Hope Warrior- Nicole

Cheers to another Hope Warrior Wednesday! This week our featured warrior is Nicole. Nicole is a sweet mom, wife and fellow spoonie who shares her faith and hope on her blog and instagram posts. Make sure to stop by and tell her hello, and find some delicious recipes on her website! 🙂 Thank you, Nicole!

What chronic condition or illness are you currently battling?

When I was 24 I was diagnosed with endometriosis.  However at the time my doc didn’t explain how it’s an autoimmune disease or how to help support my body.  So life went on and I lived in blissful ignorance.  At age 31 I started to feel my health crashing. I was drained in every aspect of the word, and had every single thyroid symptom in the book (at the time I didn’t realize they were thyroid symptoms).  I would cry to my husband, desperate to get back to normal and be the mom and wife I wanted to be.  Finally in my struggle to try to lose weight, I stumbled across Paleo.  Through the reading of blogs and listening to podcasts for how to live the paleo lifestyle, I kept hearing about Hashimotos.  I had every symptom!  I went in for my routine annual and begged my doctor to test my thyroid. Initially she only tested my TSH.  I persisted because it came back “normal”.  So she tested my antibodies and they came back slightly above the (again) “normal” range.  Thankfully this threw a red flag to her because she sent me in for a thyroid ultrasound. The results came back that I had multiple modules on my thyroid and it was enlarged.  She referred me to an endocrinologist.  This was truly the turning point in my health journey.  He did a biopsy of the nodules to rule out cancer, which thankfully it was negative for, but I received the diagnosis of Hashimotos.

Just recently I’ve been working on getting my hormones healthier and through this research I’ve discovered that I more than likely also have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).  Though I can’t say for certain until I get the diagnosis from the doctor.

What do you remember most about the day you were diagnosed? Looking back, if you could tell yourself one thing about the diagnosis you were about to receive, what would it be?

I vividly remember the day I received the Hashimotos diagnosis.  Since I’d been learning about this disease the last few months I knew the negative connection between gluten and the thyroid.  I asked the doctor ways I could reverse Hashis and how to go about changing my diet for this.  I will never forget what he said in reply as he laughed at me… “No. No. Food has no impact on health.  The plan will be to let your thyroid die, then we put you on thyroid meds for the rest of your life.”  I sat there stunned.  I turned to my husband who seemed to have the same reaction as me. I shut down.  It seemed to me like I was one of those people in a movie where others are talking to them but the voices are muffled and they aren’t listening.  They zone out.  That’s exactly how I felt.  My husband and the doctor talked a bit more, though I have no clue what about.  We left and I drove home following my husband since he’d come straight from work.  I didn’t make it far before I had to pull over because I lost it.  I cried so violently that I couldn’t see the road.  I was so scared and had no idea what this meant for my future.  I knew the stats.  By Gods grace I regained my composure and drove the long drive home.  That very night I gave up gluten for good and became my own warrior.  Eased into Paleo and never looked back.

If I could go back and give myself some advice, I’d say “Trust your instincts!  You know your body well, listen to it on this journey!  Pray!!  Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s necessary for your whole family, because THEY NEED YOU TOO!”

What medications/treatments/surgeries/lifestyle changes have you gone through to manage your disease symptoms?

Whew! lol Where do I start?!  Since I fired my endocrinologist that day, I was going in blind and had to figure this out on my own.  The one thing I can say is that I am forever grateful to those that came before me and shared their story because through them I was able to find quality research to guide me.  There were a few supplements that it seems every hashis patient needs…selenium, zinc, a high quality multivitamin, vitamin D, and a B complex (especially because I have MTHFR).  I’ve also added in and taken out countless others over the last three years.  Currently I am taking naturethroid at a very low dose (subscribed by my PCP who practices a more functional med way).  I also take vitamin C, magnesium, strong probiotics that I rotate every few months, glutathione, and vitex for hormones.

A few of the lifestyle things I practice and enjoy are epsom salt baths (magnesium), yoga, lifting weights, and dry skin brushing.  I overhauled every body, makeup, and house cleaning product in our home as well since all of those can be massive endocrine disrupters.

The biggest proponent in changing my health has hands down been my diet though.  Since switching to Paleo most of my thyroid symptoms dissipated in less than three months.  I still get occasional flares from stress, accidental gluten exposure at restaurants and even traveling (but it brings me too much joy to stop traveling!).

You have some great creative recipes and food photos on your Instagram and blog. What inspired you to share what you have learned about food with others?

I initially learned about hashis through Instagram after finding Paleo bloggers who had it.  So I was inspired to share my journey as well in the hopes of paying it forward and helping others the way I was helped.  Eventually I started a blog which was more so about my emotions on what was going on than recipes.  As I started to get my happy back, I began to feel inspired to share my recipes on their too.  Instagram has been such a gift to me on this journey. I’ve made friendships with so many incredible warriors and learned so much about living a healthy lifestyle.

What are some of your other favorite things to do?

(favorite books, music, podcasts, hobbies, activities etc)

Oh goodness, there is so much!  I think my husband is sick of hearing me say “I was listening to this podcast and learned…”  I LOVE podcasts so much because I can work and learn at the same time.  If I’m not listening to podcasts then I have music playing.

I live in Michigan so in the summer I love to stand up paddle board, jet ski and go for walks with my family.  I have gained an intense love for gardening this year and am often seen chasing my 5 chickens away from my tomato plants.

I love to travel and have a mile long bucket list of places I want to see around the world.

I really enjoy lifting weights, doing yoga, and reading books of all kinds!

What is something you have accomplished that you are most proud of?

Being a mom is by far my proudest achievement.  Nothing can compare to it. I have two daughters, ages 8 and 11, and would gladly welcome many more if God wills it.

Who inspires you?

So many people on Instagram I see doing such amazing things to help others and fight for their own health all at the same time. They inspire me beyond belief.

In life as a whole, I am immensely inspired by Saints and the lives they lived.

What are some of your coping mechanisms for dealing with stress?

