Colts Cheerleader Manages Busy Life And Chronic Disease

Lori has a busy life as a Colts cheerleader, a nurse, a student studying to be a nurse practitioner, and all the while, she’s battling a chronic disease.

She started having symptoms when she was a teenager.

“I just had really bad pain, it was sharp intermittent pain. The doctors just said, ‘Oh, you’re fine. It’s just stomach aches, stress, no big deal.’ And then, I got to a point where it was totally debilitating, I couldn’t stand up straight – it was just so much pain.”

Her parents took her to the hospital where she was eventually diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

“Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease that affects your intestines,” she says. “It causes inflammation in your intestines so you can’t absorb the nutrients that you need, it creates pain, it’s hard to digest food in general.”

It all came at a really hard time for her – and at 14, a really hard age.

“I was just confused,” she says. “I was diagnosed in November that year and by December, I was put on steroids to try to fix the inflammation. So, I was on steroids for about six months. It made my face blow up like a balloon. I looked like a completely different person.”

Which only made what she was going through that much harder.

“I think that was more depressing and hard to deal with than just having Crohn’s in general. It was middle school, so everybody just stares at you. But nobody asked what was wrong, they just stared and pointed and laughed. Even in public, we’d go out to dinner and people would just stare because my face was huge.”

To make matters worse, the steroids didn’t work.

“I ended up having surgery that July. They took a little over a foot, part of my small and my large intestine because I had a stricture, which was blocking things even more. So, they removed that part and that helped tremendously. It took a while to heal from that. But, I’ve never had that pain that I had prior to the surgery again. That was life changing.”

Today, it’s a chronic condition she manages with treatment.

“I get Remicade infusions every eight weeks. I’ve been doing that for 10 years. It’s really similar to chemo, I just sit in a chair and it infuses for about four hours. And it keeps inflammation in my intestines down.”

It was her own journey – and those she met along the way – that inspired Lori to become a pediatric nurse herself.

“When I was a patient, we had double rooms. So, you didn’t have a private room. And all of my roommates were younger than me,” she says. “There was a little four-year-old. It was over the Fourth of July, she was sitting in a chair and her dad was lighting a rocket and it tipped over and it landed in her lap. And that was why she was there – she was so brave. I just remember in the middle of the night she couldn’t sleep and she called the nurse in there just to talk. She said she didn’t want to wake up her mom because her mom needed rest.”

From patient to caregiver, Lori now works with young patients at Riley Hospital for Children.

“When I was in the hospital, I was at Riley. That’s when I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I made a promise to myself to be the nurse that my nurses were for me at Riley – and so, I did.”

Lori’s battle became her journey, her platform, and her life’s work.

Now, she’s the one who’s inspiring others every day of her life.