meet the staff of companion
We are all warriors. We also all love to write, chat, and most importantly, advocate. If you have a question for one of the Companion Editors, please send them a shout out on social media!
All of their Instagram, Twitter, and blog handles are listed below.
Brooke was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in April of 2012. After many months of misdiagnosis she was diagnosed with pancolitis in October 2012. Brooke completed the 3 step surgery process in February of 2014 and is now living a healthy life with a j-pouch.
Brooke graduated with honors from Otterbein University in June 2011 with a degree in public relations. She currently maintains her own blog about her life with IBD called, “Fierce and Flared,” at fiercelyflared.wordpress.com.
Brooke came up with the idea of Companion Magazine when she found it inspiring and helpful to read about others journey’s with IBD. It helped her relate and cope with her diagnosis and she knew that she wanted to help people in a fun, creative way.
Rasheed Clarke was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2008, and had his colon removed in 2013. In between, he graduated from the University of Toronto and authored a book of short stories about living with inflammatory bowel disease, titled, Three Tablets Twice Daily.
Now the proud owner of a J-pouch (a.k.a. pelvic pouch), he works as a communications coordinator and freelance writer, and volunteers with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. Rasheed enjoys running, soccer, design, and starting conversations about IBD with those who have never heard of it.
Emma was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2007, when she was thirteen years old. What began as a mild case soon turned severe in 2009, and Emma spent the next three years in and out of the hospital. In 2011 – three days before her 17th birthday – she was given an ileostomy.
Emma is a journalist-turned-law student and thinks it’s safe to call herself an illness advocate as well. She wants to take her negative experience and use it to help other young adults living with IBD. After balancing a recurrence of her disease and a long recovery from surgery with a demanding college schedule, Emma thinks she knows a bit about life in the Crohn’s lane.
Through her work with Companion Magazine and her blog, My Beautiful Messy Life, Emma aims to give honest and sassy advice on how to deal with a not-so-glamorous disease.
In late 2014 Brandon was unexpectedly diagnosed with a painful perianal abscess at Providence Southfield. This manifested into a complex perianal fistula which is extremely difficult to treat. After six surgeries in eight months, Brandon resorted to an ileostomy to stop the damage. After many complications and an ileostomy revision, Brandon began seeing the head of GI at U of M in Ann Arbor where he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. After almost one year of trial and error and countless trips to the Mayo Clinic, nothing seemed to be helping. Brandon started researching clinical trials around the world and zeroed in on a stem cell procedure in Spain. After two trips overseas, Brandon's wounds healed within several weeks. Brandon was able to have his ostomy reversed and began a new normal. Brandon's mission is to help those who are struggling in their own health battle; to give them hope and confidence to keep fighting.
Kristin was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2007 and after fighting a long battle in and out of remission, she bravely decided to have her colon removed in October of 2013. Kristin completed her 3 step surgery series at the Cleveland Clinic in August of 2014.
Kristin graduated from the University of South Alabama with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in visual arts. She is a very talented artist and designer and has found that art is an excellent outlet for her.
Kristin designs all of the visuals and graphics for Companion Magazine and currently maintains her own blog at ucmewithhope.tumblr.com. Kristin also has a passion for helping others with IBD and hopes to continue to inspire readers with her motivational story and art!
Gaylyn was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in November of 1998. In 2008 she received a temporary ileostomy and in 2011 it was made permanent. For over a decade it has been a never ending roller coaster of feelings and emotions, learning to cope with and accept living with a chronic illness.
Despite life’s struggles, Gaylyn graduated from Benedict College Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and from the University of South Carolina Magna Cum Laude with a Masters of Public Health.
Gaylyn will serve as the Ostomy and Fashion Advisor for Companion IBD. Gaylyn has her own blog at GutlessandGlamorous.org. Gaylyn aims to make a difference and improve the lives of others dealing with not only IBD but others living with an ostomy. Her aim is to encourage young women and men to embrace their ostomy through her blog and now with Companion IBD.
Kristen was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis in March 2016. With her severe ulcerative colitis and C. Diff. combined, Kristen quickly fell into critical condition.
Kristen opted for the three-step surgery series to create a j-pouch, but after her reversal, she began experiencing life-threatening complications. Kristen had her j-pouch removed and a permanent ileostomy formed in September 2017. Kristen's diagnosis was changed from ulcerative colitis to Crohn's Colitis (Granulomatous Colitis).
Kristen is pursuing her Masters of Science degree in Integrated Marketing Communications online at West Virginia University and graduates in spring 2018. Kristen authors a weekly column for Companion called, "Kristen's Chronicles", where she will cover positivity, motivation, coping with stress, and self-love with a chronic illness.
Jessica Frano is a personal trainer, NPC competitor and overall fitness enthusiast. She is also a survivor, as she has overcome multiple GI issues and lived with a temporary ostomy.
In February of 2008, Jessica woke to the most intense abdominal pain she had ever imagined. She had no idea what was wrong, but as she started throwing up bile, she knew she had to call 911 and get to an emergency room.
Jessica ended up having emergency surgery to repair a twisted colon. She had parts of my small intestine, large intestine and appendix removed. A couple months later, she was rushed back to the ER, with blood clots in her portal vein, most likely as a complication from her first surgery.
In late 2009, Jessica was rushed to the ER yet again to find that she had necrotic small intestine and almost lost her life. She awoke from that surgery with a temporary ileostomy. In March of 2010, Jessica had her reversal surgery and now lives a fairly normal, and very active life.
Jessica was welcomed onto the Companion team to help grow awareness of rare bowel conditions and to start our new fitness section.
Raina is a former NPC competitor and has struggled with eating disorders all of her life until becoming a fitness & health coach focusing on lifestyle improvement in 2013. She has two daughters, 9 & 11 years old.
Raina was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis in March 2016 after gaining an unexplained amount of weight along with many other symptoms. She went into remission after changing her diet and reducing stress in her life.
Stress popped back up with a vengeance as she went through a divorce in October 2016 causing her UC to flare severely.
After 2 hospitalizations, many medications including biologics failing, extreme weight loss, malnutrition, and just being exhausted, she was expedited for surgery in May 2017 to have a total colectomy. Raina had her entire colon/large intestine removed and had a temporary ileostomy bag. After 8 weeks with a bag, she had her reversal surgery to secure her J-Pouch.
Raina is now 5 months post-op and feeling amazing as she slowly gets back to her old routine. Fitness & health play a huge role in her life and recovery.