Pray. Pray. Pray. It is my ultimate defense against stress.  I can always tell when I haven’t spent enough time with God. My world seems darker and little things bother me that normally wouldn’t.  Another thing I practice is deep breathing (inhale and the stomach fills like a balloon, exhale and bring the belly button in to the spine).  Last but definitely not least is hugs from husband. Melts the blues away

What has been the best thing that has happened so far that would not have happened if you did not have your chronic illness?

My motto is “everything happens for a reason”.  Even with as hard as living with an autoimmune disease can be, I truly believe it’s been a blessing in disguise.  It’s made me overhaul my diet, my home and evaluate my priorities in life.  It’s a gift I give to my family at every meal, every breath of clean air in our home, and sip of filtered water they take.  More than anything I want to set them up for a lifetime of health.  Children’s bodies are fragile and it saddens me to see the way parents feed their children in our generation.  It will affect them for the rest of their life.

What keeps you hopeful?

Ultimately my faith in God is where I receive my hope for all things.  It’s also found in the joy of little things. A gloriously colorful sunset, a butterfly that floats in out of nowhere, a vegetable that I grew and prepared for dinner, and cuddles with my family all bring glimpses of hope that this world is really a beautiful place and joy can be found anywhere despite any difficulty.

Do you have a favorite saying, quote, mantra or song that you turn to when you need to flip your mood around?

Besides the quote “Everything happens for a reason”, I cling to the Bible verse “For nothing will be impossible for God.” Luke 1:37

My song addiction lately is Lauren Daigle “O’Lord”

Okay, time for rapid fire this or that:

 

Chocolate or Vanilla? Can I say both? Lol!  I looove good quality chocolate but also love vanilla in all things.

 

Coffee or tea? Hot coffee (black, decaf (Swiss water process, organic), with collagen peptides).  Cold iced tea.  

Hot or cold? I loathe being cold.  

Sweet or sour? Sour 

Dog or cat? I used to believe I was a cat person, and although I love our cat, my dog (golden retriever) holds a special place in my heart. 

Running or walking? Walking!!  I am so NOT a runner!

Road trip vacation or resort vacation? Resort all the way.  My husband has spoiled me with some really amazing trips.

Day at the beach or day hiking in the woods? Hiking in the woods (as long as there’s no ticks UGH!). But I do love the beach! 

Android or iPhone? iPhone all the way

Sunshine or rainy day? Sunny days

Dinner out at a restaurant or a nice home cooked meal? Since I do all the cooking, (and love it!) home-cooked meal but it’s nice to have a day off now and then too.

Doing the dishes or doing laundry? Laundry is less painful

Comedy or horror? Comedies forever.  If I’m watching a horror film it’s because I’m being tortured.

Fiction or nonfiction? 75% of the time I’m nonfiction. 25% fiction.

Cake or pie? Apple pie

Fruit or vegetable? Raspberries and lacinato kale 

Sunrise or sunset?  Sunset. But I’m an early bird lol 

Final question:

You’re in the waiting room about to leave after a follow up visit with your doctor. Someone else is in the waiting room and they were just diagnosed with a chronic disease. They catch your eye and then ask you “How do I get through this?” 

What do you say?

Faith.  Hope in God.  Even if you’re not a Christian, He exists and loves you more than you could ever fathom and He can use this trial to bring you closer to Him. You just have to allow Him to.  Even in my darkest times when I felt like I would never get better, when I was struck with anxiety, depression, anger, and only the tiniest shred of hope, God was always there.  It was me who had left, not Him.  God is good. So I had to learn to stop focusing on the bad and focus on the good in all things.  Whenever I’d be zeroed in on all the negative, I never felt happy. When I stopped doing that and would try to find joy in even the small things that’s when I started to get better.

Hope Warrior- Amber Tresca

Today I bring you, in my humble opinion, the guru of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease): Amber Tresca. Amber is an IBD advocate. She works hard to bring forth the facts about IBD, answer questions and support patients as the navigate the confusing paths that these diseases take us down. She does amazing work on her blog, podcast, twitter chats and all of the articles she writes. Amber is the real deal when it comes to advocacy, and I’m so honored to share a bit about her here. Thanks for participating and all that you do, Amber!

 When were you diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis?

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in the fall of 1989; I was 16 years old.

What do you remember most about that day? Looking back, if you could tell yourself one thing about the diagnosis you were about to receive, what would it be?

What I remember most about the day I was diagnosed was that everyone seemed to know the language of healthcare but me–the many questions from physicians and nurses when I was admitted to the hospital were completely foreign. If it were possible to tell my 16-year-old self one thing, it would be that the way things are today is not how they will stay.

 

In my opinion, you are the information guru for IBD. If you don’t have the answer, you usually can find a trustworthy resource! That’s pretty awesome. What is your favorite part about being an IBD expert?

My favorite part from being an IBD expert is being able to make a difference in people’s lives. There have been many instances over the years where I’ve been able to provide a key piece of information that helped someone with IBD alter their path in a positive direction.

What are some of your other favorite things to do outside of IBD awareness and education?

Outside of my IBD life, I enjoy movies, crafting, playing with my kids, and am an avid reader.

What is something you have accomplished that you are most proud of?

I’m proud of my most recent venture, with is the About IBD Podcast. Podcasting is not something that I had any experience with, yet I leaped in with both feet and my work has been well received.

 

Who inspires you?

I’m inspired by my children as well as the many IBD advocates and industry professionals that I work with in the IBD Social Circle.

What are some of your coping mechanisms for dealing with stress?

Stress is always a huge issue for anyone with a health condition and my stress relief usually involves spending a day away from work and in the kitchen cooking and baking, preferably for dinner guests.

 

What keeps you hopeful?

What keeps me hopeful is learning from the many researchers and practitioners whose daily work seeks to better the lives of people with IBD through research and the improvement of patient care.

Do you have a favorite saying, quote, mantra or song that you turn to when you need to flip your mood around?

