At age 11, she received a full ileostomy due to continuing quality-of-life issues. She was also diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2003.
Throughout grade school, her condition was exceptionally difficult, as it was responsible for frequent absences that affected her grades and relationships with other students.
Today, through her work with CCFA, United Ostomy Association of America (UOAA) and the Miss America Pageant, Ryan has demonstrated first hand for other young people the possibility of a normal and fulfilling life after ostomy surgery.
Since her first experience with other young patients as a camper at the UOA Youth Rally in 1997, Ryan has shared her story with others as a camper, counselor, advocate and motivational speaker. She has also traveled throughout California, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and extensively inside her home state of Wisconsin as a motivational speaker, delivering her personal message, “You are Not Alone: Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness.”
Abby has been honored as 'Miss Western Wisconsin' and 'Miss Midwest', and has the goal of becoming the first 'Miss Wisconsin' with an ostomy.
Ryan also became involved with the Miss America organization and was named Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest 2001, her first entry in a professional pageant. She has since been honored as Miss Western Wisconsin and Miss Midwest, and has the goal of becoming the first Miss Wisconsin with an ostomy.
“You are Not Alone: Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness.”
Ryan recently completed her senior year at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, majoring in Elementary Education with an Early Childhood minor. She has made the Dean’s List five times during her college career and was recently inducted into the elite Kappa Delta Pi academic honor society.
Ryan credits her father, Ed, her mother, Barb, and her brothers, Luke and Brody, for making her Great Comeback possible. She was selected as the 2006 Ina Brudnick Recipient among more than 400 applicants, the highest number of applications ever received for the award.