Let me just start by saying that if I can do it, you can do it too.
My name is Natalie Suppes, and I’m the CEO of S&S Creative Media, a social media agency focused on helping women business owners elevate their online brand presence. I’m also a Crohn’s disease warrior who started my business in the middle of a severe flare.
In less than a year, I went from working a corporate job that didn’t leave me with much room to develop to owning a successful business with five employees and quickly growing.
I got pregnant in December 2019, right before the world shut down. I was in remission at that time and stayed in remission throughout my pregnancy.
I also paused any side business ventures I was working on and focused solely on my corporate sales job. Although my dream had always been to start my own business, I wasn’t sure what direction to go in, and my pregnancy plus a global pandemic and a 9-to-5 job were all more than enough for me to deal with.
Once my beautiful baby girl was born, I experienced postpartum anxiety. Because of this, I had a lot of trouble sleeping and was constantly worried. And I noticed that my Crohn’s symptoms slowly started to come back.
If you’re a mom, you know how busy those early days with your newborn can be. Add in the pretty extreme postpartum anxiety, no sleep, and the start of a flare, and I was struggling.
The first 6 months of my daughter’s life felt like a blur: I was in survival mode and can remember many moments of my newborn in her little baby chair right in front of me in the bathroom.
Because I live in Canada, we are lucky to have 12 to 18 months of maternity leave. Once the fog started to lift, I had more time while at home with my daughter to think about my dream of starting my own business.
I documented and shared my journey on social media — pretty much the whole “mommy influencer” thing. This was fun, but I knew there was so much more to my dream of owning a business, and it quickly became something I constantly thought about.
Because of my success on social media and my background in business, a few friends reached out to ask if I could help them with their business social media accounts. I was excited to do this for them while also having something to keep me busy while I was at home with my daughter.
As soon as I took over their accounts, their businesses had amazing growth. I knew right away that this was something I was passionate about and wanted to continue.
Although I wasn’t making any money at the time, I took the leap and signed up for a social media manager course. It was $1,000, and it felt like such a stretch for me to invest in because I didn’t know if I would be able to earn my money back. I took time to talk it through with my husband, and we both decided it was the perfect time for me to pursue this new venture.
This was a 6-week course, and within 4 weeks I found my first few clients. I was elated about this new opportunity and was working any spare moment I had to make this dream a reality.
During this period, I noticed an increase in my Crohn’s symptoms. My Crohn’s was no longer in remission, and if I’m being honest, I tried at first to ignore it. Eventually, I booked an appointment to see my GI specialist, and he scheduled a colonoscopy.
Unfortunately, he found inflammation in various parts of my colon and large intestine. There was a section that was extremely inflamed, and he was worried that it was cancer. Thankfully, the results came back negative for cancer.
But we still needed to find a treatment that would help me not only with the new symptoms I was experiencing but also with all the inflammation within my body.
The possibility of surgery was on the table. In the past, I haven’t had any luck with biologic medications. After extreme weight gain, among many other side effects, I was reluctant to try another biologic medication.
Simultaneously, my business was growing and I was signing clients. Once my maternity leave was up, I was able to go full-time in my business instead of returning to my corporate job. But my Crohn’s was getting worse than it had been in many years.
On the one hand, I was so excited, and on the other, I was terrified.
I felt like I was living a double life. In one life, I was building my business, becoming the boss CEO of my dreams, hiring employees to work with me, and signing big clients. But in the other life, I was curled up in pain on the toilet 10 or more times a day, throwing up, and experiencing extreme fatigue.
I decided to try Entyvio (vedolizumab). Now that I’ve taken my first four doses, it looks like the side effect of extreme weight gain that I experienced from other medications is returning. If this medication doesn’t work, my only other options are surgery or trial medications. Both are options I don’t want to consider but will have to soon.
I’m still flaring, experiencing symptoms such as urgency, pain, fatigue, and more. I’m also rapidly growing my business, something that brings me so much joy.
This is part of my story, a part that I hope shows you that a Crohn’s disease flare doesn’t mean you need to put your dreams on hold. You can do anything you put your mind to, no matter what.
Natalie Suppes has been a Crohn’s disease warrior since 2007. She is also a mother, a wife, a daughter, and the CEO of a successful digital and social media marketing company. She shares all about her pursuit of success while having a chronic illness on her podcast, “For the Success.”