Strictly Come Dancing professional Amy Dowden has spoken for the first time about having Crohn’s disease, saying that she does not want “sympathy”.
Dowden, who joined the BBC One series two years ago, decided to speak out about her condition after keeping it a secret in a bid to help others who are suffering with the disease, while revealing the impact it has on her career.
Crohn’s is described by the NHS as a lifelong condition in which parts of the digestive system become inflamed.
People with the disease commonly experience phases of intense abdominal pain, severe vomiting, exhaustion and bloody diarrhoea, among other symptoms.
Dowden, 27, was diagnosed with the condition when she was a child, but did not reveal she had it when she joined Strictly, because she “didn’t want to be known as ‘Amy with Crohn’s”, she told Hello! magazine.
She said: “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.”
Dowden, who has been paired with comic Brian Conley (2017) and actor Danny John-Jules (2018) during her time on Strictly, said that she has so far only confided in a handful of her co-stars about her illness, including professional dancers Oti Mabuse and Dianne Buswell.
“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,” she said.
“People are often shocked by my day-to-day, but for me it’s just normal.”
She added: “There are occasions when I’m on tour, like the other week on Here Come The Girls, when I’m being sick in between the dances.
“The theatre wanted to call an ambulance. But the performance must go on. I come out and put a smile on my face. It won’t stop me.”
Dowden, who is working with the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said that she will keep an eye on her symptoms in the run-up to her wedding day to her professional dance partner Ben Jones next summer.
She said: “Obviously leading up to it I need to make sure that if there’s a symptom I’m on top of it.”
The full interview appears in Hello! magazine, out now.