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A New Beginning

For the first time ever in my life, I didn’t care if I died. That’s crazy for me to admit, but it was true. Anyone who knows me knows that I would NEVER want to leave my kids. If you’ve read some of my other blogs you know that my son has made me promise him since he was little that I would live forever. Even knowing that, I was so sick that I didn’t know how I’d make it another day.

Having an ostomy bag never scared me, not even the first time I saw it. I was more fascinated that this bag was going to give me my life back.

Less than 24 hours after surgery I had a problem with my catheter. I had excruciating pain and thankfully my sister was there to help figure it out. They usually leave the catheter in for a few days but ended up removing it. I was so weak I could barely get up out of bed.

My hubby put the portable toilet in between my bed and his couch bed so that I would only have to stand and could sit immediately. It’s in a moment like this, where you’re sitting on a portable toilet, bedside, that you really feel your most vulnerable.

In the middle of the night I got up to use the portable toilet and my hubby told me that he loved me and leaned in to kiss me. I felt more love than I thought was possible. Then, of course, I cracked a joke and did everything I could to not laugh because of the pain.

2 days after surgery, I started coughing up blood which was definitely eventful for my husband. I was choking and trying to say “Go get help!” He had to go running to get help. I’m pretty sure I’ve caused some PTSD in him now.

The doctor had an ENT Specialist (Ear, Nose & Throat) come to see me. He explained that when I was intubated they messed up my uvula (the little thing that hangs down in the back of your throat) and also my throat. They had to switch my meds to liquid or IV and I ate a ton of ice chips. It took 3 weeks to get better and I’m still not 100%.

The 5th day after surgery I started having severe nausea and the doctor was so worried that I had a blockage. He had to stop all food and drinks so that they could do an X-ray. When I got to the X-ray I could barely stand on my own. It was so hard for me to breathe and my legs were shaking so bad. I didn’t know how I would survive another surgery if they found a blockage. Thankfully, it was a false alarm and after 2 more days of severe nausea I turned the corner and asked if I could go home.

The first week home was brutal. I could only walk to the bathroom, which was 66 steps round trip from the couch to our guest bathroom. I would count every single one, every single time so that I always knew how much farther I had to go. I could shower as long as I took only 5 minutes. Every muscle in my legs, arms and hands would shake. It was very hard to do anything. I could make myself food as long as it was something fast. Other than that, I was laying down, working on my laptop, trying not to move.

Now that I’ve gotten to the point where I can stand longer than 5 minutes, I’m trying to get into a routine. Waking up early like I usually do. Making breakfast, showering and starting my work day. I’m preparing myself for when I’m released back into the real world. Mentally I’m so ready but I don’t want to mess up my recovery so I’m staying patient.

I’m able to eat every single meal at the dining table now. Something I haven’t been able to do for over 6 months. It’s the little things like this that make me emotional. You don’t know how important the small things are until you are completely debilitated.

I hope that anyone who reads my journey realizes that no matter how healthy someone appears to be, that’s not always the case. People with chronic illnesses do a hell of a job pretending to be “fine.”

I am so grateful to the surgeon who listened to my personal story and saved my life. This past year that I have been out of Kaiser, every doctor and nurse who has become a part of my medical journey has taken my situation so seriously. If it wasn’t for them I don’t know where I would be. Every single day, I just wanted to fight the fight of this brutal disease but I knew things were changing fast. I just didn’t know that it would literally be overnight.

I encourage you to be an advocate for your own health. Nobody knows your body better than you. Stay factual when you talk to your doctor. Keep records of everything. Keep a journal to refer back to. You never know when all of that information will help someone save your life.

What many people don’t understand about having Ulcerative Colitis or Crohns Disease is that having your colon removed does not “cure” you. You still have the disease but you will hopefully have a better quality of life. Everyone has a different definition of quality of life. For me, I just wanted to be able to go for a walk with my hubby and dogs, sit at the dinner table with my family, go to the mall with my daughter, go to a movie with my son. continue to travel, go to Disneyland for my nieces birthday. Those were all things that became impossible. If I did attempt to do it, I was in misery. Counting the seconds til I would be home.

I remember when the home health nurse first came to see me after my first hospital discharge. She had to assess my capabilities and asked me, what does a day at Disneyland look like? I just shook my head no. I said, “that would be impossible for me. I can’t even go to the grocery store, let alone walk a theme park.” You have no idea how lucky you are to be mobile, without limitations until you lose that freedom. This disease is like being in prison and I couldn’t live another day like that. When I say it’s unpredictable, you have no idea what that means unless you live it.

