Healthy Living

NBC TV Star Shares her Ulcerative Colitis Story

NBC TV Star Shares her Ulcerative Colitis Story

Photo: DSC_4264 by Genevieve (flickr)

Over 3 million Americans are suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. 46-year-old Monica Potter, best known for her role as Kristina Braverman in the long-running NBC Series ‘Parenthood’, revealed in an Instagram post that she has colitis. When the actress posted a picture of her enlarged stomach with the caption that read “I have something to share”, everyone thought that she was going to reveal that she was expecting her fourth child. Instead, the well-known actress and mom of three revealed that she has been coping with colitis for almost two years now.

“Thank you to everyone who has sent me well wishes. I’m not pregnant but wanted to shed some light on some issues we all may deal with, especially women. It’s never really talked about because it’s not sexy, pretty, or glamorous to say the least, so I decided to share a photo to possibly inspire my friends (you), create a platform to share stories, and rely on each other for support and guidance,” wrote Potter.

She believes finding the right provider is key

The actress, who is married to Dr. Daniel Allison, an orthopedic surgeon, said that her flare-ups are sometimes painful and frustrating, but she believes that finding the right healthcare provider and dealing with such issues can prolong one’s life and help them to learn about things that they might not necessary understand so well. While each individual experiences a different severity of symptoms when it comes to their condition, abdominal bloating during a flare-up is a common symptom and it is one that compelled Potter to speak out. So far, Potter said that following a healthy diet, starting on an exercise plan, and having a good outlook on life, has helped her to better manage her symptoms.

Shannon Chang, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, reveals that triggers can be certain foods and drinks and the use of NSAIDs. “Patients can definitely experience bloating, but usually not to that severe extent. It’s not going to make people think you’re pregnant, most of the time,” she said. The most important thing is for individuals to be able to self-manage themselves. “They need to discuss it with their IBD doctor so we make sure we’re doing the smartest thing for the patient at that time” said Dr. Chang.

So, while a bloated stomach may not necessarily indicate the presence of colitis or IBD, Potter decided to share her message after learning that 1 in 24 women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. “I’ve had a few friends pass away from colon cancer, and this is something I wanted to share with you. I’m okay, I’m just getting ready for my yearly checkup to look at what’s going on down there. I noticed the bloat in my belly and I thought that I should share this,” she said.

Efforts to raise awareness and show others they aren’t alone

Potter hopes to raise awareness on intestinal health issues and encourages others to undergo a colonoscopy and not take diagnoses into their own hands. “So, we posted something yesterday about my belly, and thank you for all of the well-wishes — I’m not pregnant. I’m kind of a little old to be pregnant, but you never know. But what I wanted to bring to everyone’s awareness was some issues that I’ve been having with my belly, and sometimes these issues aren’t talked about. Colitis, Crohn’s, and getting a colonoscopy to diagnose what’s going on with our stomachs and intestinal problems”, she said.

Potter also wants others to know that they are not alone in living with and coping with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis. In her Instagram post, she wrote – “I hope this open discussion will lead to many other things we face as women, mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and every role we take on. Take time for yourself and go get checked. Even if you’re not having issues it’s important. Please note that I am not sponsored by anyone but me – I did this on my own, and just wanted to share. That being said, a huge thank you to these foundations that are bringing awareness and guidance to all of us for better health,” she added.

In addition to raising awareness among the general public about ulcerative colitis, Potter is also an advocate for other health-related issues. On her Instagram page, she shared how she is teaching his young daughter about the significance of self-care as she gets older. “October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is so important. I am trying to instill in Molly the importance of putting your health first. Ladies, please don't forget to schedule your annual mammogram - it could save your life,” she wrote.

How her TV portrayal changed her life

Back in 2014, Potter marked breast cancer awareness month by visiting patients at the University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center and giving them and their caregivers gifts from her company, Monica Potter Home. She reveals how the storyline for her character on ‘Parenthood’ was actually inspired by her real-life brush with breast cancer. “I had gone for a mammogram and they had found something. I e-mailed series creator Jason Katims quickly and said, ‘What are we doing for Kristina this season? I think maybe we should explore breast cancer’,” she said. Fortunately, Potter’s health scare turned out to be benign, but she said that her portrayal as Kristina on ‘Parenthood’ has really helped her to look on the brighter side of things and seize the day. “Just take chances, because there are no guarantees. Really just wake up every morning excited and look at the positive. I've done so many things in this last year that I never thought I would do. I owe a lot of that to Kristina in some weird way,” she said.