Last night, JJ Chalmers and Amy Dowden were the latest couple to leave Strictly Come Dancing in the quarter finals of the competition. In one of the most emotional exits yet, JJ paid tribute to his partners character in building his confidence and talent on the show despite Amy Dowden’s battle with medical condition Crohn’s disease.
‘She's lived through so much in her own right in fairness and I know that any day she can wake up and she could be hospitalised essentially so she lives fearing she'll let people down,’ JJ told host Tess Daley during their exit interview. ‘But the way you've built me up, you could never let me down.’
Tearing up, Amy commended JJ right back as viewers gushed over the heart-warming moment. But it seems many also had no idea that Amy was battling a medical condition, running to Google ‘What’s wrong with Amy Dowden?’ as the show aired. In fact, her name was trending on Google this morning with seven of the top 10 searches around her focusing on ‘What illness does Amy Dowden have’.
What is Amy Dowden’s medical condition?
In fact, Amy has been open about her battle with Chron’s disease for years and is an ambassador for Crohn’s and Colitis UK. Filming a BBC documentary, ‘Strictly Amy: Crohn’s and Me that aired in October, she spoke about how her enduring fight with the inflammatory bowel disease is seemingly invisible to the public when she’s on television.
‘To the public watching me with glitz and glamour, this could still be me the next day,’ she said in the documentary while hospitalised with the illness. Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of the digestive tract and can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. There is no known cure for Crohn’s disease as of yet, but treatments can control or reduce symptoms and help prevent them returning.
Amy's battle with Crohn's started when she was just 11 years old, telling This Morning she spent years in and out of hospital throughout her school years and wasn't diagnosed until she was 19 after being hospitalised for six weeks.
'It took until I was 21, 22 [to manage the condition] because it's all trial and error with medicines these days, touch wood I have the most incredible doctor and I am in remission but I have the bad days,' she told the ITV show. 'Now, the slight symptom I'm onto it and the production team at Strictly are incredible, I ring them up and they're onto it straight away.'
For those familiar with the disease, watching Amy shine light on it has been integral to raising awareness of invisible or hidden illnesses. ‘Watching Amy on #StrictlyComeDancing is such an insight for the public into invisible disability,’ one viewer tweeted. ‘Smiling, dancing, fit, you’d never guess she had Crohn's. What a role model she is for young disabled girls watching.’
'Having an invisible illness, you constantly feel you have to prove your actions or inactions to people,' says Nadia, 25 who has Crohn's disease. 'People think you're lying or exaggerating, and it's incredibly hard to articulate exactly what you're feeling when it's not remotely tangible and the people around you can't possibly understand. Sometimes I wish mine was visible just so it was easier for even my mum or boyfriend to get it.
For someone with an invisible illness, the majority of the time they are in pain in some way.
'There's no way for me to show people I'm not "making it up" or being "lazy", which is annoying to have to do in itself because often people with invisible illnesses tend to understate what they're going through,' Nadia continued. 'For someone with an invisible illness, unless they're in remission or not experiencing symptoms, the majority of the time they are in pain in some way. And they'll never tell you because our default is to say we're "Okay". The fatigue is bad enough with Crohn's in particular without the exhaustion of having to explain yourself, which you have to do every time you meet a new person or start a new job.'
'Anything that can raise awareness - like Amy is doing - is great because it helps people question themselves before they judge you,' Nadia concluded. 'If we can get the majority of people to think "Why am I judging this person" before they act or speak, life would be a lot better for people with invisible illnesses.'
Here's hoping we get to see Amy on our screens more and more, her bravery despite everything she's dealing with is enough to prove we can all get through anything this year.
If you're struggling with or want to know more about Crohn's disease, visit Crohn's and Colitis UK here__.