To all my Ostomate Buddies that I’ve met throughout this rollercoaster, I love you guys! You inspire me to keep kicking ass. You have prayed for me and you have given amazing tips which is why I was able to fight through this recovery and stay so strong. Thank you, I’m forever grateful!

Looking forward to new beginnings, cheeseburgers (Grass-fed beef of course), french fries with ranch and ketchup and chocolate chip cookies!!! No this will not be my daily diet but it will be nice to know that if I do indulge, I won’t bleed to death. 😉

Stay tuned…the best is yet to come! #ConnieToThe10thPower

I’ve made my decision

In one day, my entire life changed.

Friday afternoon, October 12th, it was just after 1:00pm and I was expecting my home health nurse. She was coming to do an exit interview. Little did I know that she would be saving my life that day.

I spent the week moving the guest bedroom downstairs and my office upstairs so that I could make my office a gym. My gut was telling me I should have a bedroom downstairs, especially because my first week home from the hospital I struggled to walk up the stairs just once a day.

Each day I could feel myself fighting to get through. Struggling to breathe, and my muscles were shaking. I kept pushing myself to continue physical therapy and figured I needed to regain the weight and muscle that I lost after being in the hospital for 10 days.

When my nurse arrived, she asked how I had been doing. I told her I was fine and that it was a rough day and I was waiting to turn the corner. That’s how I would refer to my bad days, “waiting to turn the corner.” As I sat there on the couch, she kept asking me questions. I kept changing positions, trying to lay down, leaning to my side but I just couldn’t get comfortable.

As she kept talking, I was struggling to answer her. I was extremely weak but trying to smile and be polite. She grabbed her phone and said, “Something isn’t right with you I’m calling your doctor.” She called my doctor and left a message saying to call her back immediately. Then she called her supervisor to tell her she was concerned because I didn’t look right. I was weak, had tachycardia and shortness of breath. All symptoms that I normally had on bad days, but I was trying to tough it out.

After spending about an hour with me she said, “I’m so glad I came to see you because you just don’t look right. I’m going to keep calling the doctor until someone calls me back. If you don’t hear from the doctor by the end of the day, go to the ER.” I’m sure my chronic illness buddies know that we do whatever we possibly can to avoid the ER. Too much incompetence and lack of knowledge.

5:15pm the phone rang, it was my gastroenterologist. He said that I needed to be admitted right away. He arranged for a room to be ready for me when I arrived so that I wouldn’t have to go through the ER process. I packed a bunch of stuff, with the hopes I would be home in a day but I had a gut feeling that my life was about to change.

For the first time ever, after doing several blood tests they were coming back outside the normal range. They came into my room every hour ordering more and more tests all night long. The entire time that I’ve been sick my blood work has held strong, so I knew something was wrong.

They had me consent for a blood transfusion and started to give me fluids and potassium chloride. They also brought potassium pills in and wanted to give me steroids.

Many years ago, I had a severe psychosis reaction to prednisone. It is listed as an allergy and only to be used in life or death situations. The doctors knew this and were still pressuring me to start them. I was concerned but I stood my ground. They needed to figure out another medication and they did. A steroid that the hospital couldn’t get for two days so I immediately offered for my kids to pick it up if they could find a pharmacy that had it.

I started the medicine on Sunday afternoon, along with a rectal suppository. The goal was to stop the bleeding, it didn’t work. I asked for a consultation with the Surgeon to remove my colon and they tried to persuade me to go on Biologics. I listened so that I could make an educated decision but by the time Monday rolled around I had been waiting 3 days for the surgical consult and still, nobody had come.

There was an entire team of doctors in my room and I finally put my foot down. I was so sick and tired of hearing about the biologic medicines and told them I only considered taking them to appease them. I want to be educated about the surgery and know what my options are. During my last hospital stay, just a few weeks prior, the doctor said the disease was severe and I was a candidate for surgery. They avoided getting me the consult during those 10 days.

