Hope in Letting Go

Disclaimer: This gets a little personal for me. I’m not looking for pity, and I know that things could always be much worse. I’m not trying to get sympathy. I just want to share the reality of what life is like with a chronic illness.Depression is in my family, so I’m always very aware of my mental health state, and I knew that I was slipping down that slope and had to make a change. This is my way of dealing with how this disease has changed my life. I’m sharing it because I know there are others who struggle with it and I hope it can offer ways of coping for them. 

Did you know that grieving over a chronic illness is a real thing?

I didn’t. I have experienced all of the emotions of grief, but I didn’t realize that it was actually a real thing that you go through with an autoimmune disease. My GI doctor seemed to shrug it off when I told her about my concerns. I was struggling with this so much over the past few weeks, and so relieved to find thousands of results on Google under “grieving a chronic illness.”

I was 24 when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, that was just about 2 years ago. I did not know anyone with a chronic illness aside from one of my best friends who had lupus, and she didn’t really talk about how much it affected her. I knew nothing about how much my life was going to changed, and my doctor never mentioned anything to expect. Our only talks were about treatments and how many bowel movements I was having. No one talked about the emotional part of IBD. And it’s a huge part. I wish someone would have talked about it.

I’m talking about it today.

When I got my initial diagnosis, I was actually relieved. That was the first emotion I felt. I even remember smiling and saying “oh, okay.” I didn’t have cancer. It wasn’t until I got home and later that night looked up on the internet what the disease ulcerative colitis actually was that I realized what I had.  And then I cried hysterically. Life would never be the same. Just like that.

There are many parts and pieces that are lost or changed when your life with a chronic illness begins. Working is hard for some, and the type of job you do might change. You might be absent from work on some days when you never used to call in before, or find that you aren’t able to keep up with those responsibilities that you used to handle with ease.

 Relationships that aren’t built to handle this type of challenge may become strained as some do not understand what you are going through. Some relationships may dissolve completely (you don’t need those people anyway). 

Grief can come at you in all forms as the disease changes you mentally, physically, spiritually and fully. With my IBD, every single day brings a different opportunity, and sometimes a different barrier. My identity of who I was pre IBD is gone. I still have bits and pieces, but it came at such a transitional part in my life where I was already trying to define myself, I absolutely had no idea who i was anymore or what I was going to be. All I knew was that I was sick, and it hurt, and I lost all sense of what life was going to be.

Depression is a slippery slope for many people with autoimmune diseases. For some, the grief cycle is continuous. Each new loss the disease brings can trigger what happened in the past. For others, seeing some patients thrive and be healthy can trigger jealousy and longing for the past healthy days. We may be truly happy for the person who is having the time of their life, but it may make us yearn for the days when we were healthy and naive. 

Sometimes, we are so ill, it is impossible for us to grieve what losses are occurring. It’s important that we set aside time to mourn what has been stolen, whether that be your pre IBD identity, your colon, your relationships, your finances, what ever it is. It’s SO important to go through that cycle, deal with the emotions, and let it go. Otherwise, you’re stuck. At least, that’s how I’ve been feeling.

When I had my diagnosis, and knew what it was through my own research, I felt sad, but I didn’t really know how much the disease was going to affect my life. It was hard, but I was getting through it and to be honest, life hadn’t really changed all that much. Fast forward a year, and I’m in the hospital getting a blood transfusion and I’m the sickest person the nurse has ever seen, and she had been a nurse for over 20 years. 

I was too sick to grieve. I was scared. I wanted my life back. I was mad. I was frustrated. But I was hopeful. And I eventually got out and was able to start slowly healing and getting some strength back. I didn’t really realize that I had said goodbye to pre-IBD me, and she wasn’t coming back.  Pre-IBD me is a memory. She is in the past. I have bits and pieces of her in my heart, but I’m not the same. So, who am I? I’ve been having to relearn a lot of things. 

Fast forward to now.

 I went on vacation this year, somehow expecting to be vacationing from my disease. Earth to Jacklyn, you can’t just send your disease to outer-space for a couple weeks and bring it back when you get home.

That realization triggered a lot of emotions that I hadn’t dealt with previously. I have to take this disease with me wherever I go from. now. on. Life as I knew it for 24 years is not coming back. I can hope and wish and pray, but it’s just not. For the rest of my life, until they find a cure, I will carry this disease with me.

What I do have, however, is a great life. I just couldn’t see it recently with all the emotional baggage falling over my eyes.

