Strictly dancer opens up about living with Crohn’s

Earlier this month, the BBC announced that McFly’s Tom Fletcher was the first confirmed celebrity contestant in this year’s Strictly Come Dancing.

By Claire Cartmill
Thursday, 26th August 2021, 5:00 pm

The news took some viewers by surprise, but not because Tom seemed an unlikely candidate for the ballroom competition – after all, his bandmate Harry Judd lifted the glitterball trophy back in 2011. Instead, it came as a shock because many of us hadn’t realised that Strictly season was already upon us.

But while fans keep an eye out for the latest updates and wonder which of the class of 2021 will turn out to be surprisingly nifty movers, and who will be the first to be voted off, perhaps we should spare a though for the celebrities’ professional partners.

They’re the dedicated dancers who will have to teach the assorted famous faces the finer points of the samba bounce and paso shaping. And as this documentary reminds us, they might be dealing with their own challenges in the training room.

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Strictly Amy: Crohn’s and Me finds professional dancer Amy Dowden opening up about her experiences of living with a chronic bowel condition.

The Welsh dancer first began experiencing problems at school, but it wasn’t until she was 19 that she was diagnosed with Crohn’s.

Speaking to Disability Horizons about getting her diagnosis, Amy said: “It felt like such a relief because we finally knew what was wrong. I don’t know of anyone who ever celebrates actually being told they’ve got a chronic illness, but we did because we finally had answers.”

However, just because Amy now knew what she was dealing with, it didn’t mean her problems were over. Crohn’s disease involves parts of the digestive system becoming inflamed, resulting in stomach aches and cramps, and other symptoms can include vomiting, exhaustion and diarrhoea.

Some people with the disease find it difficult to talk about, and Amy initially tried to keep her illness out of the spotlight for fear it would overshadow her professional success. The dancer certainly had plenty of achievements to celebrate. Alongside partner Ben Jones she became British National Latin Dance Champion 2017, and she joined Strictly that same year. Her first partner Brian Conley finished 12th, but two years later she would make the final with Karim Zeroual.

Now though, Amy is ready to talk about the brutal realities of living with Crohn’s as this documentary follows her over the course of one of the busiest periods in her professional and personal life. In the space of a few months, she’s due to take part in the UK Strictly Tour, appear in her debut solo dance show and get married.

However, the authored documentary also sees her being hospitalised by her illness at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. As well as talking about the impact the disease has had on her life and dancing career, Amy will also be meeting with other people who have the same incurable condition to hear about their experiences.