"I will never get tired of singing that song," says the "Break Down Here" singer, who's back on the road after health struggles
Julie Roberts instinctively knew something was wrong.
“It felt like every single time I would eat, I would throw up,” remembers Roberts, 44, during a revealing interview with PEOPLE. “One night in October of 2022, I was so sick and was desperate for help, so I called my mama at 2 a.m. to take me to the ER.”
And it was in that emergency room that Roberts, who weighed just 99 lbs. at the time, began to undergo testing that would ultimately result in a diagnosis of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the small intestine becomes hypersensitive to gluten, leading to difficulty in digesting food.
“There were a few months of not knowing what was going on, honestly,” admits Roberts, who was at the same time releasing her album Ain’t in No Hurry last fall. “I knew I was sick, and I was having to get fluids and I couldn't keep food down.”
While the eventual diagnosis of celiac disease came as a relief, the platinum-selling country artist became increasingly worried that the disorder would cause a resurgence in symptoms of her multiple sclerosis (MS), which she was first diagnosed with in 2005.
Though she had been been in remission, Roberts found herself relapsing.
“Not being able to see out of one eye truly scared me,” she tells PEOPLE. “After I started having a few of the MS symptoms that I had years ago, I went to my neurologist and he recommended that I get back on an MS disease modifying therapy. There are so many new ones out now since I was first diagnosed — we are going through and finding which ones will work so I know if I ever had a celiac disease flare-up again, it hopefully wouldn't affect my MS.”
Roberts’ struggle with celiac disease even began affecting her relationship with her 2-year-old son Jackson.
“I couldn’t even hold him,” the “Break Down Here” hitmaker tearfully recalls of trying to raise a toddler while dealing with her symptoms. “If I picked him up, I would get nauseous. That was hard on my heart. I wanted to hold him and love on him constantly — I remember apologizing to Jackson once when I had to sit him down so I could throw up. I didn’t want him to see me sick, but sometimes it was inevitable.”
Today, Roberts finds herself tackling celiac disease via a gluten-free lifestyle, including a diet that has allowed her to gain back 15 lbs. and get into the gym lifting heavy weights once again.
“The healing has begun,” says Roberts, who celebrated her and husband Matt Baugher's five-year wedding anniversary in June. “I feel great, and I have been so excited to get back out and do these shows again.”
Indeed, while her celiac disease diagnosis forced her to postpone several shows last fall, she is now back on the road. And back in April, during a show at the Grouse Room in Lafayette, Louisiana, Roberts got the surprise of her life when she was awarded a plaque declaring her 2004 hit single, “Break Down Here," had gone gold.
“I will never get tired of singing that song because it just matters to me and to so many others,” says Roberts, who plans to embark next year on a 20th anniversary tour to celebrate the release of her 2004 self-titled debut album. “The people that have always loved it sing it so loud at my shows. I truly just sit there and listen sometimes. I always dreamed that I would have a song that people would love and sing loud.”
She always dreamed of that gold plaque too.
“I don't think Jackson knows that pic on that plaque is me, but I’m glad that he's actually going to it and staring at it every day, because he knows what I do,” Roberts says quietly. “He loves music himself and I hope that in some way that plaque inspires him to follow his dreams one day too."
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Read the original article on People.