I decided this weekend that it was time to seriously grieve my losses, and then let them go. I am so tired of being triggered into a dark cloud of emotion every single time this disease defeats me. I have a very blessed life, and I want to be able to enjoy it with fresh eyes and stop yearning for the way it was previously. I did a lot of research and spoke with folks in my IBD community and found that many of them are also in this cycle of grief, being set off with different triggers as the disease changes and you again have to adapt and change what life was.

Now, before you read on, I want to make sure you know that I am aware this cannot be fixed in a weekend. But I want to share with you the beginning of my letting go (que the music), and I think I’m off to a good start.

My fiance is out-of-town this weekend, so I had the house to myself and was free to mourn my previous life. I did a lot of research, and decided on what strategies I was going to take to start moving on with my IBD life. 

I decided to have a funeral for my old life. 

 I started by writing a really long letter about all of the great things I did pre diagnosis. I wrote in my journal for hours about what I loved about that life. And then I said goodbye to it. I folded up the letter and put it away. I cried. I took a lot of deep breaths and focused as much as I could on letting go of that life.

 And then I wrote another letter. This time it was acknowledging all the things I was grateful for in my life right now.

I made my mantra Have presence in the present. Let it Go. And with each breath during my meditation I recited it. I physically practiced it during my yoga session. I wrote it down on a sticky note and stuck it on my door frame. I lit Rose incense after learning that the scent helps release pent-up emotions. But mostly, I spent the weekend doing a ton of things I enjoyed doing. I made lists of things I was happy about. Things I dream about. I played music that made me happy. Music that made me sad. I put on my favorite shirt. I laughed. I rearranged the furniture. I got rid of clothes that no longer fit. I put together a box of things to get rid of. I counted my blessings. I prayed. I watched a couple of sermons. I practiced putting my expectations in a box so I didn’t have to dwell on them.

 And now I’m here. Telling you about it. And I’m going to keep practicing letting go every single day until this longing for my old life moves out. I’m cleaning out what was to make room for what can be. And I know that there can be a lot of good, even with IBD. I truly think that I won’t be able to see the good in the present if I don’t let go of what once was and look to what is good now. 

If you’re looking to make the move for yourself, and have some time and space to do it, there are some links at the end of this post to some of the research that I found to be most helpful. There’s a lot more out there, so please find what fits for you and make sure to consult your support group if you don’t feel like you can get through this yourself. I’m not a doctor or a counselor, but I’m here to listen if you need it.

I’m just trying to find what works best for me in living with this disease, and my hope is that you can too.

http://www.chronicpainaustralia.org.au/files/Booklet%202%20-%20Grief%20and%20Loss.pdf

http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/070714p18.shtml

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/40-ways-to-let-go-and-feel-less-pain/

Hope In Vacations

I can’t say I’m entirely thrilled to be back home in -23 degree mornings (yes, that is a negative 23 temperature), but man, I missed the privacy of my own bathroom and only having to share it with one other person. Little blessings.

Vacation was different this year. This was my first non-sick/IBD related day off from work in over a year and a half. You could say I was looking forward to it. I wasn’t even realizing that this was my first vacation with my IBD. The thought did not even cross my mind at all. I was thinking of sun, and sand and not having to think about anything else but just relaxing and doing whatever I wanted. I still had the mentality that vacation was going to be about lounging and laughing and eating and drinking and just letting go.

At my infusion before we left for vacation.
At my infusion before we left for vacation.

My infusion was the Friday before we left, and we were driving to avoid the chance of me getting sick with my immunities being so low right after the remicade (we both came back home with colds anyway) and my fiance drove the whole trip. I was nauseated a couple of times and had some cold sweats but mostly got through okay. Absolutely no urgency. We stayed overnight in Georgia so I could get a goods night sleep and be in full vacation mode when we arrived on Sunday. I think part of me was thinking that not only do I have time away from work and obligations, but part of me kind of thought I was going to be on vacation from this disease as well.I was so ready for Sunday and to be feeling better. As we were driving in to FL and a few miles away from the house, we had the windows down and the sunshine filtering in and it all felt wonderful. I closed my eyes and felt the wind come through the window onto my face and just smiled, feeling so grateful that I was well enough to be there.

The first couple of days were great. We went fishing and relaxed, went out to the everglades and just did whatever we wanted. I was still seeing some blood, but I wasn’t in any pain or too concerned, just waiting for the remicade to do what it needed to and watching what I ate to try to avoid anything I knew triggered a flareup before. I smuggled my own Ketchup in my purse. I don’t drink anymore because it triggers inflammation for me, but I was able to find some iced coffee everywhere and was a happy girl.

