Kicking @ss with Crohn’s Disease – Renee’s Story

“The prognosis is 5 to 10 years, but I refuse to give in to that.  I am going to continue to fight, work, and be the best mother I can. Anything is possible if you don’t give up… Lifting and CrossFit help me fight by increasing my energy, and helps with the inflammation! I couldn’t live without it.”

In my last few posts (read them here and here), I started thinking about what it means to be resolute and bold; have guts and moxie.  I couldn’t think of a better example than this woman.

renee post 2Meet Renee.  She is living with Crohn’s Disease.  What is Crohn’s Disease you ask? Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. It causes inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. Inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease can involve different areas of the digestive tract in different people. The inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease often spreads deep into the layers of affected bowel tissue. Crohn’s disease can be both painful and debilitating, and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications.  So, yeah.  Crohn’s Diseases sucks.  Bad.

Renee is a 33 year old single mother of a beautiful daughter. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 3 years ago and since then has had three major surgeries to remove 15 feet of bowel, tallying up 400 days hospitalized off and on.  She battles chronic fatigue, pain, and anxiety surrounding her flareups. She has permanent damage to get lungs and is working to repair inflammation in her heart.  And this past week she was diagnosed with cancer in her stomach.  Despite her struggle, Renee works full time as an RN for a hospice company. No, I’m not making this up.  She’s a real person.  Basically Super Woman, right?  And not only does she spend her time helping others while battling cancer and a severe autoimmune disease, she also kicks ass in the gym.  When I dove into Renee’s story, I knew I wanted to learn from her.

Renee started her fitness journey last April after gaining 60 How This Mom Fight Crohn's Disease and Lost 60 Pounds
pounds from her score of prescribed medications.  Initially she wanted to lose weight and increase her energy, but it quickly became a lifestyle, serving as her therapy.  She now trains 5-6 days a week with 3 days of CrossFit and 3 days of lifting.  But her true passion lays in powerlifting. Her lifts show it.

275 deadlift

275 back squat

185 front squat

125 bench

125 push press

For real.  Talk about a strong woman.  I asked Renee what have been the biggest changes she has experienced since starting her fitness journey and she says, “I love to train legs.  I feel I have completely transformed mine and I love my strength. I’m up to 700 on leg press.  I have more energy and confidence than before.  I can deal with the fatigue and pain better as well now that I am fit.  It has also reduced the frequency of my flares. I had congestive heart failure from severe fluid overload a year ago and it has almost completely resolved.”

renee post 3My next question is, how can you not be totally inspired and motivated by this woman? She says, “You have to believe in yourself.  If you want something bad enough and work for it, you would be amazed at what you can achieve.”

Since our interview, Renee was diagnosed with stomach cancer.  Last week she had yet another surgery and begins chemo soon.  (To support her treatment fund and help her daughter, go here.) In the meantime, Renee will continue to kick @ss in the hospital, in the gym, and in her life.  I dare you not to be inspired.  Talk about guts, resolve, and moxie!

Thank you, Renee for teaching me an important lesson in being a strong, bad ass mama full of moxie, but also full of love and hope. Though the road may not be easy, the way is simple. Believe. Work. Achieve.


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About the Author: Mandy Skinner is the author of the Soccer Mom with Muscles blog as well as the book PB&J and Push-Ups: The Busy Mom’s Guide to Diet and Exercise.  She is also the Fitness Editor for Healthy Moms Magazine, as well as a contributor to Big City Moms.  Mandy is the proud mom of two, Sean and Sarah, as well as a Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach devoted to living healthy and happy.  In addition to her athletic endeavors, Mandy is a constant advocate of healthy and active living.  

Follow Mandy on Instagram @mandyjskins or Twitter @mandyskinns

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2 Responses to “Kicking @ss with Crohn’s Disease – Renee’s Story

  • Wow, she really is superwoman! I’ve got a chronic illness, Rheumatoid Arthritis, which has stripped my joints in my hands and feet of cartilage. Movement is important to combat stiffness but walking hurts. I tell myself I need to exercise more and I know I do. Renee is an inspiration. Thanks for sharing her story!

  • Wow, that’s incredible! Renee is an AMAZING woman. I pray everything goes well and she’s back at it, soon!

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