AGFL Talks With Crohn’s Survivor Cherylyn McMillan
Meet the mum, recipe developer and Crohn’s survivor from the blog Berries for Breakfast.
AGFL: When were you diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and was your path to diagnosis a difficult one?
Cherylyn Mcmillan (CM): I was diagnosed 17 years ago after having health problems for a long time. I always felt tired, suffered bouts of vomiting and gastric problems. Doctors kept telling me I had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS ) and that lots of people had it. Over a period of a few weeks, I became very sick. Unable to keep even water down I was taken to emergency and admitted to hospital for tests. Within a few days, I found out I had Crohn’s disease. I remember when the doctor told me what was wrong with me, he said he was sorry and I realised it must be bad.
AGFL: Does anyone else in your family suffer from Crohn’s?
CM: My son was diagnosed with Crohn’s two years ago and he’s doing well now. He was lucky that he got treatment early before he got really sick. I also have two daughters that are gluten intolerant.
AGFL: As mum to five, you’re obviously very busy. What steps have you undertaken to avoid flare-ups?
CM: Avoiding flare-ups is a big part of managing Crohn’s. You need to really look after yourself. As soon as I start to over-do things my symptoms return. I think the best thing I’ve learnt is to relax and rest. Both are very important to maintain my health. I need a lot more rest and sleep than most people. I also have a good support system; my family and friends understand that if I’m tired, I need to rest. My diet and workout routine are crucial to maintaining good health. I love going to the gym and workout according to my health and energy levels. If I’m tired, I just walk on the treadmill, when I have lots of energy I push myself a bit more. Exercise always helps me.
AGFL: Has following a gluten-free diet had an impact on your health?
CM: Going gluten-free five years ago was life changing. My health improved so much. Within two weeks of being gluten-free, I started noticing big changes in my health. Within a month, I had more energy than I’d had for years.
AGFL: Are there any other foods you avoid?
CM: I’m also lactose-free. Making this change in my diet, has also helped a lot. I eat very little refined sugar. I try to avoid foods that cause inflammation and I also eat a natural, clean diet, avoiding processed foods.
AGFL: How does Crohn’s affect you on a day-to-day basis?
CM: Crohn’s disease doesn’t affect my life as much as it used too, as I have learnt how to live well with it. Having said that, every so often, I will have a few bad days. It is an unpredictable illness to live with. I try to plan to have some rest time each day. When you’re really sick with Crohn’s you are very house bound.
AGFL: When did you start your blog, Berries for Breakfast and what was your inspiration?
CM: I started the Berries for Breakfast blog and my Instagram account at the beginning of 2015. I wanted to connect and give hope to other people suffering from health problems and to share how much my healthy gluten-free diet has helped me. I choose the name because I didn’t enjoy eating breakfast for years, as I felt so sick in the mornings. As my health improved and I started making changes in my diet, breakfast became my favourite meal and berries are my favourite fruit. I wish someone told me years ago the huge difference my diet could make to my health problems.