Every time my fiance and I have previously been to Florida on vacation, we usually spend a night at an oyster bar filling up on ketchup and horseradish and crackers and beer. It’s one of my favorite memories on our first vacation together, sitting on the patio with a corona and oysters, laughing and carrying on without a care in the world.
We went out to one oyster bar on our 4th or 5th night there, and I ended up breaking down. Reading over the menu, there was a large warning specific to “persons with autoimmune diseases” that eating the raw oysters may cause severe illness or even death.
Oh.
I never thought I would cry over oysters. Or in public. At a restaurant of all places. It was like a scene from a stupid cheesy movie when the waitress comes over to ask for your order an you’re trying to pretend like somethings in your eye. Sometimes I just get so tired of this disease surprising me. And on vacation?! Vacation is where you’re supposed to leave all your problems behind, right?
As I sat quietly through dinner of french fries and my smuggled Ketchup I tried really hard not to let the tears drop down my face. I just wanted a vacation. A vacation like I remembered. Like I used to have.
When we left the restaurant, I cried for a little while though I really didn’t want to. And then I asked my fiance to help me redefine vacation. If vacation wasn’t going to be what it used to be, I needed to change the way I thought about it.
I can’t take a vacation from my disease. It’s part of me, and I can’t neglect to take precautions, take medications, and take care of myself. Even for just a little while. I can, however, go to the beach. I can take walks to wherever. I can put my toes in the water. I can walk on the pier. I can drink coffee. All kinds of coffee. And smoothies. I can do yoga. On the beach. I can go visit old trees, and get close to alligators. I can eat strawberries fresh off the farm. I can watch the sunset. I can make the most of what I’ve been given, and not focus on what I’m unable to do.

This vacation helped me realize that many things are still going to need to be redefined in my life in the future. I’m still mournful there are things I used to be able to do but choose not to do now because they make my quality of life lower due to the disease I have. It’s not easy to give up some of my favorite things. The letting go allows something else to be discovered, however, and I know that there’s more out there for me to find. I’m grateful that I was given the opportunity to try some of these things once before, and that I have memories of those moments to call on and relive when I want to. This vacation reminded me of what a gift my life is, and what a gift each moment is. I really never know if there will be a next time. Neither do you. Hopefully, I can remember that more often.

Here I am, focusing on what I can do:  a bridge in front of a tree that is over 150 years old.
Here I am, focusing on what I can do: a bridge in front of a tree that is over 150 years old.

Sparking Hope Again

I want to apologize to you all for not posting the past couple of weeks. I didn’t want to do a post because I wasn’t feeling true or all that hopeful, and I didn’t want to force it.
When it rains, it pours and usually for someone with an autoimmune disease,  it flares.
I had a family emergency during week 6, and week 7 started experiencing some nasty symptoms that hadn’t appeared since May. When I saw the blood, I immediately started sobbing. No, no, no, no, no. This isn’t happening again. I sat on the bathroom floor and cried while my dog licked the tears falling from my face. I was crying so hard my fiance thought I was laughing. I came out of the bathroom and he saw my face and jumped up. I couldn’t speak enough to tell him what was wrong between crying so hard,so he just held me for a while until I could get it out.
It’s back.
I wasn’t prepared for that type of reaction from myself. I can’t remember the last time I cried that hard. the memories of being in the hospital came flooding back.  All the pokes, the unanswered questions, the pain, the steroids, the side effects. I wasn’t ready to go through all that trial and error again. To miss out on the world again.

While I blabbered  on about everything going through my head my fiancé reminded me to stop and just take it one step at a time. My next infusion was in 5 days. Maybe it’s just triggered from the stress of the previous week and being so close to refill time. I wasn’t in a lot of pain. No urgency. Just blood. Terrifying, but just blood.

So, I’m taking it day by day. I’m praying. A lot. I got my remicade infusion on Friday, and the blood has diminished,  though not completely gone yet. But I’m good. I’m taking time away, and I’m taking care of myself. I’m getting my hope back. Spark by spark.
For the next two weeks I have nothing planned but sunshine and relaxation. No work. No negativitiy. No anxious thoughts are allowed. Only love, and gratitude, and laughter are welcome here.
I’m going to be writing down three grateful moments everyday, to keep myself accountable. I’ll post them for you on Sunday. I need to hit the refresh button over here so I can keep bringing the hope to all of you. I’ll be checking in on twitter and instagram,if you need anything at all. Thanks for your support. You all mean the world to me.

