Letitia had an ileostomy 14 years ago. Here she talks about her health journey and the role sports play in her daily wellbeing.
Hello and thank you for agreeing to speak with us. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Letitia Gherhes, and I’m 43. I had an ileostomy done in 2006 (14 years ago). I’m married, have two kids, and have my own business.
What were your initial symptoms?
In 2000, I had a very strong flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis and three days later, the first flare-up in my digestive system with horrible abdominal pains, heavy bleeding and vomiting.
How were you diagnosed with Crohn’s disease?
I was in the hospital for 48 hours and took a load of tests. After all that they told me I had an incurable chronic disease, Crohn’s disease. It was a life sentence, but there were treatments that would allow me to live with it. I took that all in and asked to be allowed to go home. I was prescribed cortisone, enemas and painkillers.
Did your doctors recommend an ileostomy straight away?
Yes, I was told that after a few years I may need surgery. It was an idea that stuck with me. I wasn’t scared of it, but I was preparing myself for it because I kept having terrible flare-ups, even under treatment.
How was the operation performed and what happened afterwards?
I was on meds for SIX years (cortisone, ciclosporin, azathioprine, Pentasa) and constantly in and out of the hospital. I got my first injection of Remicade (infliximab) in January 2006, and my body couldn’t handle it. After 4 months of hospitalization, my doctors proposed surgery as a last resort. I was sick and tired of being in the hospital and when the pouch was installed, I just wanted to go home. The stoma was a relief for me. I was in less pain, less stress about going to the loo and just a general improvement in my quality of life.
What part did your family and friends play in helping you to heal?
My husband and children were waiting for me when I came back. The first year was hard, I’d lost over 80 pounds (imagine!) and I was in bad shape. My friends and family were so happy to have me back they referred to my pouch as my “savior”.
How are you today?
Today, it’s been 14 years since my ileostomy and a total colectomy. I feel good, I take care of myself and I’ve gone off all meds. I’m very careful about my diet and my water intake which is a major factor in keeping me healthy. I do sports regularly to help avoid swelling in my joints.
How did you discover Kangoo Jumps? How did it help you and other patients?
I discovered Kangoo Jumps by chance, while on vacation abroad in 2013. I was overweight at the time (170 pounds and I’m only 5’11”) and I was looking for some sort of physical exercise I could do. The first time I put on a pair of KJ boots, I felt totally “off-balance” and like I’d “lost control”. I had to relearn how to control my body, to do rhythmic movements. And it was fun dancing and sweating all over the place.
Kangoo Jumps boots were developed by physiotherapists to help patients physically recover, without risks, after an injury or surgery. They’re designed to reduce impacts on the joints. They can be adjusted depending on your weight which allows you to start moving right away and with ease. My whole body was set into motion and that helped me develop my balance just by putting the boots on.
Does exercise help you to accept your body?
Definitely! Physical activity sharpens your mental and physical capacities. And it helps you get to know yourself better. Especially when, like in my case, you see changes very quickly in your body. With the KJ boots, when we first start out, we focus on balance, then on endurance and things get easier very quickly, and we see that we can do this. We can work on our bodies, we can have fun and lose weight, and feel better, and want to keep going. And that feeling of being able to be more than just an “invalid” is precious.
What do you do for a living now?
I’m a psycho-socio-esthetician consultant and trainer. I went back to school after my operation and earned degrees in Cosmetology, Psycho-socio-esthetics, Ethics, esthetics and human dignity and Therapeutic Patient Education. I train caretakers on how to look after the well-being of their patients and I give talks about rebuilding one’s self-image after a traumatic event.
What advice would you give to a patient?
The biggest thing is making peace with yourself, with your body, with your purpose in life. Learn how to put your thoughts in order and learn how to ask for help if you need it. Your body is your pillar and your life, so you need to make it stronger. Your body can learn or relearn good habits and adapt quickly to new things. Touch, self-care, and physical activity help to reconstruct the self. We’re capable of pushing our limits much farther than we realize. Getting out of your comfort zone means facing your fears and your doubts and that’s the only way we can discover who we truly are and what we can really do.
