Today we’d like to introduce you to Heather Christiansen.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am an inspirational and hardworking mother of three, I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of others. When I’m not spending my time traveling or on the benches at my kids sports games, I am pulling inspiration from within and pouring it into Heather’s Mission.
After being diagnosed right before turning 40 with an aggressive, environmental case of Ulcerative Colitis in 2011, I decided to dedicate my time to helping others who have struggled with the disease, as I know firsthand just how devastating this disease is and the effects it has on those that suffer from it. My diagnosis came almost immediately after a trip to the Mayo Clinic where I presented severe symptoms like diarrhea, blood in the stool, severe pain, and a loss of control of bowel movements that made it hard for me to ever leave the house in 3 years. I changed my diet and lifestyle, trying to do anything that I could to get a grasp on what my life had become: countless hours of self-research and time spent in doctor’s offices, hoping for the solution.
In 2014, after trial and error of so many different treatments and biological drugs that never offered the relief I needed, my condition started to drastically deteriorate with my weight dropping from 160lbs to my lowest of 109 lbs, and I was checked in to the Mayo Clinic for an entire month. When my colon had completely stopped working and my last colonoscopy came back with pre-cancerous cells, my colorectal surgeon Dr David Etzioni gave me no choice but the “JPouch” surgery. The “JPouch” is a 3 step, nine months procedure that removed the entirety of my colon where I lived with a temporary ostomy as they re-routed the intestines to a pouch, and although the process is not easy, it can relieve symptoms and is a great option for many that are suffering with ulcerative colitis.
My story is not a rare happening, my experiences are a very real reality for many people suffering with ulcerative colitis, and it can be exhausting when you feel as though you are going through it all alone. I had always wished that I had someone that could relate to with my struggles and truly understand the mental and physical pain that ulcerative colitis has on its victims. This inspired Heathers Mission, an Arizona-based non-profit organization committed to supporting the patients and families that are battling Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. Our main goal is to support, raise money and help find a cure for this chronic illness that affects the lives of millions every single year. My dear friend and Co founder Gianna Negretti and I, with love, support and passion we have built up Heather’s Mission to what it is today.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Never smooth from the day I was diagnosed. Three years of isolation and barely able to leave the house unless I spent days of not eating. Endless doctor’s appointments doing everything I could to get healthy so I could enjoy my children. Every drug I was given I failed within months never getting myself into remission. After the last biologic called Remicade failed my colon failed as well. One month living in the hospital not getting further than my bathroom was not only hard for me but my children to have to watch me battle every single day.
Please tell us about Heather’s Mission.
Heather’s Mission is a nonprofit organization that Gianna Negretti and I started. She is the wife of a Crohns patient Jonathan Negretti who were connected while going through our surgeries a few months apart. We decided we needed to help support local patients not only be there for them to understand but give them guidance and reassurance that they are going to be okay and they are not alone battling with this ugly disease.
We take pride in visiting patients that go through surgery. Holding their hand letting them ask questions being there for them through this entire process. We recently joined forces with Dawnette Meredith and Awesome Ollie, who is a bear that has a little button for a stoma and little bag that covers it. We take that with a book to kids, and patients who have kids and need a little help making people understand this difficult time in their life.
Jonathan Negretti is running the World Marathon Challenge right now. 7 Marathons in 7 Days in 7 Continents with Awesome Ollie by his side in efforts to raising bears to give back and donate. Our goal is 1,000 we are currently at 384 bears.
- To generously donate Awesome Ollie to a patient its $50.00
- Address: 2036 N Gilbert Rd
Mesa, AZ 85203
- Website: heathersmission.org
- Phone: 480-245-8036
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: heathers_mission
- Facebook: Heather’s Mission
Gianna Negretti, Jonathan Negretti, Makena Christiansen, Sam Christiansen, Kennedy Christiansen, Elise Burris, Andrew Lauchner