Katrina Chambers tells her story
Motherhood is a tough job. Doing a reality-TV program for two intensive months is a tough job. Managing a chronic illness is a tough job.
Fortunately, Katrina Chambers, who at one point had all three on her plate, is tough, too.
At 34 years old, Katrina is certainly living a full life. She’s mother to three young boys, aged 13, 10, and 9. She’s a reality-TV celebrity. And she has Crohn’s disease.
‘I started showing symptoms when I was 18 and at uni,’ Katrina says. ‘At the time, I was living away from home and having a great time, studying and drinking and going out. Then I started feeling unwell. Originally I thought it was just a lifestyle thing and I’ve just got to rest myself. But then I started bleeding from the bowel and I realised that this was serious.’
She told her mum what was happening, then went back home to Albury in New South Wales to get it all sorted. ‘We saw a specialist and I had a colonoscopy and we learned I have Crohn’s disease. I was 19. I didn’t know anyone else with Crohn’s and I myself knew nothing about it. It took me a long time to comprehend what was happening. At the doctor’s office, we were given some printed information, then I went home and researched it some more.
‘When you’re young,’ she continues, ‘it’s really hard to be comfortable with yourself as a person. And then you get dealt with a disease that you don’t know anything about and you don’t understand why it’s happening.’
Raising a Family
Katrina kept her condition from everyone except her family, and back at uni, things settled down a little bit with medication. ‘I didn’t miss any uni,’ she says. ‘I didn’t fail anything and I still got on with it. I got through all that and graduated, then moved to Wagga for a job and I’ve been here ever since.’
Things stayed manageable and life went back to normal, although she did have a flare-up soon after she married her husband, Andrew. But then she got pregnant with their first son not long afterwards, and she found herself completely symptom-free.
‘During each of my three pregnancies and when I was breastfeeding, I was better than I had ever been.’
Katrina’s sons are now 13,10, and 9—three healthy, robust boys who are aware that sometimes mum has bad days and needs to rest.
‘They know that I have some problems with my bowel and that that’s just how I am. They also know that when I need to go to the toilet, I need to go to the toilet. They understand and I sometimes hear them tell each other, ‘Don’t go annoying Mum—she’s on the toilet!’
‘Andrew is so supportive as well. He’s just awesome. I don’t keep any secrets from him, and he knows that on some days I just have to take it easy, especially if I’m still in my pyjamas late in the afternoon.’
Katrina from The Block
Katrina was a contestant on Channel 9’s The Block, a show where contestants renovate a home and get it ready for auction. She and her sister Amie Godde worked together as a team and toiled practically nonstop for nine weeks to renovate a house, all under the scrutinising glare of the reality-TV cameras.
‘Doing the show and getting the house sold was a buzz,’ Katrina says, ‘but all that stress, coupled with not eating properly during the weeks of filming, took their toll on my health.’
She had a flare-up and dropped 10kg during filming. She lost a further 4kg since completing the show.
These days, Katrina is living a much quieter life back home in Wagga Wagga NSW, and she takes it easy whenever she can, taking everything in moderation and paying attention to what her body tells her she needs to do.
‘A couple of Easters ago,’ she relates, ‘I got myself in a bit of a situation when I ignored feeling unwell. I ended up dehydrated and had to stay in the hospital for four days.’
Fortunately for Katrina, not many foods bother her. She tends to avoid bread because of the yeast, and she doesn’t take alcohol as it makes her sick. But as long as she doesn’t overindulge in rich foods, she usually has no problems.
‘I pick my battles,’ she says. ‘If I know I’m not going anywhere for the next few days, then I’ll usually eat whatever I want. Not even Christmas is a problem. The Christmas stress doesn’t get to me. I’ve got three boys! It doesn’t get much more stressful than that.’