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Her Story: Iris Abelson

Motivating Stories From Local Women


Every woman has a story to tell, and no two stories are alike.Meet the women who have persevered through challenges and tribulations and come out the other side stronger than ever. These unique individuals have seen their fair share of adversity but continue to inspire those around them with the lessons they have learned and their love of life. Read on for four truly motivating stories by the women who experienced them firsthand.


Photography by Emily Long  /  Photos taken on location at BODE



Do you have a story to share? Click here to tell us how you have experienced adversity and continue to maintain a positive outlook on life.



Iris Abelson Chattanooga

Iris Abelson, Signal Mountain

I was a typical child growing up in Chattanooga. I had friends, went away to summer camp, and was active in several organizations. I had a happy childhood. However, when I was 16, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and shortly after my 19th birthday, she died.
Later that year, I became extremely ill and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I missed most of the first semester of my sophomore year of college, and for much of my life, I have struggled with the effects of this gastrointestinal disorder.     
By the time I turned 45, my colon was so severely scarred that it was no longer functional. In 1998, I had my colon removed, and I awoke with an ileostomy, which meant my bowels now emptied into a pouch on my abdomen. Before the surgery, I always knew this type of procedure was a possibility for me. I feared and dreaded it, but life with an ileostomy has been the same as life before. Actually, in many ways, it has been better. The pain and symptoms I constantly experienced from Crohn’s disease became remarkably better.
I was in remission from Crohn’s disease for over 20 years but have had a recent flare-up. That’s just how life is with this disease, but I am very grateful that there have been medical advances in treatment. When I was first diagnosed in the 1970s, the only treatment was high doses of steroids, which caused many side effects including weight gain. At one point, I weighed over 200 pounds. About 10 years ago, I made a commitment to my family and myself to try to get healthier. Through diet and exercise, I have lost and kept off over 60 pounds.
During this journey with Crohn’s disease, I have been a mom, a wife, and a practicing CPA. My family has been amazingly supportive, especially my husband Lee. Now that I’m retired, I am still very active. I work out, travel, ride bikes, and play lots of duplicate bridge. No one can tell that I have an ostomy.
I have the same outlook on life that I have always had. Life is what it is. All you can control is how you react to it. Despite the challenges I have faced, I have always considered myself extremely lucky. I wake up every day looking at life on the bright side and am excited for the day ahead. HS

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