A mantra that I’ve taken from one of my favorite books, Dune, by Frank Herbert, is called the Litany Against Fear. It’s quite specific to the book but it reminds me to have courage in the face of fear, because fear is transitory.

“I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Time for rapid fire this or that:

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Chocolate

Coffee or tea?

Coffee

Hot or cold?

Hot

Sweet or sour?

Sweet

Charmin or Cottonelle?

Neither! Seventh Generation

Dog or Cat?

Cat

Running or walking?

Running

Road trip vacation or resort vacation?

Road trip

Android or iPhone?

iPhone

Sunshine or rainy day?

Sunshine

Dinner our at a restaurant or a nice home cooked meal?

Dinner out

Doing the dishes or laundry?

Doing the dishes

Comedy or Horror?

Horror

Fiction or nonfiction?

Fiction

Cake or pie?

Cake

 

Final Question:

You’re in the waiting room about to leave after a follow up visit with your GI. Someone else is in the waiting room and they were just diagnosed with a chronic disease. They catch your eye and then ask you “How do I get through this?” 

What do you say?

What I would say is that you will get through this because you will not allow it to defeat you. How you feel today won’t be how you feel tomorrow or the next day because you’ll get your spark back, and you’ll find that it shines brighter than it ever did before.

 

You can find Amber at the links below! 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ibdcrohns/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/aboutIBD

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/about_IBD/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/aboutibd/

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+AmberTresca

About IBD Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/about-ibd/id1228402052

Verywell: https://www.verywell.com/ibd-crohns-colitis-4014703

Blog: http://aboutibd.com/ 

Hope Warrior-Callie

Have you ever come across an Instagram post and just thought, “YES! This is my language! Finally someone is speaking it.” Well, Callie at @riverandquill is this person for me. I found myself nodding my head, smiling, laughing, tearing up and saying OH MY GOSH YES to so many of her interview responses. She has an amazing talent for writing, and I think many of you will find her journey with chronic illness, hope, and grief very relatable. Grab a cup of tea or coffee and settle in to read my interview with Callie to below. Make sure check out her social media and then blog here as she writes about her journey with health and healing. Thank you for sharing your story, and filling others with hope, Callie!

What chronic condition or illness are you currently battling?

I have Interstitial Cystitis. It is basically a chronic bladder infection, but it is not due to bacteria, just a neglectful bladder lining.
What do you remember most about the day you were diagnosed? Looking back, if you could tell yourself one thing about the diagnosis you were about to receive, what would it be?
The day of diagnosis is one of two of the most terrible days of my life.  I walked into a room with what looked like torture device chairs, which in the end did live up to my predictions, and I sat through the most painful procedure of my life.  I peed blood for days afterwards, but I had a diagnosis.  I would take having another baby over that any day.  The hardest part was that no-one could offer any encouragement.  Immediately after the procedure, a nurse walked in with a death diet, and by that I mean, the most depressing diet I have ever encountered.  The IC Diet is terrible, and depressing, and it was the cherry on top of a devastating day.  Stretch someone’s bladder until it bleeds, then hand them a brochure with “no” signs through coffee, beer, and chocolate.  Yeah, I was ready to die.  I drove myself home, because I had no idea the procedure would be so painful, and collapsed in my husbands arms when I got home.  I hesitated to walk through the door though.  I wanted him and needed him, but admitting that I was forever different, forever the girl with the chronic disease; it just felt so foreign and I didn’t want to bring this alien back into my home.  It’s hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t gone through it, but suddenly you are someone else, and it’s extremely hard to deal with.
If I could have a little conversation with former me, I would validate the fear and the sadness.  Grief is most definitely something we need to go through when experiencing a chronic disease diagnosis, but I would also give loads and heaps and oodles of hope.  I would tell myself that although I now have a chronic disease, it does not change the person underneath all the pain.  She is still there.  She will cower in a corner for a while, but she will emerge.  I would tell her that she needed to take some time to grieve and some time to believe, some time to do things that brought joy, and time to just relax.  I would tell her she is enough, that she is loved, and that this isn’t the end.
(Note from Jacklyn: OH MY GOSH YES. All of this. on repeat)
What medications/treatments/surgeries/lifestyle changes have you gone through to manage your disease symptoms?
I have been to more doctors in the past couple of years than I would like to admit to.  I tried bladder installations at the very beginning.  They work for some, but they didn’t work for me.  I believe now that this is because my IC is hormonally driven.  I was breastfeeding my daughter at the time and my estrogen and testosterone levels were both very low.  No amount of medication was going to help me until my hormones balanced.  I didn’t know any of this until I started seeing a functional doctor last fall.  A functional doctor is an actual MD who not only looks at your symptoms, but looks into how your body is running in general in order to try to determine areas that it needs some help.  For example, my CoQ10 levels were the lowest he has ever seen in a patient, so I take that as a supplement now.  CoQ10 does a great many things, and is present in all of your cells.  It gives you energy, and keeping it in check keeps your cardiovascular system in check as well, so yeah, glad I figured that one out.  The most helpful supplement/therapy so far has been testosterone replacement.  Who knew that girls needed this, right?!  Apparently, many women’s natural testosterone levels drop after having babies, and mine was low and not coming up with regular exercise or a healthy diet, so we are supplementing and it is helping GREATLY!  I stopped taking it for a week, just because I am a momma of three, and hey, life is busy, and I hadn’t picked up the new bottle.  I flared for a week, messed up my period, it was crazy.  Other therapies and meds that have helped me include Elmiron, but I order mine through a pharmacy in California that is hundreds of dollars cheaper (most people pay $800 a month for this medication – it’s insane and wrong and a whole other blog post).  I also take Vitamin D, Desert Harvest Aloe Vera, Cystoprotek, Magnesium, and a very strong probiotic.  If our gut micro biome is off it can throw our entire body, and in my case, my bladder.  Physical therapy is another amazing treatment that I have used to help my symptoms.  It’s pelvic floor physical therapy, which I write about in my manuscript, and is quite the experience.  Who knew there were PT’s for vagina’s, right?  Now that I have totally thrown you, I will just continue like I have said nothing about vaginas or vagina therapy.  Relaxation and stress relief have been huge to my recovery, as well as believing in healing.  I just flared for the first time in months and even after my months of feeling good it was hard to believe I would get back to where I was, but I am getting there.  I know how hard this is to believe, but it is truly the first step to getting things under control.  I use essential oils, CBD, and other natural products to manage stress, but I also allow myself time to do things that I love: read, write, play, walk, whatever!

