Back in November 2013, the VF ran an article written by Fran Crotty, who was diagnosed in 1996 with granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA) and Crohn’s disease. In her own words, she “has come back from her challenges, only slightly worse for wear, yet filled with optimism, strength in her faith and a greater appreciation of the life that can still be found in the old, tattered and forgotten.” You can read Fran’s personal account of her medical journey, “The Power of Transformation – Fran’s Story” at: www.vasculitisfoundation.org/frans-story/. Fran has managed to stay in remission for almost two decades. We reconnected with her in March 2020 to see how she’s doing.
The road to Fran Crotty’s transformation first started with her diet. A neighbor who had overcome ovarian cancer suggested she start reading labels, tackling one diet goal at a time because trying to do it all at once would be overwhelming and make her feel deprived.
Fran read books and online articles, attended lectures, watched documentaries, and listened to podcasts. Based on her learnings, she tweaked her diet, exercise, and lifestyle, carefully noting what worked and what didn’t. She says her body and mind have continued to grow stronger as a result. Fran maintains a special diet that she has adjusted over the years, eliminating gluten and most dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, and diet soda. She limits her sugar intake and red meat, and tries to eat a whole-foods-based organic diet, heavy on fruit and vegetables.
After prednisone took a toll on her body, Fran began investigating alternative treatments. She met a medical doctor who studied Chinese medicine and acupuncture; someone she’s worked with for years. “I’m convinced his treatments are a primary reason my GPA has been in remission for close to 20 years,” she says. “Possessing strong faith and a very determined purpose for living (my family) have been essential.” Daily prayer, meditation, affirmations, a positive attitude, Reiki (channeling energy into a patient using touch), massage, morning walks, pool exercises, creative hobbies, positivity, loving people, and a healthy diet—all have played a part in her healing journey, she says.
Fran says she and her siblings were brought up by her parents to look for the silver lining in everything. “I’ve always had a positive attitude and it has helped me through some challenging times. I have read a lot about the power of intention, positive thinking and my ability to choose my thoughts. Most importantly, my faith keeps me positive.”
Fran’s hard-earned comeback is why the idea of transformation has become so important to her. “I’m a living example of how what was sickly, bent-over, bloated and brittle, can be transformed and renewed with a lot of love and attention.” As an example, when Fran saw a 1910 Victorian home that was plain and drab—once called the ugliest house on the block—she knew she could rescue it. The same thing seems to happen each time she sees something tattered, bumped or bruised, seeing beyond what someone might consider as junk or a neglected, forgotten “something.”
Fran has a knack for repurposing those things—in any condition—and giving them a new life. If a piece needs a little reworking, a coat of paint, sun bleaching or just a good wash, she’ll clean up the exterior, and then for her, “Its soul shines through. Its history, the story of finding it, the love from its previous life become part of its energy.”
Today, 58-year-old Fran lives in that same Victorian home in Glenside, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. She still tackles rehab projects and has many in the works, but is currently a color consultant for a residential painting company. “I like to think of my job as helping customers bring color into their lives,” she adds.
Fran recommends patients be kind and loving to themselves, fully digesting the gravity of their diagnosis and spending quality time reflecting on lifestyle, habits, diet, and the ways stress and sleep are managed. “When committed to living your healthiest life, you should decide which area you’re going to work on,” Fran says. “From there you should start getting educated to determine what baby steps you can take to move into a positive direction.”
Author: Nina Silberstein
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of the VF newsletter.