Dancing for the Met Opera Ballet with IBS

Once upon a time, there was a bright-eyed little girl named Elizabeth, and all she wanted to do was move to New York City and dance on the biggest stages around. She knew that when she was older, she would live out this dream and have the time of her life dancing in gorgeous costumes and famous shows.

Well, Elizabeth sure did live up to her dreams and made them a reality, however, there was one little detail she didn’t know would be added: IBS and Crohn’s Disease.

Yup, I am Elizabeth, that bright-eyed little girl and I was diagnosed with severe IBS and Crohn’s Disease just before I moved to NYC to dance professionally, after spending 21 years of rehearsing and studying the art of dance.

Living beyond IBS and Crohn's disease

Despite this diagnosis, I managed to make the big move to the Big Apple, and begin performing with a Contemporary Dance Company. Shortly after, I attended an open-call audition for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet for the Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center. Amongst about 500 women, I was chosen to cover a role in the opera Eugen Onegin, starring Ana Netrebko. From there, everything changed.

Like with anything in life, the rest was a snowball effect. I eventually went on to dance in 7 operas the following season and was living my dream of dancing in one of the most prestigious theatres in the United States.

IBS caught up with me

However, IBS decided to rear its ugly head severely towards the end of my career. In my 4th season, my health began to decline due to the severity of Crohn’s Disease, and in turn, IBS was running wild. Imagine, wearing tight costumes, bodysuits, tights, thin dresses, and dying inside thinking: oh, gosh, what if I have to use the restroom on stage!

Well, one night, I was performing a role in the opera: Le Nozze Di Figaro. When I had arrived at the theatre that day, I was dealing with major urgency. I remember getting ready in the dressing room, applying my stage-make up, twisting my hair, and dressing in my costume, all while taking breaks to run to and from the washroom. It was horrible and I was feeling so run down.

But when you are dancing at this caliber, there is no choice but to go out there and dance. The show must go on.  Well, I made it halfway through the show. And then it happened. It was during a scene after intermission, as I was waiting in the wings, that the urgency hit. Yes, it hit me and hit me hard. There I was about to go on stage and thinking to myself, I literally may not be able to make my entrance — I was clenching and dying from intense abdominal cramping.

By the grace of God, I made my entrance, and thankfully that scene was short and had minimal physicality. The moment my exit came, I bolted to the restroom backstage. That was it for me. Game over.

I was vomiting and experiencing major diarrhea in the restroom in my dressing room.

My IBS and Crohn's changed my career

My cast was so concerned for me and that made me feel so much better, to be honest. Our dance director immediately put in the under-study for my role mid-show, and I was urged to get in a cab and go home to rest. I was pale, very weak, and drained from all the stress.

Sadly, that was the last time I performed on stage. I ended up seeing my doctor the following day and scheduled a colonoscopy. Long story short my Crohn’s and IBS were beyond severe and I was advised to stop dancing and get focused on my health.

But there is a happy ending to this story. Today, I am much healthier, I have symptoms under control and I am beginning to thrive again. I have been teaching dance in the meantime and I expect to perform in the future sometime again.

So never lose hope in your dreams. There may be many ups and downs and pit stops with this diagnosis, but you can still achieve the dreams that were placed in your heart. Never give up! Never stop dreaming.

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