 I really love your writing on your blog and Instagram posts, you have great voice. What inspired you to start writing about your journey with chronic illness?

Thank-you!!!  Chronic Illness isn’t like getting slapped with a strep throat diagnosis.  It’s forever, or at least it feels like it is going to be.  The medical community lacks in their social-emotional support for patients, and this is something I felt that I had a responsibility to fill in for.  I’m not sure in what capacity, but I just knew I had to start talking.  The suicide rate in those with IC is 11%, whereas the national average is 3%.  Those mathematicians out there will note that this is triple, almost quadruple the national average.  I had suicidal ideations repeatedly after my diagnosis and up to a year afterwards.  I was a happy, well-adjusted person before.  The pain brings you to this panic filled place and it threatens to keep you there forever.  I knew how much it meant when people gave me encouragement that things would not always be so bleak and that’s what motivated me to start this blog.  I wanted to be the words that maybe didn’t bring someone completely out of despair, because the grieving is legit and needed, but I wanted to shine a little light down to them and at least get them on the first step toward believing they could get their pain under control.  Doctors don’t do this.  I should say, most don’t.  I have an amazing one now who absolutely does, but you can’t just tell someone they have a disease, give them a brochure and then walk away.  They need more.  That’s where I hope my blog can come in for some people.  I want to lead them to a healthy place, through encouragement and through resources.  No-one should ever feel as alone as many do with chronic disease.  I guess, mostly I just want them to know that I’m there with them.
What are some of your other favorite things to do?
(favorite books, music, podcasts, hobbies, activities etc)
I have always loved to write.  It is what helped me out of the depression brought on by IC.  So, I suppose my blog is as much a help to others as it is to me.  I also love to spend time with my family, going on adventures, which mainly involves walks, or playgrounds, but hey, you can find adventure anywhere, right?!  I used to knit before I had tiny people climbing on me all the time, but maybe I’ll do that again some day. 🙂  I also love to read.  If I could lose myself in a book every day and my kids would manage to stay alive, I would totally do it.  I like to think that I hike.  In reality I have gone on a trail once in the past few years, but, since this is my interview, I think I can just go ahead and say I hike.  I’m a hiker.
What is something you have accomplished that you are most proud of?
I wrote a manuscript.  It may be terrible, but I did it.  I am actually in throws of trying to find an agent, and that is a rough business, but in the end, published or unpublished, I did something I have always wanted to do, so, yeah, I’m pretty proud of that.
(note from J: THAT IS AMAZING. Congratulations!)
Who inspires you?
Others with chronic disease.  I see them going out and living their lives, despite their pain and their fear and I just admire them so much.  As far as celebrity inspiration goes, I would have to say Anne Lamott.  Her words always reach me.  It’s like they were written specifically for whatever place I am in, when I’m in it.  I’m also inspired by the beauty that surrounds me every day: my daughters giggle, flowers, the breeze.  It’s just inspiring to be alive and to be able to experience any of it. 
What are some of your coping mechanisms for dealing with stress?
Writing is huge! Also just going outside and getting away from my thoughts as much as I can.  Calling someone and crying until the world feels less scary helps too.  Also, lathering myself in essential oils is a new one.  Plus I smell good, so there’s that.
What has been the best thing that has happened so far that would not have happened if you did not have your chronic illness?
This has been the easiest question to answer, by far, no question.  Meeting my IC Sisters has been the best thing to happen to me.  About six months into my disease, another nursing mom from the ICNetwork support forum emailed me.  The support forum was terrible for me.  Too many people complaining and just in it, and I was sure I would never get better based on the state of all of them.  BUT, my friend Lucy made it worth being on there, as she and I connected and she then connected me to a group of 5/6 women who all have IC and all within 10 years of my own age.  Some of them were in remission, some of them were as miserable as myself, but we all had been through it.  They were such an encouragement to me, and continue to be, daily.  We talk via Facebook messenger basically nonstop.  The friendship we share is one that can only be experienced when you have a disease and they are the dearest of dear to me.  I joke that if we ever met in person we will probably just cry for a solid hour, taking pee breaks every few minutes.
What keeps you hopeful?
I was in remission for three months, and I am pretty sure I know how to manage this devil of a bladder of mine now.  I have hope because others have conquered, and I have too.  Life is still in front of me, IC or not.  It’s no longer my defining feature or lead role.  It’s just a member of the chorus.  Hardly even know it’s there most of the time.
Do you have a favorite saying, quote, mantra or song that you turn to when you need to flip your mood around?
Well, I suppose that would be smart, but not really.  I need one.  I usually just cry and loathe and then find a Bible verse, pray, and try to have a really successful internal pep talk.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  I’ll be working on this one.
Okay, time for rapid fire this or that:

 

Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate but damn you IC, now I have to do Vanilla
Coffee or tea? Always coffee, but again, IC insists it only be a cup or two.  I used to drink pots
Hot or cold? Hot
Sweet or sour? Sweet
Dog or cat? Dog (but I love my cats!!!)
Running or walking? Walking. Duh. Walking.
Road trip vacation or resort vacation? road trip
Day at the beach or day hiking in the woods? Beach
Android or iPhone? iPhone
Sunshine or rainy day? Sunshine
Dinner out at a restaurant or a nice home cooked meal? Out
Doing the dishes or doing laundry? dishes
Comedy or horror? Comedy
Fiction or nonfiction? impossible – both
Cake or pie? pie
Sunrise or sunset? sunset
Final question:
You’re in the waiting room about to leave after a follow up visit with your doctor. Someone else is in the waiting room and they were just diagnosed with a chronic disease. They catch your eye and then ask you “How do I get through this?” 
What do you say?
Believe you can