Any final words?
“Life will put stones in your path, only you can decide whether to make a bridge or a wall out of them…” (Coluche) Wellbeing is a choice!
The very mention of exams can make even the calmest person feel stressed. Add to that the unnatural events of Covid 19 this year and this adds to the stress. Most of all it’s the current added difficulty of managing online learning and uncertainty of exam dates and formats.
We have so many unanswered questions. We need to stay positive and control what we can control and work to the best of our ability. We need to take it day by day and know that it’s ok to have good days and bad days. Make sure you and the exam students in your home open up to your friends and family, they will be feeling similar.
‘Fail to prepare and prepare to fail’. This statement is so true.
Some basic rules coming up to exam time
A quiet place to study – A suitable environment to study is important to help concentration levels.
A balanced diet – Good nutrition is essential at any time of year, but especially during exam time. Batch cook some healthy meals and stock up on nutritious snacks. Having some of the student’s favourite dinner to hand is important too.
Omega 3 is essential to fuel the hard-working brain at this time. Keep brain and vision in tip top shape by making sure to top up your good fats daily. Consider taking Cleanmarine® Krill Oil High Strength. It contains 590mg of concentrated, high strength Omega 3 Krill Oil. This concentrated formula of EPA, DHA, Astaxanthin and Choline provides the essential fatty acids required for the normal function of the heart, brain and vision. DHA contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function and vision, the beneﬁcial eﬀect is obtained with a daily intake of 250mg. Also eating 2 – 3 portions of oily fish a week will provides more essential fats for your body. Examples include salmon, mackerel and herring. Easy to cook in steam parcels in the oven with garlic, lemon and oil.
A good night’s sleep – Studying all night may seem like a good idea but if your child doesn’t get enough sleep, they are more likely to forget the information or under perform. When your mind is buzzing with exam questions, quotes and scientiﬁc theories, having something to help you switch oﬀ, relax and support deep sleep is a must. Try Melissa Dream™ which contains all-natural ingredients including the herbs lemon balm (Melissa oﬃcinalis) and Chamomile in combination with selected B-vitamins, Magnesium and the amino acid L-theanine. Magnesium contributes to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue while vitamins B6 and B12 contribute to the normal function of the nervous system. With no drowsiness or side eﬀects the next day, Melissa Dream helps you to wake up rested and full of energy.
Exercise – Even a 20-minute walk will help your child to relax and destress their mind, this will also help oxygenate the entire body.
Stress is the biggest obstacle to overcome. It’s so important to get enough B vitamins in foods like broccoli. Kale, spinach. Getting your 5-a-day is bound to be the least of your worries as exam time approaches; ironically this is when your nutritional and energy needs are at their highest. Make sure you keep your nutrient and energy levels up with One Nutrition® Organic Power Greens. This is a unique combination of nature’s ﬁnest green foods including kale, broccoli, spirulina, wheat grass and barley grass juice powders in a handy capsule or powder to add to your morning smoothie.
Take time out to do something you love such as walking your dog, reading a magazine, chat online to your best friend. Journaling is also therapeutic, to put your thoughts and feelings onto paper. Try family time such as playing a board game to distract your mind from the books for a while.
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Crohn’s was ruining my life… but manuka honey has saved me
FOR years Rebecca Jenkins could not take a sip of water without running to the
Food also ran straight through her — and she had to dash to the ladies’ up to
ten times a day.
Humiliatingly, sometimes she could not reach a bathroom in time, and the fear
of horrible accidents made social situations a nightmare to be avoided.
This was the grim reality of her life with Crohn’s disease and no
treatments worked — until she found manuka honey.
Rebecca, now 34, began taking two daily teaspoons of the posh spread made by
bees fed on highly anti-bacterial nectar from the manuka plant. And within a
month, it appeared to have cured her.
