A BIRCHES woman, who suffers from the debilitating Crohn’s disease and has been chosen for the Face of NI competition, says she want to show other young sufferers that they can still lead fulfilling lives.
Alana Lucas (28) was diagnosed with Crohn’s, a form of inflammatory bowel disease, when she was 18, but despite the condition often leaving her feeling sick and with chronic fatigue, she doesn’t let the disease rule her life.
So when she heard of the Face of NI competition, she decided to enter, explaining that she often does a lot of things just because she has the disease.
Four years ago, Alana undertook a skydive for the National Association for Crohn’s and Colitis (NACC), raising over £2,500, and as a keen singer she is currently working to put together a Nicki Minaj hip-hop tribute act.
Although she was officially diagnosed at the age of 18, Alana had suffered from irritable bowel symptoms for a number of years, peaking when she was 14-15 years old when she became “really sick and lost a lot of weight”.
After diagnosis, she had surgery to remove half of her bowel, but complications set in, and she underwent another two lifesaving operations.
She said, “The outcome was that I ended up in intensive care in May 2003 for two months. Now, whenever I am having a bad period, I think back to how bad it was then.”
After a long period of very good health, albeit with some remission and flare-up periods, Alana’s Crohn’s took a turn for the worse last September and she is still struggling to get back on her feet properly.
She said, “Mentally I am good but physically not so good. There were times when I was in bed for days and I found that hard to deal with because I like to be out doing things. When I am feeling well I try to make the most of it. I don’t just want to be seen as a Crohn’s patient, I want to look back and be proud of what I have done.”
Alana also wants to be “an inspiration” to her nephew Lucas (6) and niece Niomi (8 months). She said, “I am the cool auntie and a hero figure to Lucas and I want Niomi to feel the same way when she is older.”
Unfortunately, Alana had to give up her job when her Crohn’s worsened and she is currently looking for a part-time job.
In the meantime, she keeps herself busy with her nephew and niece and her music interests, She is also organising a karaoke night and disco as part of her application to the Face of NI competition. It will be held in Bar 2 in July. Alana is urging local people to keep an eye out for further information on the bar’s Facebook page and proceeds will go to the competition’s charities - Rainbow Child Foundation and Headway.
Alana, who had to submit a photo before being interviewed, is excited about the competition which will be held at the Canal Court Hotel, Newry on August 23.
She said, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, It’s fun and not to be taken too seriously. I’m not expecting to win; I just want to go and meet new friends and have fun.”
During the contest, Alana will wear three outfits - something white, a party dress and an evening dress. She wishes to thank all the local business who are supplying items and services free of charge - Stanfield Bridal, Nigel O’Hara Jewellers, Angel Hair, Bar 2, Splitends Hair Salon and KJL Photography.
Alana has also paid tribute to her parents Heather and Alan Lucas, who ran Waistline Health Studio in Portadown for many years, and her sister Cheryl, all of whom have been a huge support and whom she describes as her “best friends”.
Said Alana, “I know people of my age who suffer more than I do. Depression is a terrible problem with the illness and I want to show young people that they can do things like taking part in a beauty pageant, and to inspire them to think outside their illness.
“I also think it’s important to raise awareness of Crohn’s and show people how tough an illness it is on young people.”