Vanessa
Vanessa Sher's journey with Crohn’s disease has been marked by resilience, advocacy, and community support.

 At just 10-years-old, Vanessa Sher’s world was turned upside down she received her diagnosis of Crohn’s disease.

Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes swelling of the tissues (inflammation) in your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. Crohn's disease can be both painful and debilitating, and sometimes leads to life-threatening complications.

Twenty years ago, her mother, determined to provide Vanessa with the best care, sought out Barry Steinmetz, M.D. – a highly respected pediatric gastroenterologist in the field. Today, Dr. Steinmetz, is the medical director of the Gastroenterology & Nutrition Center at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, and the compassionate care from Dr. Steinmetz left a lasting impact on Vanessa and her family. Under Dr. Steinmetz's care, Vanessa underwent various treatments, medications and infusions. Despite the physical challenges and side effects she endured, Vanessa's determination to overcome her illness remained unwavering.

“I remember Dr. Steinmetz being really attentive. As a kid, it was super scary going through that and not understanding why I didn’t feel well,” says Vanessa. “He took the time to be responsive and really listen to me.”

Vanessa younger
Vanessa during the early stages of her diagnosis, facing the challenges ahead with a positive attitude.

Her diagnosis of Crohn's disease as a child was not only physically challenging but also emotionally isolating as she grappled with the invisible nature of her illness. As a child, she often hid the manifestations of her illness, such as her digestive flare-ups, skin problems and bruising, out of fear of judgment or misunderstanding.

It wasn't until she encountered another person with Crohn’s disease during her college years that she felt comfortable sharing her own experiences. This newfound connection empowered Vanessa to become more vocal about her illness, leading her to advocate for herself and others in the Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis community.

Vanessa's involvement with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation became a cornerstone of her journey. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s mission is to someday find a cure to Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. Through fundraising campaigns, volunteer engagement, and the annual Crohn’s & Colitis Take Steps walk, she found purpose in raising awareness and supporting others affected by inflammatory bowel diseases. Despite facing setbacks, including a severe Crohn’s flare in 2016 that led to hospitalization and significant weight loss, Vanessa remained resilient. In 2017, she was honored as a hero for Take Steps in Temecula, a testament to her unwavering commitment to the cause.

“It’s important to find a community with people who understand what you’re going through,” says Vanessa. “Don’t be afraid to talk about IBD, the more you do, the more options you have for treatment. My advice to others is not to be afraid to advocate for yourself; you have the opportunity to educate others and break the stigma surrounding Crohn’s disease."

Vanessa's dedication and commitment to helping others diagnosed with Crohn's Disease led her to become the Senior Manager of Fundraising Campaigns & Volunteer Engagement for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation Greater Los Angeles - Orange County Chapter.

Thanks to Vanessa’s dedication and commitment to advocating and supporting patients like herself, she was accepted as Senior Manager of Fundraising Campaigns & Volunteer Engagement for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation Greater Los Angeles - Orange County Chapter. This year, she had the honor of inviting Dr. Steinmetz, her childhood doctor, to speak at the 2024 Crohn’s & Colitis Take Steps walk, symbolizing a full-circle moment in her journey.

Because of Vanessa’s outreach, Dr. Steinmetz will not only have the honor of speaking and walking alongside IBD patients and their families, but he has the honor of presenting the 2024 Honored Hero award to another one of his patients – Rocky.

If you would like to walk with Dr. Steinmetz, Vanessa, and Rocky, please register for this year’s Orange County Crohn’s & Colitis Take Steps walk with the Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital team.

Learn more about the Miller Children’s & Women’s IBD Program by visiting millerchildrens.org/IBD.