Gratitude Challenge: Day 8- Hero

I don’t think I could write a post that named everyone I felt was my hero.  I am constantly inspired to be a better person by my family, my inner circle of friends and my husband. For this purpose though, I’d like to take a little bit of time to talk about the people I have met the last few months.

screenshot_2016-11-08-20-13-14

I’m honored and humbled to have been surrounded by these amazing and strong people at patient panels recently. At each panel, there were about 3 out of the 16-17 of us that had not had any surgery. Almost everyone else had had their colon removed and now had a jpouch or were in the process of having the surgeries. Everyone had their own ulcerative colitis story to tell, but more importantly, everyone was there because they wanted to make changes and improvements for other patients.  There were laughs, tears, hugs, debates, and a passion for improving the quality of care and treatments for this disease. There were friendships built, connections made, ideas sparked, and mostly…hope resurfaced. There are people missing from these pictures, some that weren’t at the conference and some I couldn’t get a selfie with but you all know who you are, and I’m so grateful for all of you.

20160924_143006
There’s only one colon in this picture, but a whole lot of love. 
20160924_174812
My favorite ninja, and my first IBD friend. 
20160924_175051
This girl is so sweet. 

Hope Warrior -Kristen Boehmer

It’s a new Hope Warrior Wednesday!

I’m so happy I get to share a little bit of Kristen’s story and how she copes with having a chronic illness. She’s a busy gal, but was able to answer a few questions. Make sure to check out her website Living Loving Paleo and her instagram @livinglovingpaleo for some mouthwatering food photography and her life with Crohn’s Disease.

Meet Kristen!

I was checking out your story on your website (I will link it here), and boy have you been on an unbelievable journey. I know you were young when you were first diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, but do you remember how you felt when you received the diagnosis?

Being diagnosed with a chronic disease isn’t something that I could fullyunderstand as a kid, which in some ways, made it easier to cope with. My parents immediately took full responsibility for my health, but at the same time, I did have to grow up quickly.

Taking 96 pills a week at age 12 is a lot to swallow, no pun intended. What would you tell a pre-teen going through something similar right now?

I would tell a pre-teen that no matter what, they should never, ever give up. It may feel like your world is falling apart, but if you allow it, your illness can actually become your greatest gift.

It is really frustrating when I feel like some doctors are not hearing me. It sounds like you went through something similar. How do you advocate for yourself now?

I’ve found a practitioner outside of conventional medicine who really listens, and that’s made all the difference. Thankfully I’m healthy enough now that I don’t need any sort of outside intervention.

What is your current treatment plan? (Natural and pharmaceutical if applicable)

After spending many, many years on medications, I’m now able to control my disease completely through diet and lifestyle. I eat what makes me feel good and live a life that I love.

 Your website has lots of delish Paleo recipes. What inspired you to start Living Loving Paleo?

I wanted a place where I could share my journey (outside of social media) as well as my recipes, so a blog felt like the perfect format.

How do you balance working full time with managing your chronic condition and spending time with your family?

While I have Crohn’s Disease, it’s thankfully no longer something that I need to manage. I work from home and accomplish much of what I need to get done while my husband’s away at work (he works 48 hour shifts as a fire fighter), so that when he’s home, we can spend much of our time together.

You talk about the fatigue, waking up tired and going to bed tired when fighting infections and the ongoing battle an autoimmune disease fights with your body. Do you still have days like these? What do you to conserve energy?

My health is by far the best it’s ever been, so thankfully those days are VERY far and few between! If I do come down with a cold or the flu, I simply set everything else aside and completely focus on my health. My immune system is fully functioning now, so I’m very rarely sick for more than a couple days.

 We went to San Francisco on our honeymoon and feel in love with the city. I am so jealous that you get to live near a city with the best coffee and some awesome food options! Eating at a restaurant can be difficult for IBDers who are afraid or embarrassed to ask their food to be cooked in ways specific to their needs. Do you have any tips for handling these scenarios? 

I have a great dining out guide where I’ve shared all my best tips and tricks! It

can be found here – http://livinglovingpaleo.com/2016/06/15/tips-dining-

paleo/

I truly believe that our environment can play a huge part in healing. Do you have an area in your home that helps you gives you the hope you need to keep fighting? What does it look like?

I really do my best to keep my entire house filled with calm, healing energy.

How do you treat yourself when you want to indulge?

I get a mani/pedi or a massage and take myself out to lunch!

What are some of your favorite books and or music/podcasts?

I love reading and have too many books that I’ve enjoyed to list off. As for podcasts I love Balanced Bites, The Sessions With Sean Croxton and The Tim Ferriss Show.

If someone were to ask you to tell your story in one sentence, what would it say?

Although my journey hasn’t always been easy, it’s given me the most beautiful life I could ever imagine.

 Do you have a mantra or an image that you use to give you strength or encouragement?

I recently heard Tony Robbins talk about achievement versus fulfillment, and it really stuck with me. I don’t have a specific mantra or image, but I believe in filling my own cup up before I can give to anyone else. When I’m fulfilled and loving life, I put out my best work.

What are some of your hobbies and activities you enjoy?

Cooking, reading and being outside with my husband and dogs.

Where are some of your favorite places to travel?

Hawaii for sure!

 

Who gives you hope? Do you have any “Hope Warriors” that inspire you?

While my husband has always been my number one supporter, he’s taught me to love and cherish myself first, so I’ve become my own “hope warrior.”

 

Thank you so much for sharing, Kristen!  I’m so glad you’re doing well and enjoying a beautiful life. Love your story, and I’m honored to share it. 

Happy Wednesday Folks!

