June 10, 2010
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Chronic Crohn's Disease Leads Woman to Make Life Changes
Special to the Reformer
BRATTLEBORO - When someone is diagnosed with a chronic disease, it
can literally turn their life upside-down. There's often pain, side
effects from medication and many times people feel overwhelmed and
But, time goes on and many of them learn new ways to manage the
disease, and oftentimes begin to feel better. With this new-found
knowledge, many people also feel compelled to help others who are in
a similar situation.
That's the case with Brattleboro resident Dede Cummings. When she was
first diagnosed with Crohn's disease, a chronic and often
debilitating digestive disease, in 2001, she remembers all the
hospital and doctor appointments and how she felt so devastated.
"It was really scary," Cummings said. "You don't ever get cured from
(Crohn's). I felt like I had a sentence of doom."
Cummings spent several years going to doctors, specialists and
naturopaths and kept the disease at bay. Then, in 2006, her Crohn's
disease flared up again and she needed surgery to remove part of her
small intestine and some of the large colon.
"When I got so sick I had to go to the hospital … that's when I
realized it's not fun and games," Cummings said. "I wasn't taking
care of myself."
During her continual bout with Crohn's, Cummings worked closely with
her naturopathic practitioner to create a regimented "wellness"
schedule to help her live with the disease.
They looked at Cummings' entire health history - from allergies to
vitamins, exercise, stress levels and more - to see where healthy
improvements could be made.
"I didn't want to do another surgery or take drugs," Cummings said.
"I was ready to start other therapies."
Fast forward to today, and Cummings is living a healthy, active
lifestyle, and her Crohn's is still in remission. Cummings said the
"wellness" plan worked so well that she needed to share it with
others who may be suffering from Crohn's or colitis.
Her new book, which does just that, will be released at the end of
June and is called "Living with Crohn's & Colitis: A Comprehensive
Naturopathic Guide for Complete Digestive Wellness." While Cummings
provides the patient-perspective in the book, co-author and
naturopath Jessica Black provides the scientific analysis.
Cummings says the book takes a whole body health approach and
provides some good information for those suffering from a digestive
disease. Some tips in the book include keeping a food journal,
relieving stress, using support groups, exercising, breathing,
supplements and even laughing. There's also 25 recipes designed for
those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
"I read everything I could, but none of the books combined western
and naturopathic medicines," Cummings said. "I tried to write a book
that would encompass overall health."
While there is no cure for Crohn's, Cummings says that following a
comprehensive wellness plan can greatly relieve symptoms and overall
well being. She says information in the book comes from both western
doctors and naturopaths, and both have endorsed the book so far.
Cummings' book comes out nationwide and in local book stores on June
29. She will be giving a preview reading and book signing at
Everyone's Books in Brattleboro on Friday, June 25, at 6 p.m.
Along with the book release, Cummings is participating in a
half-marathon - 13.1 mile - fundraiser June 27 in Boston.
The race is through the Crohn's & Colitis Team Challenge, which
raises money for research into the disease.
More than 1.5 million Americans suffer from IBD, a category of
illness that includes Crohn's. Cummings says doctors don't really
know what causes the disease or how to prevent it, which is why it's
so important for more research to be done.
Getting daily exercise was one of Cummings' wellness goals, so it was
easy for her to get involved with the half-marathon.
She's been training by riding her bike to work each day and by going
on 11-mile runs.
"You really should exercise every day," Cummings said. "I'm in better
shape now than I was in my 20s."
The best part of the Team Challenge, she says, is the great people
involved with it, and to help make a difference in the Crohn's
Having a brush with a sometimes fatal disease, Cummings was inspired
by her doctor to finish a lifelong dream, hiking the Long Trail in
Vermont. Since 2006, she has been hiking stretches of the trail one
week at a time. She's completed 56 miles so far, and has about 217
more to go.
Doing this hike is special to Cummings because it was a dream she had
put off because of the Crohn's disease. With her wellness plan to
guide her, Cummings plans to be around long enough to finish the Long
Trail, and hopefully a lot longer.
"If one person gets the book and it helps that one person, that's
great," Cummings said.
"But it really starts with you."
For more information about the book, visit
For more information about
the Team Challenge, visit
Eric Pero is a freelance writer in Brattleboro and can be reached at
Dede Cummings, author of "Living with Crohn's & Colitis," stands with
her bike in Brattleboro. Dede is currently training to run in the
Team Challenge 13.1 marathon for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation
Brattleboro (VT) Reformer