At age 32, I found myself in a new health crisis.
My problems surfaced when we wanted to start a family about 13 years ago in 2001. We lost our first pregnancy at 10 weeks, and then I was put on fertility medicine to conceive my son, Hunter in 2006. My pregnancy was even more complicated with my second son, Carson. After his birth, I had a complete hysterectomy. Because of my lack of female hormones, I was now an established endocrinologist’s patient. I required blood work on a regular basis in order to monitor my hormones and try to stay on top of my health. I choose to go the natural way with my hormone replacement using bio-identical hormones. It wasn’t covered by our insurance and wasn’t cheap, but I refused to take a pill that is made from female horse urine estrogen (Premarin).
Little did I know: that having a hysterectomy so young is almost like a scarlet letter within the medical businesses. From the time of my hysterectomy on, my doctors told me that every problem I had from hair loss, weight gain, insomnia, weight loss, night sweats, to depression was from my lack of hormones. As a new mom, with a 1- and 2-year old, I didn’t have time to live in doctors’ offices.
During one of my visits to the endocrinologist my blood work came back positive for an autoimmune disease, called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. My immune system was attacking my thyroid gland. I was given medicine to replace the thyroid hormone. But no doctor seemed concerned about my immune system. Was this a beginning sign from my body that something greater was going on? Was my body going to attack itself in other places?
In 2008, at age 32, I found myself in a new health crisis. I was starting to get really sick. The symptoms were similar to the flu. A couple months later I started to go downhill quickly. This is when I became an established gastroenterologist patient. After one year of investigation, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Apparently, my body can’t tolerate any form of gluten (wheat, barley, and rye).
Two years ago, in 2012, I noticed my shoes fitting snugly and my ankles being swollen. I wasn’t really concerned; they didn’t hurt much. However, the next day, when I woke up, put my feet onto the ground, I collapsed. My ankles were so swollen and painful that I couldn’t stand. I visited the emergency room, saw the doctor, and had a few tests. My sedimentation rate (a test for inflammation in my body) was high. I was told that I needed to see a rheumatologist. One week later I was to the point where my husband had to help me walk. This is when I became an established rheumatologist’s patient. After more blood work, I tested positive for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and immediately prescribed an immune-suppressant medication; a mild dose of cancer chemotherapy to be taken orally. I understood the goal was to “kill” my immune system so it would stop attacking my organs. Because the medicine was toxic to my liver, I had to go for blood work every 6 weeks. At one point I was taking 16 pills a day.
Three months into my RA treatment I had a seizure. I was told to stop all my medicine until I could get into see a specialist. This is when I became an established neurologist’s patient. After an MRI and a CAT scan and several tests for seizure activity, my seizure was ruled to be due to medication.
I decided to go get a second opinion regarding my RA and all the medication that I had been prescribed. My visit was very similar to the other specialists in this field. My blood work came back positive…I was expecting that. But, I didn’t have RA, instead this doctor said I had Lupus and fibromyalgia, and that I needed to start taking more medicine (hopefully ones that did not cause seizures). The side effects of the medications were pages long; and unfortunately one complication was deposits in your eyes. Now I was an ophthalmologist’s patient.
My diet when I was sick was gluten free. Gluten free, I now understand, doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. I would eat eggs topped with salsa for breakfast. Lunch would be a turkey sandwich with cheese and mayo and lettuce on gluten-free bread. Examples of dinner were a cheeseburger with no bun or a pizza with gluten-free crust. I loved chicken wings. Chips and dips were snacks. I also loved milk. I actually would crave milk and would often drink 3 to 4 glasses a day.
My routine was to visit with the different doctors every 3 months. I was offered medications for every symptom I suffered and I agreed to take them until my husband told me he thought I was getting worse. Regardless of all the well-intentioned efforts my health went steadily downhill. I was to the point where I had trouble walking down stairs, my hair was extremely thin, I was having trouble sleeping, I was the heaviest I had ever been, and I was in constant pain. My doctors could not get my Lupus under control with medication. I was so tired of being sick. When I couldn’t pick my arms up over my head, I took matters into my own hands.
Finally, against doctors’ recommendations I went off my medications, cold turkey, September of 2013. (I am still medicine free.) I was done being a patient; I didn’t want to live that lifestyle anymore. I also changed my diet. I gave up the dairy, meat, and junk food. It took about a month before I started noticing changes. Once the improvements began it was a snowball effect.
For breakfast I now eat oatmeal with a banana, lunch will be either a baked potato or rice topped with chili or veggie soup and at times a will add some kale. Dinner will be a quinoa burger with veggies and potatoes. I love my almond milk and drink lots of water. I still follow a gluten-free diet.
I currently feel amazing. The stairs in my house that used to be my nemesis; I now use them as exercise. I pop out of bed at 4 AM to visit with my husband before he goes to work. Energy is through the roof. I am pain-free and swelling-free too. I have my confidence back and I am so proud of myself for how far I’ve come. I am healthy and happy and can be the mom and wife that I need and want to be.