“If I can help advance the word ‘scleroderma,’ I will do it in any way possible.”
Head to YouTube, search for Betsy Craig’s five-minute speech at Ignite Fort Collins (Colorado) 8, and you’ll quickly learn that this woman has a roaring spirit and a dynamic personality. At the Ignite event, Betsy shared her scleroderma story with attendees, giving them a brief glimpse into her diagnosis, her journey to find a good care team and how she’s living positively today. However, a decade ago, when scleroderma wasn’t yet in her vocabulary, things were much different.
In 2003, when she was just 38, Betsy started to experience black spots on her fingers, which doctors thought were gangrene. Doctors attributed it to Raynaud Phenomenon. “The pain was beyond excruciating,” she recalled. “I woke up in the night just crying out in so much pain.”
Finally, in Nov. 2004, Betsy was diagnosed with systemic diffuse scleroderma. She also has interstitial lung disease, which makes breathing difficult in the thin, high Colorado air. In addition, she has issues with her gastrointestinal tract that make eating and swallowing a challenge. At the time of her diagnosis, doctors gave Betsy just 18 months to live. She had a choice – put her head in the sand or put up a fight.
Even as the disease made it difficult for her to get off the couch or complete common chores around the house, Betsy learned to become a fighter. She saw doctor after doctor until she finally found one that understood her and her disease. She even weeded through massage therapists to help with her chronic pain in a similar manner. “I went through a lot of massage therapists. Finally, I found someone who understood chronic pain,” she said. “I found someone who wasn’t afraid of my body and who understands how hard my body is. If the health care professional didn’t get it, I moved on.”
Looking at Betsy today, you wouldn’t think that she is sick or that she could have a disease like scleroderma. But, she has come a long way in the past few years. While she relies on some traditional treatments, like her GI medications, she has found success with the use of alternative, holistic treatments, such as nutritional changes, massage, exercise and daily baths.
“I’m very thankful to modern medicine. Methotrexate helped save my life,” she said. “I took so many prescription medications for five years. I knew I needed to look at holistic methods. I didn’t want to be polluted with chemicals forever,” she said. **
**Before you begin any alternative treatments, remember to consult with your doctor. Each individual may respond differently to treatments.
Today, Betsy’s experience with scleroderma has influenced her professional career. She had made dietary changes that she noticed made her feel better. So, when she dreamed up the idea to start a company that would review nutrition for recipes and menu items, it just made sense. Betsy, along with her husband, co-founded MenuTrinfo, a company on a mission to make it easier for restaurants to provide nutritional information and have an impact on the country’s health.
MenuTrinfo works with clients across the country to review recipes for nutritional information, including how many calories are in a dish. The company also consults to help create meals that are good for kids or to provide policies and disclaimers. “We take recipes and we make them into calories. We do nutritional facts, not fiction,” said Betsy. “We want to be 100 percent accurate in the nutritional information that we provide.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 4 to 6 percent of school children in the United States have a food allergy. Over the last few years, the Scleroderma Foundation has found that many people living with chronic illnesses, including scleroderma, have started to follow a gluten-free or other restrictive diet. Betsy and the team at MenuTrinfo can run an allergen report to pinpoint if any potential allergens are in certain menu items, such as wheat, gluten, dairy or nuts.
While Betsy isn’t personally restricted in what she can eat, she has noticed that altering her diet plays a role in how she feels.
Got a Favorite Restaurant?
One of the little known provisions of Obamacare (officially known as the Affordable Care Act) is that chain restaurants must post calorie counts on their menus starting in 2013. The goal is to help promote healthier eating habits and emphasize the dangers of high-fat foods.
“We know restaurants have been hesitating to make these changes,” said Betsy. “It’s a pain and nerve-wracking, but there’s definitely a groundswell from diners who want accurate information.”
Betsy and MenuTrinfo have helped clients that include AMC Theatres, Buca di Beppo and Rosati’s Pizza. If there’s a restaurant or venue that you think could benefit from having their menu reviewed, you can contact MenuTrinfo through its website at www.MenuTrinfo.com or call (888) 767-MENU (6368).
Overcoming the Challenges of Leading a Company
Earlier this year, Betsy was recognized as an emerging entrepreneur at the 14th Annual Bravo Entrepreneur Awards held by the “Northern Colorado Business Report” for her work on MenuTrinfo. But, even with accolades, leading a company with a national scope imparts its difficulties on someone who also lives with a chronic illness.
“This business entails a great deal of traveling. I have to be able to move my luggage through airports,” said Betsy. “That’s probably the hardest part. I go to all of these different airports and you have to walk forever to get to your gate. Jumping into a wheelchair is not my norm. But sometimes, the physical requirements and my own stamina make me move a little slower than my personality wants me to.”
“Betsy’s positive attitude and enthusiasm are an inspiration to others with scleroderma, and she doesn’t let it slow her down,” said Cyndy Besselievre of the Scleroderma Foundation’s Rocky Mountain Chapter.” In addition to building a successful business, Betsy has made significant contributions to the growth of the chapter during the last 12 years. She has served on the chapter’s board of directors, as a support group leader and helped form the Fort Collins, Colo., “Stepping Out to Cure Scleroderma” walk. “Starting and developing one’s own business is challenging in and of itself but, add a chronic disease on top of that, and it just goes to show you what an amazing person Betsy is,” added Besselievre.
Since being diagnosed with scleroderma, Betsy has proven that she is a fighter. She has overcome the physical limitations that the disease has presented, and she has prevailed in her professional aspirations, as well.
“I always go at full speed. I just need to remember to take breaks,” Betsy said. “In this business, nothing scares me. No person. Nobody. I even went head-to-head with someone at McDonald’s.”