Hi everyone, my name is Kristen Furey. I am a 26-year-old woman who is full of life, loves country music, the beach, cares deeply for my friends and family, oh and I also have Crohn’s Disease and an ostomy.
Many chronically ill patients feel that their disease or condition defines who they are. Don’t get me wrong, I did too at first. But in order to share my story I need to also share who I am aside from my health challenges.
I live in Southern California with one of my best friends near the beach. I work for a company called 11 Health that helps and cares for ostomy patients and created the first ever ostomy SmartBag. I love line dancing and golfing in my spare time, and I am also a big foodie!
My journey with Crohn’s Disease started in 2006, I was 12 years old. Before I was diagnosed, life was so easy and carefree. I was an upbeat, social butterfly who loved to play soccer. Then one day, I just slowed down. From there my entire life had changed and it was time to learn what my new life was going to be like.
Before my medical team correctly diagnosed me, they thought I had Celiac Disease and I was put on a gluten free diet for some time. I grew more and more sick as the years passed by trying medication after medication, never losing hope.
I made it through high school 12th in my class, received the drama scholarship for college, I was homecoming princess for one of my clubs, and on the varsity golf team. I wasn’t really living at that time, despite being a part of all of these organizations, I was just SURVIVING.
I moved to Southern California for college and this meant a second chance to find a medical team that could help me get my health under control. I visited a new doctor when I was 19 at Cedars Sinai and instantly, I was admitted and being taken into surgery for a loop ileostomy surgery.
Those years seem like a blur for me, but what I do remember is that I woke up feeling scared and alone. This lasted for a while. I also remember returning to college and gaining 50lbs and learning what it felt like to be alive again. I joined a sorority and became the social butterfly I always was meant to be. My disease wasn’t in remission, but the surgery was a good start to becoming close to it.
Two years later at age 21 my stoma was made permanent. I was even more scared knowing this bag on my stomach would be there for my entire life. I also received Barbie butt surgery during that same surgery, which failed later on. I had to get another surgery for my bottom but this time a flap surgery done by a plastic surgeon. It was the worst experience of my life, but it gave me a better life now looking back. When telling my story, I like to be completely honest. My disease and health are a big part of what has made me who I am.
My inner strength and outlook on life is a result of the horror and pain I have gone through at a point in my life.
I joined the ostomy online community last year and I finally felt like I was no longer alone. At that time, I was 6 years into having an ostomy bag and I started to accept it. This takes a different amount of time for all people. Some patients may accept their bag right away, others may take months, some people may take years. I had the greatest amount of warm welcomes and support coming into this new community as @thefureyfighter and I was forever determined to help share my story and make at least one person feel less alone.
I am now 7 years into having an ostomy, 14 years battling Crohn’s, and now in my second year of remission. I have reached remission for the first time in over 10 years! The feeling I have is indescribable. Remission means no active disease and little to no symptoms.
Although my disease will always be an unexpected roller coaster where I learn daily things to do to manage it, I know I will never be alone again.