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

Hope Warrior: Alyssa

Hope Warrior-@chronicallyliving

Folks, I’d like you to meet Ellie. She’s a brave young girl who is facing any autoimmune diseases that keep her at home. She is currently unable to leave the house for long periods of time, even a trip to the doctor seems like a road trip across the country. But she doesn’t let this stop her from keeping a positive attitude and raising awareness for her diseases and many others.

Please read through Ellie’s story.

You can find her on instagram @chronicallyliving.

What type of chronic illness are you battling? I have Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) which is a form of Dsyautonomia and Irritable Bowel Sydrome(IBS). Together they produce huge variety of symptoms, some of the main being; fatigue that isn’t relieved by sleep or rest, chronic pain (joint and muscle, affecting all parts of the body), brain fog/cognitive impairment, nausea and other stomach problems, sleeping problems, constant sore throat and glands, feeling dizzy or faint, and many more.
 
What is the number one thing you’ve learned about yourself since your diagnosis?
Probably that I am able to deal with a lot more than I thought I could; I never expected to be in a situation like this but when you’re put in that situation you just learn to deal with it. 
When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with ME/CFS in august of this year, and then with POTS and IBS in November. I have been suffering with symptoms since the very start of the year. 
What are your current medications/what lifestyle changes have you made to treat your illness?
In terms of medication: amitriptyline for sleep, pain and mood (currently reducing my dose), melatonin for sleep, domperidone for nausea (just about to switch to a new nausea med), fybogel for digestive problems, mebeverine for stomach cramps.tramadol and ibuprofen for pain,
Lifestyle changes: I’m mostly gluten free to help with my IBS, I try and follow a thing called pacing to make sure I don’t overdo my activity, and I take plenty of rest breaks during the day(Where i do nothing but lie there and listen to relaxing music)
How do you keep your mental health intact while dealing with the symptoms/changes of the disease?
I am on low dose antidepressant which possibly helps a bit, but mostly I try and focus on things I can enjoy and the little achievments every day. I’m also helped by being surrounded by loving, caring people who believe me and do their best to understand what I’m going through.
What do you struggle with most? What are you doing to overcome it?
I struggle the most with my fatigue, as it leaves me bedbound and unable to walk further than to my bathroom, and I sometimes can’t even manage that. To overcome it, I’m just having to do my best to keep my activity to a minimum to avid any further dips in energy level, and I hope that eventually I will be able to begin to build up my daily activity.
Any advice for newly diagnosed?
Try and keep your activity to a minimum-do half of what you are able to do! If you overdo it, your illness will only get worse and worse. And try and remember it isn’t necessarily a life sentence : people with ME, POTS and IBS do sometimes recover, and the majority of them experience periods of improvements, especially if you are young the chances of recovering are fairly good.
Rules to live by?
Do not overdo your activity. Love yourself and respect your limits. Don’t let other people tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. Don’t let people make you feel guilty for being ill. Always look for something positive in every day.
What does your perfect day look like?
At the moment, since I can’t leave the house I’d say a movie day with a few friends and maybe a bit of pampering time with face masks etc! 
Go to Snack when flaring:Probably a piece of dark chocolate  (I like 85%) because it doesn’t make me feel sick.
Favorite Author: Probably John Green! But I can’t read currently due to my illness.
Activity that lifts your spirits: Colouring!
Your philosophy/mantra that you’d like others to know about you: Make the best out of a bad situation.
What would you do with a million dollars? Give some to charity, some to my parents, buy myself loads of pyjamas!
Who do you admire? Everyone I see fighting their illnesses with such strength!
What is your mission? To raise awareness for invisible illnesses, especially ME/CFS.
Social media accounts? @chronicallyliving (instagram)
Screenshot_2014-12-10-08-23-30

Remission

This girl is one of the most amazing people I have met in this community. Not only does she give all she’s got to fight her autoimmune diseases and everything that comes with it, she fights for everyone else that’s suffering. Through her #purpleproject care packages, caring tweets, and hilarious sense of humor, she’s always bringing a smile to someone’s face. I picked this post to share today to give a little insight as to what it’s like to have an autoimmune disease. “Remission is a sigh of relief, Remission is family, friends and never cancelling plans. Remission is Hope, a Future, Remission is smiles. Remission means normal.”
Kelly, thank you so much for all that you do and all that you fight for, and all the joy you bring to people who need it. I couldn’t be prouder to have you as part of my IBD family, and I know we’ll be in this fight together through Remission and beyond.
What is Remission to you?

