Over the years, through lots of trial and error to becoming a healthier version of myself, I made a choice to take all this to a new level and I registered for an extensive year long program through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. As a graduate of the program, I have been a practicing Health Coach for 4 years. It is my deepest desire to help those around me navigate their wellness goals, just as I did, through personalized lifestyle changes.
My Journey to Wellness has been Long and Torturous but Worth Every Step I Took!
It all started late in my teenage years when I was diagnosed with endometriosis. This autoimmune disease has plagued my family for generations. The pain was so intense I could hardly walk, sleep or even do regular social activities. Three surgeries, and several different rounds of hormone therapy later, I wasn’t much better. I was starting to wonder if there was any hope for me.
Then It got Even Scarier...
I got married and at 23 years old my doctor said these words to me “you should get pregnant now because you may never be able to have children.” Imagine how horrifying it was to hear those words! Would I never be able to give my husband a family? I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. In my 1st trimester I was informed that my pregnancy would suppress my endometriosis and it would likely go away. Awesome! I’ll never have to deal with this again! Sadly, it didn’t go away. Two years after giving birth, I found myself in the same boat. Paralyzed by pain in my abdomen and pelvic area much less paralyzed by the fear of what my future held. Through the tears, I often wondered if I would ever live a normal life again. Would I be able to take our son to the playground, help him ride a bike, or drive a car without being doubled over in pain. I moved on to another doctor, hoping for a more positive outcome. I chose a more holistic doctor. One who wouldn't badger me to go under the knife or throw hormones at me. Someone who would take a completely different approach to my health.
The Possibility of My Having Ovarian Cancer ...
...had become a regular topic due to my history and the results of more sonograms than I can count. Feeling like my hands were tied, and I was walking through quicksand – I agreed to the surgery. This was a very emotional surgery for me. I didn’t know what words would I hear when I woke up or what would the pathology report say. After having some serious trouble awakening from anesthesia, I woke up with one less ovary due to it being “suspicious and dysfunctional” as well as the absence of my appendix. Apparently, I had acute appendicitis and didn’t know it because the endometrial pain was so bad I couldn’t tell the difference between the two.
During my treatment, my doctor’s wife had late stage Alzheimer’s and it been all too much for him to take, so he took his own life. Here I had placed my trust and my future in this man’s hands – I was so devastated at the news. I was frustrated and challenged to find yet one more doctor as quickly as possible! I needed a post-surgery follow up and had staples to be pulled. The office staff of my late doctor put me in the hands of a doctor who was head of gynecology at a major Baltimore hospital and also specialized in endometriosis. A perfect fit until...
I Hit Another Brick Wall.
My perfect doctor would suggest one more exploratory surgery. I’m now up to 5 surgeries and my abdomen is beginning to look like railroad track crossings. It seemed there had to be another way to treat this disease. After a lot of research on autoimmune disease, an herbalist was my next stop. His holistic approach was a breath of fresh air. I left his office with a large bag of supplements consisting of vitamins and herbs to fix my problem. I did this regimen for close to 2 years. I finally felt relief. It felt like it took a lifetime but the fear and weight on my shoulders was beginning to lift.
He Provided Me with a Hope.
A hope I hadn’t known or felt for so many years. I began to weave in an acupuncturist and an herbalist into my protocol. I figured I had nothing to lose. Traditional medicine was failing me, so why not move my need for self-care a little more to the eastern side of the world. While I was experiencing significant relief with my endometriosis through my new found love of getting needles stuck in my body and drinking an herbal tea that smelled like dirty socks steeped in water, I began to feel a little sluggish and acquire some belly fat. Being a gym rat since 11th grade of high school, the belly fat was very irritating and seemed to have come out of nowhere. And the fact that I was approaching my 30’s was no excuse.
A lot of fear and hesitation went into making my appointment with my general practitioner. She was a traditional medicine doctor – a model that didn’t work for me in the past but I didn’t know where else to turn. Hoshimoto Thyroiditis was my diagnosis. I was told there was nothing to do until my thyroid tests worsened, resulting in thyroid disease and I would then need medication. I left feeling like I had taken about 20 steps backwards in the world of medicine. So, I played the waiting game as she suggested because I didn’t know what else to do. A few months later, I left her office with a prescription for Synthroid, now that my thyroid was working right. Over a period of 2 years, my dose slowly increased to a point of making me very uncomfortable and left me wondering what was changing inside my body that would cause my medication to increase. It was during this time I was introduced to high quality supplements and noticed that after 1 year of taking them, my thyroid meds hadn’t changed. No decrease in the meds, but more importantly, no increase like I had been experiencing. So clearly, if I give my body the nutrients it needs, it will respond the way it’s supposed to.
Time marched on and I was blessed to go on a church mission trip to Honduras. I came back sicker than a dog and it wasn’t from the Honduran food. It was around the same time, I found myself doing some work with a local doctor who practices functional medicine – one who looks for the underlying cause of disease instead of throwing scripts at you. Having access to a whole new world of non-traditional medical information and specialty testing, I started to find hope again. The doctor ran some tests and found I had high inflammatory markers for breast cancer. We couldn’t confirm or deny a tumor was growing. A mammogram was not suggested due to the fear that radiation would make the situation worse. Instead my regimen for the next year or so would be specific supplements, regular blood testing of my white blood cells and lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle Changes was a Phrase I was Slowly Getting Accustomed to.
In other words, I needed to manage my stress, listen to my body and begin eating a low inflammatory diet. There are 365 phrases in the Bible that mention “do not fear” yet I couldn’t seem to remember any of them as I began this change in my “lifestyle”. Being part of a family of 6, managing my stress has by far been the hardest for me to tackle. As a mom of 4 boys, and a husband who is self-employed, there’s a lot to think about and a lot to worry about. Some days are great and some not so great, but somehow, I manage to come back to my goal and get redirected for what the day has for me. The dietary changes were gradual but it happened. It has all came together – reduced stress and clean eating are now my way of life. Through exercising, stress management, supplementation and eating whole foods, I was able to reduce those inflammatory markers that were leading me down the dreadful path of breast cancer, my endometriosis is nonexistent and my thyroid tests are looking great and I’ve even been able to reduce my Synthroid prescription.
While my journey to wellness has not been an easy one. It was well worth the long hours of research and the continuous hunt for new doctors who could help me see my health from a more holistic view.
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