Hope Warrior-Jennifer

I know it’s been a while. I’ve been busy. I’m a bad blogger. I promise I’m working on things, I just don’t want to put stuff out there that I’m not proud of, and I want to make sure what I’m posting has a focus. That said, I won’t fail in bringing you a monthly Hope Warrior because 1) I think it’s awesome, 2) I really like doing it and 3) MOST IMPORTANTLY, these are some incredibly awesome people that deserve to have their story read and shared. They inspire me every day.

Without further ado..please read Jennifer’s story. Share it. Take hope from it. She’s amazing.

Hope Warrior-Sarah

Hi folks.  Can you believe it’s April? Thank the Lord tax season is about to be over and my work schedule will calm down a bit.  Sorry I haven’t been posting much lately. Unfortunately,  my real job has priority right now as it pays for the superwoman infusions I get every 8 weeks that keep me standing. Please forgive me for my absence, and welcome April’s Hope Warrior.
If you haven’t had a chance to connect with Sarah Choueiry of the Crohn’s journey foundation, you’re a fool. Jk. But really. She’s amazing and has such an awesome energy. Links to her social media accounts are below. Make sure to give her a follow and share some love and encouragement.

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Hi Sara! Thanks for sharing your story with us.

What type of chronic illness/autoimmune disease (s) do you live with?

​I live with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease called Crohn’s disease. ​

When was your diagnosis? How did you cope?

​I was diagnosed at ​14, struggling with symptoms since I was 12. I remember it took my mom threatening my regular doctor with a lawsuit if he did not send me to a specialist. My gen doctor was saying things initially that implied what was happening was in my head or part of becoming a teenager. I remember the day I stepped into the GI’s office, she looked at me and read my symptoms and said “you either have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, we need to have a colonoscopy.” I also remember that first colonoscopy because they put me in twilight. Let’s just say it scarred my memory!
When I was younger I did not cope, my parents did. They tried to alter my food to a soft, low residue (as recommended by the GI – aka white bread, white pasta, white everything ) and encourage me to take my pills without hounding me about it. I remember multiple trips a month to the emergency room and wishing that I did not always have to go to the bathroom every place I went. Besides that my memory of Crohn’s at the time I was diagnosed was limited to that.

What medications/treatments/surgeries/lifestyle changes have you gone through to manage your disease symptoms?

​I actually just had my first (and last) surgery (Feb 3) to remove what was supposed to be 10 cm of my small intestines, but actually ended up being 45 cm of my terminal ilium and part of my colon. Based on what the surgeon said, I no longer have any Crohn’s in my body! I hope not, after that surgery, was not easy for me.
Prior to that I switched GI’s about a year ago and so grateful I did. My new GI utilizes alternative medicine in her practice, from herbal medications to aid with calming the body to help reduce adrenal fatigue, creating teas just for my bodies needs at that time and making me tinctures just for my body.  ​She looks at the whole body and not just the symptoms. As for treatment, I was on humira in the beginning of 2013 and stopped some time in the fall because it did not appear to work anymore. I was then placed on entecort in the winter (2013), until surgery in Feb. I also did a couple rounds of Xifaxin while on the intro to Gaps diet and I felt amazing. The purpose of doing that was to help lower the collection of bad bacteria in my gut (SIBO = Small intestinal bacteria overgrowth), which I am convinced over 80% of people with IBD struggle with. I also altered my diet this past year and have been doing a variation of AIP with SCD and that has reduced the amount of discomfort and bloating I used to experience after meals immensely. I try to work on mindfulness every day through daily meditation, daily gratitude and yoga 3-5 days a week. I try to get outdoors as much as possible. Overall, I just try have fun in life and never forget the importance of socializing and being in my community of those I love. These are all the things I work on a daily basis and not easy to do, but worth it. (PS: I am horrible at grammar so forgive me 🙂 )

If you could tell yourself one thing looking back on your diagnosis, what would it be?

​I wish I would have told myself not to blindly listen to the doctor and explored diet. As a teen I was social, i worked out and I had fun BUT my diet was not the best. What I eat now is a total 180 from what I ate back then. I hate that the GI doctor told me that diet does nothing to help IBD. Just so disappointing. ​ ​Also that we were not encouraged to do things that helped reduce inflammation. ​Just a bummer and upsets me a lot at times. I do not believe diet is a cure in no means BUT it is a great way to help reduce inflammation and reduce your symptoms. I mean how can food we put in our body NOT impact how we feel!?

What do you do to relieve stress?

​I work on relieving stress daily. Not sure why but I tend to run more anxious. I think a lot of people with IBD do. Maybe from all the trauma we have been through?​ ​So this is something I try to focus on daily. I like to go on walks, yoga, spend time with family, talk to my close girlfriends, write in my journal, cook, go to the farmers market, sit at the beach and meditate. ​I would say those are my go to’s! So important to find what relieves your stress and do it as often as possible.

What inspires you?

​Hmm I would say the vision of a healthy me inspires me. I feel like I have opened my eyes the past couple years to a different world out there in terms of how to find happiness and health in my life and I have been working hard to get there. What inspires me are those who look at life with hope, love and determination, which makes up most of the people in my life. Another thing that inspires me are my close friends, parents and husband because they are so amazing, strong and beautiful inside and out, and to have them in my life inspires me to be the best person I can be.

Who do you turn to for hope or inspiration?

I​ turn to my IBD family I have created when I need hope or inspiration when it comes ​feeling discouraged about having IBD. It is comforting to have people who can relate to you, and just get you and say the right things to pick you up because they have been there!

Do you have a saying or quote or song that you turn to when you need to be uplifted?

​There are two things I do that help uplift me. First, non stop dance parties in my room while playing my hipster bbq radio station on pandora.
In terms of quotes, this helps me the most and I read it when I feel my life is out of my control and I need balance:
God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference. ​
What keeps you hopeful?

​My future, healthy self. ​

Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens. ..what are some of your favorite things when you are feeling bad?