I told them that I’m not leaving the hospital until I meet with the surgical team. Finally, they arranged it and the doctor came to meet with me. He walked in the room, grabbed a chair and pulled it up to my bedside. Sat down, crossed his legs and put his hands in his lap, just like my dad would do. The whole day I was praying to please have the surgeon listen to me and at that moment, I knew my prayers were answered. He said, “tell me about what you’ve been going through.” I explained the last 8 years to him and that I was against the medications because my situation is complex. I told him I’m afraid now that if I start the biologic that I will get worse just like I did with the other medicine. Plus, my immune system will be suppressed. I won’t be able to fight an infection and there are rare cancers that I can also get from being on them. I said “I want my life back. I want to be able to go to dinner with my husband, travel, and work without worrying every minute if my condition is going to land me in the hospital. Canceling plans because from one hour to the next I’m a train wreck.” I explained how hard I worked to be healthy with diet and exercise and I’ve lost 25 pounds because I’m slowly deteriorating. I said “I’m afraid if we wait any longer I will be back here in a month or less, probably down more weight and even more deteriorated. Now is the time to do the surgery while I’m strong.”

He said “I agree with everything that you said. For you, this is the right decision. For everything you want to do with your life that you mentioned, you can only get that with surgery.” He then pulled out his prescription pad, tore a page off, turned it over and did a drawing of what will take place. I said “What do we do next? Do you need me to contact the insurance or write a letter?” He said, “you don’t worry about any of that, I will take care of it.” I said “Do you think I’m crazy? I know most people are begging to save their colon.” He said, “No, you are very sure of what you want for your life and the surgery will give you that.”

I did an amazing job getting through the last 8 years with diet, and most people that I have met were on meds for 3-8 years before getting this surgery. I made it this far medicine free. The disease can be controlled with a controlled diet and a lot of the symptoms you will have whether you’re on meds or not. Some people are on meds and tell me they’ve been in a flare for 2 years. What’s the point of the meds then? It’s just damaging other parts of your body.

The disease is unpredictable. Nobody knows how much time they have until their next flare or when they will be faced with life-changing decisions. Therefore, I immediately started my research on having my colon removed 2 years ago. I wanted to know as much as possible because one thing I hate is ignorance when information is at your fingertips. I’m well informed, I have a lot to learn and a new life to get used to but more importantly, I have a new beginning to look forward to.

My husband said he can’t wait to take me dancing again. That made me laugh and cry. It’s the little things that you miss when you’re sick. Trying to spend every minute of the day rehydrating and refueling your body just to go through it all over again the next day. My husband is the only one who has ever seen me at my worst and what I go through every morning just to be able to get to work and get through the day. He’s been an amazing support system and I’m blessed beyond words to have him.

In everything that I want to do in my life, I always wait for it to be confirmed. On Sunday, my son Anthony brought me the medication that the hospital couldn’t get delivered quick enough. He ended up spending the entire day with me. He was able to hear what the doctors said and watched me in agony. By night time, we were laying quietly in my room and he said, “Mom, when you first told me about having a ostomy bag, I thought to myself how much that would suck, but after everything I heard the doctors say today about the risks of the medications and what I have seen you go through over the last month, I understand now and agree you should have the bag. You need your life back.” I did everything I could not to cry. I felt like that was the confirmation I was waiting for.

Anthony is a very smart young man, wise beyond his years. He’s the quiet one and observes everything, always analyzing and doesn’t judge or give too many opinions.  For him to speak up and share his thoughts, meant the world to me. I have a lot of respect for him and my daughter. They make me proud every single day and they have stepped up to help me tremendously in these last few months. I don’t know what I would’ve done without them.

Stay tuned…A new beginning is just ahead…

I need answers!

September 11, 2018, I woke up to my house being decorated with Happy Birthday Banners, Vegan Cupcakes & Donuts, beautiful roses, cards, and gifts. It was an amazing morning until 12:10 pm that day.

I left my house around 11 am to take a stool sample to USC. I had been fighting a bad flare and couldn’t get it under control. 2 ½ miles before the exit my heart took off and started pounding with tachycardia (rapid heart rate) and shortness of breath. For the past month, I began carrying a bag of ice. It came to my realization that being exposed to the sun for too long was causing me to have tachycardia.

I constantly reminded myself I was almost at the hospital and it would be a few minutes until I was there. By the time I exited the freeway, I was disoriented and lost. I was trying not to cry because I understood where I was trying to go. I knew that I was in Los Angeles, but I was lost. In a situation like this, when we make a wrong turn, we automatically grab our phones. I wasn’t able to do that.

