Strictly Come Dancing professional Amy Dowden spoke candidly about her Crohn’s disease, and how it has impacted her career in the past.
The Welsh dancer, 30, reflected on her health battle and how it has had an effect on her profession during an appearance on Tuesday’s BBC Morning Live.
When asked by co-hosts Kym Marsh and Gethin Jones how the chronic illness made her determined to pursue her career, she began: ‘Oh absolutely. So I suffered since I was 11-years-old, I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 19.
Discussion: Strictly’s Amy Dowden discussed her Crohn’s disease on Tuesday’s BBC Morning Live and how she’s determined to pursue her career in spite of it
‘But when I was 19 I was hospitalised for 6 weeks at one time and I missed out on the British Championships. And I knew what it was like to have my dancing taken away from me, and yeah I think that I wanted to prove I can do this.
‘My dancing for me was my saviour, it put me in my happy place and in the end it took me away from my worries.
‘When people told me “oh I don’t think you’re going to be able to make it” or I was turned down some fabulous opportunities for dancing because of my Crohn’s I was like “How dare they? They’re not living in my body.”
‘And I think it kind of made me more determined to do this, and no one’s gonna take away my biggest passion in life.’
Candid: Amy said: ‘When I was 19 I was hospitalised for 6 weeks at one time and I missed out on the British Championships… I knew what it was like to have my dancing taken away’
Hitting out: Saying dancing has been her ‘saviour’, she said of those who declined her jobs because of her chronic illness: ‘How dare they? They’re not living in my body’
Amy also explained how the chronic illness works, saying: ‘Crohn’s disease is inflammation to the digestive system, it can start at the mouth and it can affect the entire colon.
‘It can cause narrowing to the intestine, ulcers, inflammation,and everybody has different symptoms, and unfortunately it’s a chronic illness so at the moment there’s no cure.’
On Saturday, JJ Chalmers paid a touching tribute to Amy and praised her for ‘never letting him down’ despite her daily battle with Crohn’s disease, admitting she ‘could wake up any day and be hospitalised’ due to the condition.
JJ and Amy were voted off Strictly 2020 after missing out on a place in the semi-finals, as the judges voted to save Jamie Laing and Karen Hauer following a tense dance-off.
Passion: Amy added she’s missed out on ‘fabulous opportunities’ in the past because of how people saw the illness, but she claimed the rejection made her ‘more determined to do this’
Bottom two: Amy JJ Chalmers were voted off Strictly 2020 on Saturday, as the judges voted to save Jamie Laing and Karen Hauer following a tense dance-off
Speaking after their elimination, JJ referenced to Amy’s ongoing battle with Crohn’s, after the dancer previously admitted she ‘lives in fear’ it could end her career.
He said: ‘She’s lived through so much in her own right in fairness.
‘I know that any day she can wake up and she could be hospitalised essentially so she lives fearing she’ll let people down. But the way you’ve built me up, you could never let me down.’
An emotional Amy added: ‘Aw JJ it has been an absolute honour to be your partner and most importantly friend, throughout your Strictly experience. He is, and everybody would agree, one of the world’s most truest gentlemen.
Sweet: The presenter praised Amy for supporting him throughout their Strictly journey despite fearing she could be ‘hospitalised any day’ due to the condition
‘I honestly believe from working with JJ over the last few months I’ve become a better person and I’ve learned so much.
‘The way he faces challenges with such strength and determination, you have helped me for the rest of my life on how to face my own personal challenges. And honestly I’m so proud of every single step you’ve performed on this floor, I just had the best time.
‘I didn’t think I could possibly fall in love with Strictly any more and this year my heart is just beaming full of Strictly and that’s down to absolutely everybody and I love you all.’
In October Amy candidly discussed her ongoing battle with Crohn’s disease in the BBC film in Strictly Amy: Crohn’s And Me.
Opening up: In October Amy discussed her battle with Crohn’s disease in a BBC documentary, admitting she ‘lives in fear’ it could end her dance career
She said: ‘Strictly has been more than a dance show to me, it got me through the darkest times of my illness. For me it was a big inspiration to keep me dancing.
‘Dancing has pulled me through my Crohn’s but it’s a battle. I live in fear that what I love the most could be taken away. And I’ve been more ill this year than I have been in a long time.’
The Welsh beauty, who made it to the Strictly final last year with Karim Zeroual, went into detail about her living with the long-term condition, which causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system.
Battle: She filmed her hospitalisation with the illness this spring, which occurred at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown and came months before the new Strictly series
She filmed her hospitalisation with the illness this spring, which occurred at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown and came months before the new Strictly series.
In heartbreaking scenes, she is seen vomiting and passing out after finishing up work on the most recent Strictly tour; she was subsequently rushed to hospital.
Amy – who was first experienced symptoms at 11, eight years before she was diagnosed at the age of 19 – said that it showed the stark contrast between her glamorous TV appearances and her real life.
Plans: Her Crohn’s flair up, as well as the COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year, scuppered her plans to tie the knot with her fiancé and dance partner Ben Jones. Pictured together in 2018
She said: ‘To the public watching me with all our make-up, fake tan, glitz, glamour and spotlights, it’s a different world. I don’t think they could ever imagine this could be me the next day.
‘I knew things weren’t right but your body goes: “Right you’ve got to get through this, you don’t want to let anyone down, you can do this.” And you can just push yourself through anything.’
Amy, who joined Strictly in 2017, admitted that she celebrated once she was finally diagnosed with the disease, as it meant that she could seek the correct treatment.
For support with the disease contact Crohn’s and Colitis UK charity on 0300 222 5700 or visit www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk
What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system.
Inflammation most commonly occurs in the last section of the small or large intestine but it can affect any part of the digestive system.
Common symptoms can include:
- abdominal pain
- fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- unintended weight loss
- blood and mucus in your faeces (stools)
Remission occurs when people with the disease go long periods of time without symptoms however these periods can be followed by flare ups of symptoms.
Why it happens
The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown. However, research suggests a combination of factors may be responsible. These include:
genetics – genes you inherit from your parents may increase your risk of developing Crohn’s disease
the immune system – the inflammation may be caused by a problem with the immune system that causes it to attack healthy bacteria in the gut
previous infection – a previous infection may trigger an abnormal response from the immune system
smoking – smokers with Crohn’s disease usually have more severe symptoms than non-smokers
environmental factors – Crohn’s disease is most common in westernised countries such as the UK, and least common in poorer parts of the world such as Africa, which suggests the environment has a part to play