Amy Dowden is preparing to take to the dancefloor with JJ Chalmers for season 18 of Strictly Come Dancing, but just months ago, she was hospitalised following a flare-up of Crohn's disease.
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The professional dancer was diagnosed with the disease when she was a teenager but only opened up about her battle in an exclusive interview with HELLO! last year.
Crohn's disease causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, and Amy's symptoms include severe pain and vomiting uncontrollably – which were particularly bad during the coronavirus lockdown.
WATCH: Amy speaks candidly about her health struggles
In BBC film Strictly Amy: Crohn's And Me, Amy spoke candidly about her fears that her health could impact her dancing career. She explained: "Dancing has pulled me through my Crohn's but it's a battle. I live in fear that what I love the most could be taken away. And I've been more ill this year than I have been in a long time."
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However, Amy told This Morning viewers in 2019 that there is a back-up plan should she fall ill on the Strictly set. "The production team on Strictly are incredible… straight away we are on top of it and so is my doctor."
Amy opened up about her battle with Crohn's Disease
Speaking of being forced to pull out of a live show, she continued: "That is a possibility but anybody could have a sickness bug on the day and anybody could have an injury. There is always a back-up plan. I talk about it with the production team and they are on top of it."
Amy kept her health private for her first few years on Strictly, telling HELLO! in 2019: "When I got my job on Strictly Come Dancing I didn’t want to be known as 'Amy with Crohn's'. I wanted to establish myself as 'Amy the dancer' first.
"But I've done two seasons on the show now, and I think it's important to speak out. It will be a relief that people will finally know, but I don’t want any sympathy. It doesn't define me, it's just part of me, and I want this to be a positive story."
Amy is partnered with JJ Chalmers for season 18
At the time, her frank admission may have surprised the show's judges including Bruno Tonioli and Shirley Ballas, but she had previously told best friends Oti Mabuse and Dianne Buswell, who will be bridesmaids when she gets married.
"I have confided in a few of the other professional dancers," she said. "I didn't want any sympathy, but there’s been days when I've not been myself and returned home from rehearsals and been really unwell."
The 30-year-old, who works with Crohn's and Colitis UK, continued: "People are often shocked by my day to day but for me it’s just normal."
The Strictly pro and her fiance Ben Jones were due to get married in June
As well as not letting her health impact her career, Amy is also determined it won’t affect her wedding to dancer Ben Jones, which was scheduled to take place in June 2020. "Obviously leading up to it I need to make sure that if there’s a symptom I’m on top of it," she said.
The couple, who got engaged on New Year's Eve in 2018, have been together since they were 21, and Ben is instrumental in helping Amy stave off attacks. They are said to begin with a "whole personality change" - Amy gets sleepy, her eyes start to swell and she goes pale. "When that happens, she has to stop and rest immediately," Ben explained. "If she doesn't, things get worse."
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