I was going through old articles and pictures from when I was a dancer, gymnast, and diver. I found this article which I had completely forgotten about and thought it’d be something really good to share. Never let this disease take you down or hold you back!
I copied and pasted the article so it was easier for you guys to read rather than clicking on another link. It is from masslive.com. This article was written by a local reporter, Russ Held, and picture is by Dave Rowback of Westfield, MA.
Michelle Strattner, Westfield High school diver, to other Crohn’s Disease Sufferers: Don’t Give up
Westfield High School diver Michelle Strattner wants others with Crohn’s disease to learn how to cope with affliction as she has.
The last thing Michelle Strattner of Westfield wants to make is a splash.
Not as a second-year diver on the city’s high school swim team.
And not as a 17-year-old high school senior – battling a chronic disease – who just wants to feel normal.
Strattner is one of the leading contenders entering Thursday night’s Western Massachusetts High School Diving Championships at Springfield College. The boys and girls competition begins at 7 p.m. at Art Linkletter Natatorium at Springfield College.
Making a splash while diving off the one-meter board could spoil her hopes of improving on last year’s sixth- place finish at the championships.
The bigger splash, or impact, she may ultimately make will come from being a role model to others.
Strattner suffers from Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease. Excruciating abdominal pain and chronic fatigue are among many symptoms.
“I just want to be normal, to feel normal,” Strattner said. “The fatigue is so bad some days, I can’t even get off the couch. I’m 17 but I do feel like 87 some days. I really have to push myself just to do what everyone else can do.”
Few people – only some friends, family and teammates – know her battle. But Strattner has reached a point where she is comfortable sharing her story, hopeful to help others.
“I’d hope that others who have it, don’t give up,” Strattner said. “It’s really, really hard, but they can be normal. I just want to be normal.”
Strattner was diagnosed with Crohn’s as a seventh grader.
“I’ve had problems all my life. It was really bad in elementary school,” she said. “It was a relief to know what it was, but it was very scary too. It’s not really a disease people know about or understand.”
The condition can be hereditary, and Strattner said she recalls that her late maternal grandfather underwent four surgeries.
“That was the scariest part, knowing he had the surgeries and that it might be that way for me,” Strattner said.
Strattner battles Crohn’s, with no known cure, primarily with medication and rest, “and just trying to take care of myself.”
“I have to be smart about what I do,” Strattner said, “But it’s frustrating, to always have to deal with it. I have to give myself shots, and it is extremely painful.”
A late weekend night or overexertion can take it toll on her energy level for days at a time.
“I am usually run down for the next week,” Strattner said. “A lot of people ask and wonder why I have to miss so much school or why I have to sleep as much as I do.
“I have some really rough mornings. It’s a process every day. It doesn’t really get better. At points I have given up for a while.”
But through it all, Strattner has remained upbeat, knowing that “a lot of people have worse things to worry about.”
Westfield swimming coach Tom Lewis describes Strattner as humble, an inspiration and leader by example.
“The other kids see her as a role model,” Lewis said. “And if you told her that, she’d probably feel embarassed.
“She’s a young lady with great character. It’s rough enough being a high school athlete, let alone the challenges she faces. She always has this phenomenal smile on her face.”
On the diving board, Strattner said her senior season immediately exceeded her expectations.
“I thought I’d be rusty, I hadn’t done it since last season,” she said. “I thought I’d come in so-so and work my way back to where I was. But right away I did very well.”
Strattner holds the second- highest diving average (188.03) in the Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Conference, behind only Lauren Weiner (193.0) of Agawam.
She broke a 15-year-old school scoring record at a single meet. That score of 226.95 ranks as the highest, by 5.55 points in the region this winter.
She started diving on a whim, less than 18 months ago, when a friend asked her to try out.
Strattner had been a top competitor on the high school’s gymnastics team, helping the Bombers win two Western Mass. team titles through her junior season.
“The same ability you need in gymnastics translates to diving … the technique, a lot of it came naturally to me,” she said.
She was named to The Republican’s All-Scholastic second team in gymnastics as a sophomore and junior.
“It was pretty hard on my body and I was a little burnt out on it … so I did not compete as a senior,” said Strattner, who trained and competed in dance for eight years.
Strattner said that if she is well-rested Thursday night, her physical condition and mental focus for a few hours Thursday night should not be affected by Crohn’s.
She’ll just be a normal teenager trying not to make a splash.