As soon as I got into the parking lot, I lost my bowels in the car. I saw a security officer approaching my car, and I screamed for help. Shockingly, I was parked in a social worker’s parking spot, and he told me that I needed to move my car. I explained that I was unable to drive and needed medical help. He called someone and they said they were too busy to come and get me. He said, “You’re just two blocks from the ER can’t you just drive yourself?” I replied, “I’m really unstable and don’t feel it’s safe”. He agreed to let me clean myself up and then leave.

I sat in my car for forty-five minutes staring at my phone on the seat of my car. For some reason, I never thought to pick it up. I raced to the ER, drove up to the entrance and parked my car in the middle of the road. I remember being on the phone with my daughter and her screaming “Mom, Mom!” I wasn’t responding. I knew I wanted to speak but I was unable to.

I vividly remember going through metal detectors to get into the ER. My legs were shaking and I felt that I was going to fall over. I asked two other security guards for help and they told me to sit in the chair and wait my turn for the line to go down. I made my way to the counter knowing I didn’t have the energy to wait long. In less than 5 minutes they took me in. Lots of tests were done over the next 18 hours. I Before I knew it, it was 2 a.m. and I was told I was being admitted for Acute Encephalopathy. I had no idea what that was and I didn’t care. I could barely remember what happened that day and it took time to piece it together.

Two days of being at County USC and them inducing the same episode twice, they transferred me to Keck USC where all of my specialists were. I spent the next 8 days there, going through more tests and finding no final conclusion. I had mentioned Mast Cell Activation Syndrome to both hospitals. When I arrived at Keck USC, the doctor agreed that this might be what caused it.

They sent the test to the Mayo Clinic (which still today I am waiting on the results for). They did an Endoscopy and a colonoscopy that they had to abort because the bleeding was horrendous. For ten days, I explained how much I was bleeding, I showed them over and over again. My hemoglobin (red blood cells) was normal, they didn’t think what I was telling them was that serious. Once they started the colonoscopy, they were only able to reach the sigmoid part of the colon because they couldn’t go any further because I was bleeding too much.

I am on medication now, still bleeding but I think I might be turning the corner. Of course, many of you who have Ulcerative Colitis know you think you’re turning a corner and the next day tragedy strikes. I am on a heart monitor for 14 days, and I am taking things one day at a time. I have a home health care system in place with nurse visits and physical therapy. I’ve lost more weight of course but I’m trying to gain some of it back. Most importantly, I am working, which is something that I LOVE.

I was hoping by now I would have all the answers to my tests. Sadly, it looks like it will be a while until I know more. I will keep you all up-to-date as things unfold. I’m going through the process of whatever the doctors require so that I can get to my surgery date to have my colon removed. Yes, I will have a bag, but I will also have my freedom again!

Thanks for all the love and support you’ve shown me during this time. If I didn’t respond to you, I apologize, things were too crazy. Say a prayer for me!

Till next time…XOXO

Cooking with Connie Part 2

I’m glad that some of you had the chance to make the meals from Cooking with Connie Part 1. I just want to remind everyone that I don’t mind when you message me for questions on how to make some of these dishes. The biggest surprise for anyone that contacted me was how few ingredients each dish takes to make, and they all taste so good!

When you go through an elimination diet, you must get rid of everything that causes inflammation and start from scratch. There is NO CURE for Ulcerative Colitis, so I don’t want anyone to think that a diet change is going to cure them. I recommend adding one item at a time and waiting around 3-4 days to see how your body responds. The goal is to try and achieve remission. The diet change will lower the inflammation in your body allowing it to heal naturally. It doesn’t work for everyone because it depends on how far the disease has progressed. For me, it was worth a shot. Last year in September the doctor told me the disease had progressed. July of this year, my CT scan did not show that it had progressed. So, I’m hoping that the strict diet changes are working. Any person with an autoimmune disease that changes their diet to lower the inflammation in their body, will benefit.

Now to get into Connie’s Cooking Part 2. Here are some more meals that are quick and easy to make but have a few more ingredients involved. Try these when you know what your body can handle. Remember, always replace any ingredient possible with organic and try using non-dairy products. Instead of regular cheese, try vegan cheese. There are so many alternatives, you must try them! The one dish on this menu called Chicken Fricassee really saved my life. I ate it every single day for lunch and dinner for months until I healed. Some days in between I would try other foods, but I always went back to this meal if I started to become symptomatic. Within a day or two, I would be back to normal. Last but not lease, STAY AWAY FROM SUGAR!!!