Awareness Week-Why I’m Participating

December 1st begins the week of awareness for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Since these inflammatory bowel diseases are the reasons I started this blog in the first place, I thought I should take part in this awareness campaign and share some information this week about Inflammatory Bowel Disease, specifically Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.

5 million people in the world are battling one of these diseases.

That’s equal to the number of people battling Alzheimer’s in the United States as well as the number of people who die from tobacco usage each year. When I googled 5 million, these are the statistics that came up. As well as that 1.5 million people in the United States are living with Lupus. These are all terrible and scary numbers, and horrible diseases for people to battle, but that’s not my point.When I did this google search, after going through 7 search pages there had still not been mention of Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis. I stopped searching after that.

There is not enough awareness for this cause. Inflammatory Bowel Disease is an autoimmune disease that has no cure. No cure. That means 5 million people have been told that they will live the rest of their life fighting this disease and taking medication to try to ease the symptoms (we’ll discuss these in a later post). 5 million people are being told they don’t know what caused the disease to occur, and whether the treatment will work. This number is on the rise, and it’s time to take a stand so no one else has to hear those words.

Speaking with some other IBD Warriors, one of the most frustrating things to deal with is the fact that most people do not understand that inflammatory bowel disease does not have a cure. People are constantly asking when you will be normal again, when you will stop taking your medications or getting your infusions or watching your diet. When will you be able to go out and party again like the old times? People ask this because they care, and because they don’t know any better. They don’t mean to offend or frustrate you.

In my opinion, the only way to bring understanding is to continue to raise awareness and be open and share what inflammatory bowel disease is as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

I remember when I woke up from my colonoscopy, still spinning from the anesthesia and heard that I had ulcerative colitis. Oh. What’s that? I figured it was just something I could take some antibiotics for and it would go away, like bronchitis or something. Uh, not exactly. The doctor said we would meet next week and discuss my treatment plan. And there I was, in my hospital gown with my mom, sipping on my sprite and realizing that my life had just been flipped upside down.

Getting a diagnosis of “no cure”means a lot of emotional turmoil. You battle with “it could be worse” and “why is this happening to me?” It means I get to have good days that I won’t let slip through my fingers. It means I have days where I don’t leave the bed until late in the afternoon. It means I have to take pills every day for the rest of my life, and deal with the side effects. It means that I don’t know if my medications will continue working. I don’t know when my next flare up will be. I will most likely need to continue taking medications and receiving infusions for the rest of my life. I will consistently be watching what I eat, because I’ve found that some foods trigger flare ups for me.  It means that someday, like 50% of others fighting these diseases, I may face surgery in my future. This may be surgery to remove part of their intestine, or their whole colon. And this means someone you know may be suffering. There are treatments that can put some of the symptoms into remission. Often these treatments bring very scary side effects. But they do offer a chance at a normal life.

It means I am passionate about raising awareness for these diseases. Every time I see someone else receive this diagnosis. Every time I go to the infusion center. Every time I go to the doctor’s appointments. Every morning and night when I take my medications. Every time I scroll my twitter feed and see someone else suffering. Every time someone from my IBD family gets admitted to the hospital.

Do I wish that I had never received this diagnosis? Of course. But I wouldn’t give it to anyone else in a heartbeat. I’ve met some of the most incredible people through this diagnosis that I would never have connected with if I didn’t go through what they were going through, or vice versa. And if I wasn’t fighting for more awareness, for a cure, who would be in my place? It could be someone you know.

Join me this week as I focus on these two diseases and how we can find hope while fighting them, and while healing.

someoneyouknow

 

Hope Warrior- Shawn

Hi folks! Sorry I have been away for so long. I caught a terrible cold and was spending all of my energy on my day job and am just now getting it all back again and getting back into the blog! I promise it will be better than ever before, stay tuned for the next few months to see what’s coming!
In the mean time, I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s Wednesday Warrior, Shawn.
She’s a great example of how your life doesn’t have to revolve around your disease, and you can do amazing things still! Using ulcerative colitis as a driving force and determined to put herself and others fighting autoimmune diseases into remission without having to rely on harsh drugs and awful side effects, and she’s doing great work on this!
Check our her contact info at the end of the blog, and thank you Shawn for sharing!
Here’s Shawn’s story:

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2008. At the time, I just took the medication (mesalamine) I was given and it went into remission without a problem. I had a few small flares over the next few years, but was able to get over them pretty quickly. It wasn’t until August of 2013 when I was hit with an intense, debilitating flare. Tests revealed my UC had spread. My gastroenterologist was the worst! He gave me no insight as to how this could have happened and refused to entertain any idea that diet played a role. Instead, he handed me a prescription for prednisone and mesalamine and made sure I was aware that I would need to be on medication the rest of my life. This infuriated me, but looking back now, I’m so incredibly happy that I had the worst doctor ever. It forced me to do my own research on causes and treatment of the disease because I was determined to get off prescription medications! 18 months later and it has become almost an obsession…I WILL figure out how to make people with autoimmune diseases well again without the use of debilitating prescription meds. I have found my calling!

