Amy Dowden, 30, who’s been partnered with JJ Chalmers in this year’s Strictly Come Dancing competition, has opened up about her battle with Crohn’s disease for a documentary named Strictly Amy: Crohn’s And Me. In the BBC film, the dancer bravely details her struggles with the condition which causes inflammation the lining of the digestive system.
She tells how being on Strictly got her “through the darkest times” when she was unwell, but adds she fears her career could be taken away by the condition.
In the documentary she explains: “Strictly has been more than a dance show to me, it got me through the darkest times of my illness. For me it was a big inspiration to keep me dancing.
“Dancing has pulled me through my Crohn’s but it’s a battle. I live in fear that what I love the most could be taken away. And I’ve been more ill this year than I have been in a long time.”
Included in the film is footage of the star in hospital, after she was taken in due to vomiting and passing out following the most recent Strictly tour.
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She says: “To the public watching me with all our make-up, fake tan, glitz, glamour and spotlights, it’s a different world. I don’t think they could ever imagine this could be me the next day.
“I knew things weren’t right but your body goes: ‘Right you’ve got to get through this, you don’t want to let anyone down, you can do this.’ And you can just push yourself through anything.”
She adds: “I can’t think of how many times I’ve been in hospital. It’s got to be at least over 100 times. When I was 18 or 19 it was every month at least for a week.”
But being involved with Strictly has been a saviour for the star.
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“Dance has definitely been my saviour. It’s got me through my lowest points. That’s what’s saved me and kept me going. And finally my childhood dreams became true,” she reveals.
“I often stand there just before I dance and think: “Look how far I’ve come.” You can tell I’m always in my element. In fact people say, ‘Why do you smile so much?’ Because I love it.”
What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition which can lead to life-threatening complications if left untreated.
So spotting symptoms of the condition is very important. The NHS lists the main symptoms as:
DiarrhoeaStomach aches and crampsBlood in your pooTiredness (fatigue)Weight loss
It adds that symptoms may be constant or may come and go every few weeks or months.
When symptoms come back, it’s known as a flare-up.
The health body advises to see a GP if you or your child has:
Blood in their pooDiarrhoea for more than seven daysFrequent stomach aches or crampsLost weight for no reason, or your child’s not growing as fast as you’d expect
There’s no cure for the condition, but the main treatments are medicines to reduce inflammation in the digestive system and medicines to stop the inflammation coming back.
Surgery may also be required to remove a small part of the digestive system.