that what I was putting into my body was going to affect my body,” he said.
“IBD is an inflammation of the gut and comes in two main forms – Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. I like to describe it as ‘eczema of the inside’ – similar to the skin disease, the things we are supposed to be protected from and tolerant to actually lead to inflammation. This intolerance frequently leads to the key symptoms of diarrhea, blood in the feces, and a cramping stomach,” said Professor Sue Clark, consultant colorectal surgeon at St. Mark’s Hospital for Bowel Disease. In Lloyd’s case, he stressed that the most severe symptom he experienced was severe constipation. “There was so much pain and bloating. My stomach felt so tight and I was barely able to eat anything because it was so painful,” he said.
Seeking a diagnosis
Eight weeks following the incident, Lloyd was unlike his cheerful self. “People didn’t recognize me. It was such a drastic change. I’d go out and I remember people saying to me, is that you Lloyd?!” he said. After a month and a half of continuous agony, Lloyd’s parents decided to seek help from specialists at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, located in South Wales. “For most people, it’s a matter of waiting until their symptoms are severe enough that they want to seek help. People lose weight, or have prolonged pain, or have infections in the rectal area. That’s when they tend to be diagnosed,” he said. Lloyd revealed that he and his family were concerned that his symptoms were similar to those associated with bowel cancer. After undergoing several tests, Lloyd was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. “We cheered when we found out I had Crohn’s. We were worried that it would be something a lot worse. But very quickly the excitement wore off and my parents and I thought: oh wait, now I have to deal with it. I didn’t really know what Crohn’s was. But then I joined a Facebook Crohn’s support group and I read other people’s stories. I was so shocked to see that Crohn’s and other bowel diseases affect so many,” he said.
A month and a half following his diagnosis, Lloyd’s symptoms began to worsen. He was experiencing pain, abdominal discomfort, and he had lost his appetite. It was then that he was admitted to the hospital. “I spent most of my time singing to all of the other patients. When I had to have the colonoscopies – a camera that looks at your insides – I’d just look at my stomach on the monitor. I thought it was pretty cool, to be honest” he said. After two weeks spent receiving low calorie meal replacements at the hospital, Lloyd was allowed to return home. He was given steroids to help alleviate his symptoms, which he continued to take for a year and a half. “The first time I tried to eat proper food when I came out of hospital, I ate a tiny bit of steak, salad and sweet potato. I was scared that it would hurt, but I only ate a little bit slowly and it was fine,” he recalled.
Lloyd’s unique way of coping with symptoms
Having been off his medication for two years now, Lloyd has found a different approach to dealing with his symptoms – singing. “My singing teacher back home taught me how to breathe deeply in order to access my voice, and I use that whenever I feel pain or irritation in my stomach. Whenever I feel a flare-up coming on, I’ll sing – it really helps to control my breathing and ease the pain. Crohn’s is a blessing in disguise because my treatment has made me a better singer,” he said.
Lloyd relies on this same technique during his X-Factor performances in front of millions of individuals. “I do breathing exercises before I go on stage and every night before bed. My stomach feels the benefit too and is less painful. Now, I never really get stressed,” he said. Lloyd said that singing and maintaining his health have helped him to keep his condition under control. “Everyone’s different, they deal with Crohn’s disease in different ways. You sing from your diaphragm, it's important to have the support in your stomach. But for me, I relax my body and I’ve learnt to control my nerves. For me it's helped my Crohn's, that's my experience,” he added.
Lloyd remains physically active by performing a combination of exercises, including walking, swimming, and tai chi. These exercises help him to maintain a healthy weight. “I hate looking at pictures of me when I was bigger. It makes me realize how unhealthy I was” he recalled. The pop star stressed that he is not tempted to eat fast foods anymore because to him, the pain is not worth it. These days, his meals contain nutritious foods, including gluten-free pasta and oily fish salads.
Further help from voice coaching
Lloyd is currently striving to achieve his greatest dream of becoming one of the sixteen X-Factor finalists. “After I was diagnosed, my diet changed, I got healthier, got more energy, took the medication and was able to breathe better. And working with Louis and the voice coach is helping me breath even deeper and working my stomach is helping my Crohn's. I'm in the perfect career for someone with my condition” he said. Ever since his first audition with X-Factor, Lloyd’s parents have been working hard to launch their own Crohn’s and Alzheimer’s charity, in honor of their son and his late grandmother who had the chronic disease. “People don’t understand how severe Crohn’s can be. I want to raise awareness,” said Lloyd. “When millions of people know who you are, you’re in a position to help other people. I want Crohn’s sufferers to know that you can achieve anything you want to. Yes, I have Crohn’s – but Crohn’s doesn’t have me” he added.
When it comes to treating chronic inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, there is no ‘one size fits all’ treatment plan. While inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is often treated with anti-inflammatory medication, treatment also depends on an individual’s disease severity, as well as the side effects of the treatment. Sometimes, the side effects may outweigh the benefits. For this reason, every individual coping with some form of IBD should consult with their doctor, undergo regular monitoring of the active disease, and determine what type of treatment is right for them.