Since that moment of enlightenment, my life has been a whirlwind! First and foremost, I completely changed my diet and in doing so, have been able to get my UC symptoms about 90% under control. I currently follow a STRICT paleo diet, eliminating ALL grains, dairy, processed foods, sugar, and legumes. For 6 months, I even took it one step further and followed the Autoimmune Protocol which eliminates nuts, eggs, and nightshades…foods that can cause inflammation in those that are sick. In doing so, I was able to take my healing even further, get off ALL medications, and add these foods back in with no symptoms! Food is medicine and it has been a game changer for me. Another plus? It has MADE me learn how to cook and it turns out that the kitchen is my happy place! I have eaten some of the best meals of my life while focusing on eating for my health. This is MY #1 PIECE OF ADVICE…even if your doctor tells you diet has nothing to do with your disease, IT DOES! At minimum, it is absolutely critical you get rid of all processed foods and grains. It’s not that bad, I promise!

Secondly, I had to make some major lifestyle changes. Living a rested, stress-free, health-fulfilling life was now my biggest priority. I had spent years in a super stressful job, had a crazy workout routine, ate at a caloric-deficit everyday in an effort to get to my ‘ideal’ weight, dealt with dramatic relationships, and spent one too many nights out until the bars closed. I simply could not live this lifestyle anymore, my health was more important. I immediately adopted a more ‘grandma-like’ lifestyle! I make sure I get at least 8 hours of sleep every single night which means some nights, I’m leaving social outings early, something I have learned to be OK with doing. I also don’t drink alcohol anymore (except for a very occasional glass of red wine) and have had to adapt to being the only one ordering water! Although I still workout regularly (I am a personal trainer after all!), I make sure to listen to my body and tone it down when I need to in order to avoid physical stress. I no longer allow dramatic people into my life. If I do have a stressful day, I make sure to spend at least a few minutes that day in full-on relax mode, focusing on deep breathing and muscle relaxation. This is my version of meditation! I also spend about 30 minutes every night doing restorative yoga poses to detox my body and mind from the day. In purposefully de-stressing my lifestyle, not only have I been able to physically heal, but it has helped me mentally cope with the battle at hand. This is my #2 PIECE OF ADVICE…get rid of as much stress as you possibly can and get some sleep! Eliminating stress is the only way to truly heal.

It may seem like this major life overhaul I’ve had would be hard, overwhelming, and not fun, but it is just the opposite. I’ve never felt so empowered in my life! I’m not letting this disease win! Yes, I have bad days. There are days when I don’t feel well and it’s frustrating. There are times when I want to go out with my friends and have a beer and a giant plate of nachos. There are times when I just don’t want to think about any of it for a second. But, I recognize that its normal to have bad days and negative thoughts. I don’t beat myself up about it. Its what you do with the negativity that matters. For me, I’ll take a nap or read my Us Weekly (my guilty pleasure) to take my mind off of it for a bit. If I’m frustrated, I’ll go get a great workout in and sweat the frustration out! After I take this time away, I turn my feelings into motivation! I head to my computer and do more research, looking for even more information that will help us all beat this disease. My bad days only fuel my fire! And this is my #3 PIECE OF ADVICE…YOU are not YOUR DISEASE! Don’t let it take over who you are. Let it motivate you to live your healthiest life and use those lifestyle changes as empowerment!

I have a ways to go, but in the past few months I have learned so much about treating and preventing autoimmune diseases WITHOUT prescription drugs. It is a possibility and so exciting! As I get information, I will be sharing it to help everyone else via my blog: www.well-belly.com. You can also sign up for twice monthly newsletters focused on wellness as a lifestyle on this site too! If you need ideas for what a meal should look like on a Paleo diet, follow me on Instagram: @well_belly.

I would love to hear from anyone who is struggling with their battle, has questions, or just wants to chat! Email me: wellbellynutrition@gmail.com.

Well-Belly-Web