​I would say it is all listed above. What I do when stressed and what I do to make me happy are all things I would call my coping mechanisms. The biggest one is to find daily gratitude on the shittest day. Last, be patient, compassionate and kind to yourself. Listen to how you speak to yourself in your head and question if that is what you would say to your daughter or mother if they had IBD. If not, then change that inner dialogue.

Social media accounts /website?

www.thecrohnsjourneyfoundation.org
http://instagram.com/crohnsjourney/
https://twitter.com/SarahChoueiry
http://www.facebook.com/MyJourneyWithCrohns

Hope warrior- The Wolf and Me

Hi everyone!  Happy Warrior Wednesday. It’s invisible illness month. I wanted to bring attention to the lovely Cass, the person behind The Wolf and Me. If anyone knows what it’s like to have an invisible illness, it’s her. She battles each one with a fierce attitude, and is always sharing encouragement with anyone else fighting the same fight. Send some love her way and check out her blog, instagram or twitter! Happy March, hoping spring arrives quickly if you’re dealing with any of this crazy winter like we have been. Now read on to find out more about The Wolf and Me. She has some great insight on coping with a chronic illness.

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1. I have a lovely (sarcasm) variety of chronic illnesses 11 in total! My main culprits of hard times and pain are SLE Lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and connective tissue disease…The last is still under investigation. I have other things like Raynauds syndrome too but it’s not a naughty as the others.

2. My journey into the chronic illness world began when I was 20 although I’m sure it began at 15 however I was undiagnosed then! At 20 I became ill at university with the flu that seemingly never ended and it was here that I was diagnosed with CFS and fibromyalgia. Since then the other diagnosis have come in almost one a year.

Coping with diagnosis is tough but for me it was coping with what diagnosis meant that was tough more than coping with hearing what is wrong. Especially so young when I wanted to be going out and having fun but ended up staying in all the time sleeping….although I watched some great movies during this period.

3. Treatment for me is complicated due to the amount of different illnesses in play. My lupus is controlled through chemo currently methotrexate with cytoxan coming in and out of play….This treatment reduces my immune systems white blood cells and thus stops it focusing on destroying me. I am also on Hydroxy chloroquine for this and folic acid to help with the chemo.

For pain I take 900mg of Gabapentin a day and codeine. This helps with fibro and lupus pain.

For me though, the best thing I did was get creative again. I now paint and draw at times of extreme pain. I find that distracting myself this way keeps me active and positive. Along with this I have changed my diet cutting out dairy and introducing items like pineapple that are natural anti-inflamtories.

4. My diseases are triggered by many things, some I can control and some I can’t.

My biggest triggers are illness and stress. I can’t do much about getting sick especially when on chemo but the stress I’ve worked very hard to understand and try to control. I now know when I’m under too much stress and can pull back to find a happier place but this has left me unable to do certain things such as too much traveling.

Other triggers are certain foods like rice that cause me pain, lack of rest and the cold weather!

5.Advice for newly diagnosed : There wouldn’t be just one thing there would be an entire book full of things! But to pick one thing it would be “Don’t panic”. By this I mean don’t start Googling the diagnosis, don’t rush through the millions of questions, don’t lose sleep over it. Take it one step at a time and know that everything will be okay.

6. I have numerous quotes and songs I go to at times of trouble. I love to read certain books especially mainly any book with an internal struggle within it such as Lord of the Rings or even the Hunger Games books. I also love my vinyl collection and when I’m really struggling I turn to Fleetwood Mac as I find their songs to be the kind that reflect many emotions so there is always one that will lift you up.

7. Being hopeful really is a constant state of mind that I have worked hard on over the years. I find that by saying to myself the things I’ve achieved throughout the day I can be hopeful for tomorrow.

It’s very easy to focus on the things we’ve lost or the things we cannot do anymore, like my beloved swimming. So I find by focusing my energy on the things I can do I can be hopeful that tomorrow will be another day full of achievements.

8. To cope with stress I always head straight to arts and crafts. I find that many of them have meditative qualities, even doodling can be therapeutic.

Along with this I also find fresh air helps immensly. When I can I will go for a walk but that’s not always possible. On bad days just sitting by an open window and practising deep breathing really helps me to calm down.

9. Ohhhhhh I have a sweet tooth! When I feel really low I turn to carrot cake it is my ultimate treat! I don’t deny myself treats for fear of putting on weight etc. I think everyone deserves to have something they love every now and again if it’s going to bring a smile to their face!

10. What inspires you? This is a tough question as for me I believe hope comes from within yourself. I am constantly inspired by all of my friends and family everyday in reality. My partner for example is so head strong and grounded that this inspires me to remain in the now.

What inspires me the most are people who are positive in the face of adversity. Sometimes we become so involved on being ill that we forget that everyone on the planet is dealing with something we don’t know about or maybe understand. If you can get up and smile everyday then you are inspirational.

11. My picture would be a simple beach. The water would be clear and the sun would be shining. There would be calm colours all around me and tall trees in the distance with bird song. It would be a place I could sit and read a good book, feel no pain and maybe just watch the waves roll in and out.

12. My website all about chronic illness and positivity can be found at
http://thewolfandme.com

If you want to follow me then come say hi on instagram @thewolfandme or
on Facebook
https://m.facebook.com/pages/The-Wolf-and-Me/253558044825384

Lastly I just want everyone to know that time is a wonderful thing and however hard it maybe now it does get easier! Love to all

Hope Warrior-Michelle

February is a good month for heart opening. If you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, take a moment to say I love you to those you care about. Send a card, make a phone call, share a smile. Bring a little light into the world.

This month’s featured Hope Warrior is Michelle Eberwein from hopeinbracelets.com

She’s pretty incredible. And she makes some beautiful bracelets for all sorts of causes to bring awareness to those conditions. Make sure to check out the bracelets using the link above, and share it with someone you know. This is one of my favorite bracelets she designed, called Hope (go figure that I like it). Can’t wait to order it for myself soon!

hope bracelet

Let’s get to know a little about Michelle.

 

 

Hope Warrior-Astrid

Please bear with me while the blog undergoes some updates. It’ll be back to being pretty, clean and organized soon!

