For 10 years, Julie Palumbo, A Philadelphia based Certified Health Coach & Nutrition Consultant, has been a Crohn’s Warrior. Now, she opens up about the challenges she’s overcome to improve her health — and what it will take to build awareness and help women on their journey. It’s National Women’s Health Week and as we shine a spotlight on Crohn’s disease, it’s important to remember that year round 1.4 million Americans are affected. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that comes with many stigmas like “bathroom disease” and therefore, not a societally appropriate disease to discuss as women. To help break these stigmas, we chatted with our friend, Julie Palumbo. Here is her story:
Hello Julie! I am so excited to be able to share some of your journey with our readers. Can you tell our readers about your Crohn’s diagnosis?
I was diagnosed in early 2009, the same year I started my career as a financial advisor. Mixing stress with an autoimmune disease was the perfect storm for constant hospital stays, medication trials, and eventually surgery, so I finally realized I had to make a lifestyle change in order to save my life.
After working with a nutritionist in 2013, I changed my diet and learned a lot from her, but I had to take it upon myself to learn how to incorporate this new lifestyle into my current demanding schedule. Once I mastered that, I had an “aha” moment and realized that I can truly help others become the best version of themselves as I had, and become a health coach. So, I launched my business, Best Whole Self, in 2016 and have been working with individuals and companies to help them create customized, long-lasting and life-changing healthy habits for their specific needs.
You actually informed me that May 19th is World Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Day! Why is spreading awareness about this day so important to you?
The importance of awareness and education for the community became apparent to me in the Summer of 2013 when I had an unfortunate encounter with a gentleman. When I was 27 and hanging out with friends at a pool when this guy came up to us and asked how we knew each other. I shared that I had met my friend through the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. I had Crohn’s and was proud to say I was running a half marathon to benefit the organization in a few weeks. He replied “You have Crohn’s? That sucks. My friend has Crohn’s and it is brutal.” I thought he was going to offer compassion, but he then proceeded to say, “You better hope you are married within the next 3 years because then you will have a [ileostomy] bag and no one will want you.”
It was at that moment that I realized (after pulling my jaw up off the ground) that it is so critical that we educate those who are not familiar with the disease so that they do not put a label on us and assume we are less than anyone else, and so that they truly know what we face–both good and bad–on a daily basis.
And, for the record, I was married 5 years after that conversation and am now pregnant…and my husband has absolutely no problem with the fact that I have Crohn’s Disease. I have also been in remission since 2016, too 🙂
As the Co-Chair of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Young Professionals Group of Philadelphia and a member of the regional board, I know how important not only fundraising is for the organization, but education and awareness, as well.
What do you think is a common misconception about Crohn’s Disease?
There are so many misconceptions! As I pointed out above, people think we all get ileostomy bags after a few years and become undesirable. They also think it is just a “bathroom” disease, when it is not. Personally, my flares have consisted of high fevers, joint pain, nausea, and rashes which are all symptoms of Crohn’s. Unlike Ulcerative Colitis (the other form of IBD) Crohn’s can affect the body from the eyes to the toes so I wish people knew it was more than just constantly going to the bathroom, as that is just one symptom.
It would actually be great, too, if the pharmaceutical companies made their commercials for Crohn’s medications to show more than just actors running to the bathroom– it is so much more than that!!
If you could give a piece of advice to someone else who may also be learning to manage life with Crohn’s disease, what would it be?
The first suggestion I would make is to not compare yourself to others. We each have a different journey, and our bodies are all different. Just listen to your body and your needs, and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. Stories about others’ journeys may also scare you, so I would educate yourself on the disease, but be aware of not going too far into your research as to not freak yourself out about something that may or may not happen to you.
The second suggestion is to take care of your body as soon as you are diagnosed. I thought that medication would fix it all and that I could treat my body just as I always had, but the truth is that the sooner you properly fuel your body, manage your stress, and take care of your emotional state, the better off you will be when handling this disease. It is definitely more than just medicine!
Our community at The Positivity Charge believes in the power of #positivityculture. How has positivity played a role in your journey with Crohn’s Disease?
Changing my attitude towards a positive one has truly made all of the difference in the world when dealing with my disease. Once I stopped thinking, “poor me” and “this will never change” and began to see my blessings in life and the positives that have come with having Crohn’s, it was life-changing and life-saving.
I know there is no cure for this disease, but since we cannot change that, we have to change our attitude. I choose to be happy everyday and see the positive aspects of my life. Sure, I was not dealt the best hand. When considering how much I have gone through, how my health has improved, and what I am doing to change the lives of others, I cannot help but think that my positive attitude has been the sole driver behind all of it.
About The Author
Cierra Everette, Blogger and Senior Editor
Cierra is a lifestyle influencer who is always looking for environmentally friendly switches that she can apply to her own life. She’s currently finding balance in life, one monthly bucket list at a time!