FIGHTING THE IBD FIGHT: WITH ANTHONY ANDREWS
Interview by Dr Sunni
It is with great pleasure that the next fighter to give us an insight to their own battle with IBD is the ever charming and true gentleman Anthony Andrews. Anthony is well known amongst the IBD community as a positive mindset ambassador and a Crohn’s and Colitis influencer. Join us as we get to know a bit more about his experience.
Dr Sunni: Ant, tell us all about your journey with IBD and what you have learnt along the way?
Ant: I had Ulcerative Colitis for 10 years, and, now I can say I used to suffer with the condition, as I recently had an operation to have my colon removed, and have an ileostomy put in place instead. I have a stoma and effectively don't have the disease anymore, which is good. At the same time, having to go through major surgery is quite a big deal.
I used to take a lot of medication and various types of intensive drugs including azathioprine but my body didn’t really agree with it. So, I thought it best to have the surgery and cut it all out as I didn’t want to be on drugs anymore. I had my first operation in February 2020, and as my core muscles were tight and too strong it didn't really get on with my stoma and so had a second operation in May 2020. Things appear to be running nice and smoothly now.
Dr Sunni: What would you tell your younger self, knowing what you know now, about IBD?
Ant: I was diagnosed when I was 19, and so, to be honest, it would be to enjoy life as you can and that includes food too! Going through IBD can be restrictive in terms of the foods we can (and cannot) eat, so I would say savour some of the delicious foods whilst you can before you have to start changing your diet. Enjoy the little pleasures like onions, coleslaw, sweet corn and barbecues –the simple things that we will later take for granted.
Dr Sunni: What inspires you to keep fighting daily?
Ant: What inspires me to be honest, is everybody else that is also fighting the same condition and the same things as me. There are literally so many wonderful and amazing people that I've met through social media and the IBD community that inspire me to share my story and hopefully help inspire others in return. I feel that the inspiration comes from the fight itself. That we are fighting it and doing it every day.
We are not alone. Everyone's there to help each other out. Everyone's there to have a conversation about one another’s struggles, and I never feel like you can't talk to anybody. There are dark times and there are great times, we just have to go about it one day at a time and know what one’s body is like at that time.
Dr Sunni: How do you deal with food and gut health?
Ant: Food is an interesting topic as I had to quite drastically alter my diet when I first got diagnosed with UC. I kept a food journal to know my trigger foods and initially had good periods of remission in between controlling my diet. That was when I felt I could eat what I wanted. When things started to get worse with my condition, I continued to eat what I wanted by trying to balance it out with medication.
Now I've had the operations and living with the stoma, I have a very low fibre and simple diet of potatoes and pasta which is extremely bland. A lot of the fruit and vegetables are included in my diet by juicing and I make sure that I am taking enough vitamin supplements and electrolytes to keep my hydration levels up.
I really do miss eating fruit and vegetables; having a nice delicious salad for example, but I know I will be able to slowly introduce food groups and other ingredients to my diet and I will get there soon.
Dr Sunni: What would you advise others with IBD?
Ant: If you are going through IBD, I want you to know that there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. If you are on different types of medication, it is a balancing act; some days they work and others not. Make sure you keep on top of it with your doctors, and if your symptoms get worse keep speaking to them about it.
If you are considering surgery, I would suggest you weigh up the pros and cons of going through such as the recovery time will be quite long. However, don't get too frustrated with it and feel free to reach out.
"Surgery can be for the better as harrowing as it may seem"
- Ant Andrews