Last week, 22-year-old Lovelle Cengiya was named among the Top 20 finalists of this year’s Miss Singapore. However, despite her success, few know that she’s been battling an agonizing condition for eight years.
Cengiya has been suffering from Crohn’s disease since age 15. The condition had her taking up to seven types of pills, including the best legal steroids, which led to changes in her physical appearance.
“Many people out there do not understand what is Crohn’s Disease,” Cengiya told NextShark. “It is not a common illness after all. It is just a myth to some people, they will never encounter it. When people don’t understand something, many people start to have wild thoughts and make untrue statement about the illness.”
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, the disease most commonly affects the end of the small bowel and the beginning of the colon. However, it can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract.
Patients diagnosed with Crohn’s disease can manifest signs and symptoms such as abdominal cramps, constipation/persistent diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, rectal bleeding and menstrual cycle alterations, among others. In the United States, Crohn’s disease affects nearly 700,000 people.
“I had mouth and stomach ulcers and they weren’t small ones, they were huge and extremely painful,” she told the The New Paper. “When I relapse, I cannot eat or drink because of the ulcers. I feel the pain, like something’s cutting my lips.”
When she was 15, she went from weighing 95 lbs to 128 lbs within two weeks and suffered from acne because of the medication. As a result, she was bullied at school, “My classmates called me a hamster and thought I stuffed fishballs in my (mouth) overnight.”
Despite what she was going through, Cengiya credits her mother for teaching her to stay positive in life.
“My mother is a very strong woman,” She told NextShark. “She supported me throughout my toughest day. So I told myself, “I have to be like her”. What those people want, is to see me fall. I shall be rebellious for once and rise from failure. So I worked hard for all the things I do, hoping one day I will shine bright in their face. One day I will be able to change their view of me and apologize to me.”
Fortunately, Cengiya has now gotten her illness under control through medication she takes daily.
“I am taking 2 tablet if metronidazole, 2 tablet of azathioprine, 3 tables of Vitamin D, 1 tablet of folic acid,” Cengiya told NextShark.
Cengiya has to get regular checkups and pays $75 a month for her medical bills. However, she fears that steroids might not help stabilize her condition in the future and would need to get injections instead, which could cost between $15,000 to $22,000 a year.
Cengiya joined the pageant to promote awareness regarding her illness, she told The New Paper:
“All the (contestants) look so healthy and I felt like I wanted to do something for people with Crohn’s disease.
“When I was diagnosed, I felt so lost because I didn’t know anyone who had the disease… I want to share (this) with people so they will start to find out more about it.”
“Suffering from an incurable disease doesn’t mean the end of everything. You either embrace the facts to grow stronger, or you get stuck in this pool of misery. Your life depends on your choices. Here I am standing as one of the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant finalists — anything is possible.”
Cengiya holds a degree in electrical and electronics engineering from Coventry University. She hopes to win this year’s Miss Singapore crown, which holds their finals on Aug. 26.