It’s a brand new year, thank goodness. I had the greatest new years eve, this year surrounded by many of my favorite people. Last year I had to worry about being close to a bathroom, this year, I knew I would be okay. Last year, I was about to face the biggest health disaster of my life so far, and this year, I was laughing and smiling and crying tears of joy.  Totally different from last year. I’ve never been so grateful in my entire life. There are days I wake up and I honestly have a hard time believing that the treatment is working. But it is. I’m alive, I’m well, I’m happy, and I’m so, so blessed.

To kick off the new year, I’d like to share Astrid’s story. When I was at my lowest point with this disease, she was always leaving me encouraging messages and continues to cheer me on as I do well, and when I need  a little boost. She seems to do that for everyone that she sees struggling or battling an aggressive disease like IBD. If there were more people in the world that shared the same caring attitude that Astrid did, no one would ever feel alone. Do yourself a favor and check out her art in the links below.  Thanks for being you, Astrid, and for letting me share your story. Happy Warrior Wednesday!

 

Hello My name is Astrid and I am an IBD/ UC warrior.

Astridselfie

I was honoured when Jacklyn from FlareupHope asked to feature me as one of her Wednesday Warriors, I felt a sense of sisterhood with Jacklyn when we first bonded on IG. It was comforting to find others with IBD and sharing our stories make me feel less alone and scared.

What type of chronic illness/autoimmune disease (s) do you live with?
I was diagnosed with Mild to moderate Ulcerative Colitis

When was your diagnosis? How did you cope?
June 2013, The diagnostic was a relief as I needed to know how to proceed with a game plan.

What medications/treatments/surgeries/lifestyle changes have you gone through to manage your disease symptoms?
I have a very sensitive system to start and when I started taking Asacol, couple doses Salofolk following my doctor’s instructions, I felt more sick. I was only able to be on the medication for 2 weeks. My symptoms worsen and brought me to a full flare , that is when I went on a 5 weeks prednisone starting at 40mg to take the inflammation down.Because I didn’t want to rely on long term medication to maintain my everyday living, I worked really hard to find ways to manage my symptoms through diet change. I found the Paleo lifestyle a spring board to my healing regimen .

If you could tell yourself one thing looking back on your diagnosis, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid. This is a true test and will actually make you stronger . You are stronger than you think, you can heal your body, just listen to it.

What do you do to relieve stress?
Yoga, drawing and painting, walking in nature, bellydancing

You are an extremely talented artist. How long have you been creating? What inspires you?
Thank you for your compliment about my artistic abilities. I have loved creating as long as I could remember, silly putty was my favourite toy as a kid, I always had a pencil and paper with me, drawing was my thing, then I learned to paint in school. I am inspired by shapes, colours and texture from nature and love the uninhibited feeling in my children’s artwork.I love painting flowers.

Do you have a saying or quote or song that you turn to when you need to be uplifted?
This too shall pass

What keeps you hopeful?
Meeting more and more IBD/ AI warriors who is dedicated to healing the body through a holistic approach. My first GI told me that I would be 1 in a million if I can control my UC with diet alone. I really should buy more lottery.

What are some of your coping mechanisms for dealing with stress?
Focusing on Breathing, seems so simple but I often forget to take deep breathes until I do yoga or bellydancing. Putting things in perspective when a stressful situation arise. Is my world really going to crumble? Is my family going to be harmed? Am I going to live through it? I used to jump at other people’s requests or demands. I would put their needs or wants first. Now, I prioritize my life better, my health and family always come first.

Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens. ..what are some of your favorite things?
A perfectly sharpened black drawing pencil, epsom salt bentonite clay bath, coconut anything, lavender, the smell of my children’s hair (when it’s cleanish ), a juicy grass fed steak

Social media accounts /website?
http://www.healmeinthekitchen.com
www.astridfoxartanddesigns.blogspot.com
IG: @astridfox_art

Biggest change you’ve made since diagnosis? I am better at managing stress now and have found a positive outlook in life. I have learned to calm my fight or flight habit and start living life with different perspective.
I have learned to adapted to evolving healing eating plans as my body changes. I started with going grain-free right when I was on my short course of prednisone, , then I embraced the Paleo lifestyle, now I have fine tuned it with AIP ( Autoimmune Protocol ) with low FODMAP. I cook 90% o f my foods, spend 80% of my waking time in the kitchen. I read labels because my wellbeing depends on it. I almost never eat out but you can often spot me with my thermal flask of bone broth at restaurants while out with my family.

Best thing about having this disease?
Having to learn how to face my fears and dig deep into my darkest places, I have become the person I have always want to be, I have learned to live with less fear and without regrets. (I love this-J)

What have you accomplished that you are most proud of?
M y greatest accomplishment besides being a parent is building a business from ground up. 17 years ago, My husband and I took our passion, along with our inexperiences and decided to start our own business. When we opened our retail fashion boutique in 1998, apparently our neighbouring business ,at that time, thought that we ( our business) would only last a couple of months. That neighbouring business has since sold and change a couple of hands over and we are still the longest standing business with the same owner in the hood. Being entrepreneurs isn’t easy but we stood the test of time with our boutique/cafe, Global Atomic Designs and Black Echo Coffee, in the fashion district of downtown Vancouver, Canada. We having survived the economically ups and downs throughout the years and continue to push trend boundaries .We have earned international recognition in what we do like making into the NY Times 36 hours guide.

Astrid is a whole food advocate, recipe developer, ferment fanatic, mother, wife, artist and entrepreneur. When she is not playing kitchen scientist, she is most likely plotting her next painting move from her yoga mat. Carving time to fill her different hats can be challenging, but she finds joy in balancing a holistic lifestyle to support her continuing battle with Ulcerative Colitis. She owns a fashion boutique/ cafe www.globalatomic.com and www.blackechocoffee.com in downtown Vancouver, Canada with her husband.

You can also follow her creative art progress on http://instagram.com/astridfox_art