Nathalie is a Canadian entrepreneur, blogger, architectural designer, and Crohn’s warrior. Nathalie graduated from her final university degree in Spring 2020 with a Master’s of Architecture. She is a very creative and multi-passionate person with a main mission to help others in any way she can, whether that be through architecture, writing, or patient advocacy.
Nathalie was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in June 2008 at the age of 11 years old. At the time, Nathalie became very sick. She began having constant diarrhea, lost 25 pounds in total, and her throat began to swell because of all the inflammation. At this point, she was admitted to the hospital and stayed there for about a week before returning home with a new lifestyle, lots of medications, and a very limited diet. Over the summer of 2008, Nathalie had many ups and downs but after about 6 months she finally became more stable and reached remission.
After initial diagnosis, Nathalie stayed in remission for most of her teen years with some periods of flare that were treated with steroids. It was not until her final year of high school that she began experiencing strange abdominal cramping and tightening. At the same time her doctor was retiring, so her new doctor ordered her a colonoscopy. To everyone’s surprise the test came back clear. However, Nathalie and the doctor both knew that could not be possible because of her symptoms, and it wasn’t until she did an MRI in May of 2016, that they found the location of her disease (right at the junction of the small and large intestine, which the scope camera cannot reach). The imaging showed that she had 30cm (12”) of active disease and scar tissue. This scar tissue and inflammation was causing a narrowing in her intestines and dilation. This concerned Nathalie’s doctor and so she wanted her to try a new medication.
By this time, Nathalie had started her first year of university and her symptoms did not get any better, so she began taking Remicade, an immunosuppressant drug. Along with this new medication she tried going gluten-free and dairy-free for 4 months, and although this helped a bit, it did not help enough to continue. However, after a year and a half on this medication, the MRI imaging showed no improvement (and neither did her symptoms). Therefore, in August of 2017 she was switched to Stelera, a self-injected immunosuppressant drug. After about a year of this drug, the imaging again showed no sign of improvement.
At this point it was April of 2018, and her symptoms had greatly increased including horrible, painful bloating (making her look 4 months pregnant), loss of appetite, and very intense muscle tightness. These symptoms made it very hard to finish the school year, but with the help of some steroids she was able to. However, the doctor, her parents, and Nathalie knew that something had to be done because her quality of life was so low. She had two options: to try more drugs or consider surgery. Nathalie opted for surgery, because with the amount of scar tissue that she had accumulated over the past 10 years she knew this would be best. So, Nathalie successfully had 10″ of her small bowel removed in July 2018. She began taking Entyvio as of September 2018 and has been in remission since her surgery (besides a flare while writing her final thesis in April 2020).
Nathalie has been through a lot in her years living with Crohn’s. But, through it all it has made her a stronger person and gave her a chance to use her voice to advocate for others. Nathalie hopes to continue to advocate for others through her blog and online platforms, but also through her architectural work. Nathalie is working in healthcare design and tries to always advocate for the patients by providing healing environments.
Nathalie’s autoimmune disease has affected her in more ways than not, but she would not trade it for the world. She believes that her life with Crohn’s disease has changed the way she sees the world and her outlook on life for the better. It is not always easy, but through it all, it has made her a stronger person.
Nathalie believes that it is important to have a TEAM of healthcare specialists for you to thrive with your IBD. She believes that it is not all about medication and not all about food. It is about finding a lifestyle that works for you and your condition. Experiment with foods to find out what you can tolerate, use supplements and probiotics to see if they help, exercise and move your body, and don’t be afraid to use medication, it does not make you weaker! Some of Nathalie’s favourite pain alleviators include peppermint oil, a heating pack, and mindfulness. By truly focusing on the present and your breathing you can work through most pain.
You can’t control it all, but you can control your mindset.
This quote has been important to Nathalie because living with a chronic illness can be very tough and full of a lot of variables. So, this quote reminds her that she is always in control of her mindset and how she chooses to look at the world and her life. She believes that you can choose to be happy and thrive or you can choose to be the victim of your life.
Find Nathalie | @gutsyfeeling