Now she is looking forward to her wedding next week — wearing the white dress
she once would have been far too scared to even contemplate.
Rebecca — who weighed just 6½st and wore a tiny dress size four when she tried
the honey out of desperation — is still symptom-free 18 months later.
She said: “I was sick of feeling terrible. I lost so much weight I couldn’t
keep anything down. I’d regularly soil myself and have to carry extra
clothes in case I had an accident when I was out.
“I read that a footballer who had a similar condition to mine had used manuka
honey to ease his symptoms. But I didn’t have much hope.”
But within a week, the symptoms that had crippled her life had subsided.
She said: “I’d gone from spending my days sat on the loo and resting in bed to
having energy for the first time in years.
“My skin had cleared up, my periods returned and I felt normal again.”
Rebecca is one of 90,000 people in the UK with Crohn’s disease — a
debilitating inflammatory condition.
According to Crohn’s And Colitis UK, the number of people being diagnosed or
hospitalised by the condition has soared in the past decade by as much as
300 per cent.
Freelance television executive Rebecca, from Long Stratton in Norfolk, first
showed symptoms in 2009.
She recalled: “I started getting intense stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
“I thought it was stress-related but when it didn’t go away, I knew there must
have been another reason.
“A week after symptoms started, I went to my doctor. He didn’t seem concerned
but things got worse.”
When Rebecca was referred to a specialist at the Norfolk and Norwich
University Hospital, she was spending so much time on the toilet she had to
turn down work.
She said: “My job is really physical and I spend a lot of time on my feet so
it was impossible to do it properly when I needed so much time in the
“I ended up losing thousands and thousands of pounds in wages.”
Stool samples did not show anything wrong with Rebecca but a further six
months of tests eventually showed that inflammatory markers in her blood
were sky-high, indicating Crohn’s.
She said: “Some of the tests were agony. Having tubes put down your throat and
up your bum wasn’t a nice experience at all.
“I had so much blood taken out of me I was surprised I had any left.But I was
desperate to know what was wrong with me.”
But the news she had Crohn’s disease came as a terrible shock. She said: “At
just 30 years old, it was devastating to be told I had this life-changing,
“While I had faith in my doctors, I also knew there was little they could do
other than help me manage the symptoms.”
But Rebecca soon realised how things could be far worse.
She said: “I was lucky that I didn’t need any surgery to have my bowel removed
and get fitted with a colostomy bag like lots of other Crohn’s sufferers —
although I was warned this could happen in the future.”
Between courses of steroids, Rebecca was given various autoimmune medications
in a bid to stop her immune system attacking itself — but they had
She said: “Some made me feel like I was dying. Some gave me migraines, others
stomach ache, and I was once whisked to A&E because I got such bad joint
pain I couldn’t move.
“At my worst my mum would have to shower me after I’d soiled myself because
I was so weak.
“I always had to keep a spare pair of knickers on me. I couldn’t eat or drink
water without problems, or go out.
“I was desperate to find something to help me — and that’s when I read about
At her worst, Rebecca was spending a week in hospital every month. The rest of
the time she was in bed or on the loo.
But taking two teaspoons of manuka honey — bought from online supplier the
Honey Doctor — before breakfast each day helped straight away. She said: “My
bowel movements were far less regular, the pain was easing and I felt I
could cope for the first time in years.
“Whereas before I would always have to dash to the loo mid-meal, now I wasn’t
even having to go after a meal.” Her hospital consultant was also amazed.
She said: “He was over the moon for me, and told me to carry on doing
whatever was helping.
“Tests confirmed my suspicions — my digestive system was back to normal.
“Although I have the occasional flare-up, if I take an extra dose of manuka
honey in the evening the symptoms quickly subside.”
She said: “Now I can drive long distances without panicking, I can socialise
with friends, I’m not in pain and even have the occasional alcoholic drink.
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