Enjoy!

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Chronically Unbreakable

Did you know that any disease that lasts longer than 3 months is generally considered a “chronic disease?” All of the hashtags that I have been using are to bring awareness to how big this problem is.

Most people focus on a cancer diagnosis as being the worst of them all but they don’t stop to think that Chronic Disease causes cancer. Why aren’t we putting more effort into stopping the root cause of cancer?

Research goes into finding a cure for cancer but not enough is going into finding a cure for chronic diseases that lead to cancer. We have to take care of the root cause in order to PREVENT cancer from developing at all.

I am speaking from experience because I not only have multiple chronic diseases, I have also been battling skin cancer for 7 years. I told the doctors early on that if they didn’t treat the overall inflammation that I would continue to get skin cancer. Sure enough one diagnosis after the next. Surgery after surgery. Scars and more scars.

At first, they blamed sunburns from when I was a child, now they say it’s from my Lupus. Doctors just don’t have all the answers and almost every doctor has a different opinion which is why it’s so important to do your own research and save your own life.

It is extremely challenging mentally to have so many doctors not have answers and then have to go back to your “real life” and figure out how you will manage to get through the day. This is why we are also using Chronically Unbreakable to start a support system where people can meet and talk and learn from one another with the hopes that sharing experiences can lead to a healthier and better quality of life.

Help us raise awareness of how detrimental these chronic diseases are and how important funding is to find a cure before the chronic disease turns into cancer!

Part of the proceeds from ALL of the items that we are selling will go towards some of these organizations that are trying so hard to find a cure. My mission is to raise awareness but more importantly, help get the funding needed to find a cure!

At the end of every year, I will update you on which organizations will receive funding. If you have a special request, email it to us and we will consider that organization as well. Thank you in advance for all your support!

Cooking with Connie Part 1

I received some emails and text messages asking about my diet changes and a lot of questions about what I can eat since I had to eliminate so many foods. I realized how overwhelming that list can be for someone who is just starting an elimination diet, so I wanted to provide a simple list of what I was able to eat during the first 6-12 months of my new lifestyle. I have also created a menu of some of the foods that I ate so that you could get a visual in case you want to make some changes for yourself.

When I first started my elimination diet I used organic honey to sweeten everything. I even put it on my Rice Krispies’ cereal. Some of you may think it’s gross, but it tastes just like adding a tablespoon of sugar. I would also cook sweet potatoes and then sauté them in a pan with organic honey and cinnamon. It tastes amazing! Waffles and pancakes! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like waffles and pancakes. You can throw some blueberries, strawberries or bananas and add a drizzle of honey on top, delicious! There are so many things you can do with organic honey. Cancer thrives on sugar so a great way to starve those cancer cells is to eliminate it completely. Here are most of the foods I ate for 6-12 months. I have incorporated a few new things but not much.

With all the meals listed above there was no calorie counting or portion control. Since I eliminated so many items from my diet, I was able to eat any quantity I wanted. When the doctors asked me how much weight I lost I told them 20 pounds. The doctor asked how long it took and I explained about 3-4 months. Then I looked back at my medical records and found out that it only took about 4 weeks. That’s very fast and not usually recommended but my body was getting rid of all the inflammation which included the 20 pounds that I gained that the doctors just kept blaming on my age. I knew they couldn’t be right because I was gaining weight in my stomach which was not common for me. I had gained more weight than I did when I was pregnant with my daughter. I complained about this to the doctor and she just said, “It’s normal.”

 

Now I am back to the weight I have been since I was in high school. For me, this is my normal. Not everyone maintains their weight over the years but partially that’s because of diet choices and how much activity they do daily. For me, I have always been active. If I’m not talking on the phone and pacing a hole in the floor, then I’m cleaning my house. If I’m not cleaning my house, I’m doing laundry. If I’m not doing laundry, I’m playing with my dogs. If I’m not playing with my dogs, I’m grocery shopping. If I’m not grocery shopping, I’m cooking and doing dishes. If I’m not cooking and doing dishes, I’m in the pool for an hour or two swimming laps.

I have been active my whole life but the health issues I have were causing a detrimental effect on my ability to do these things. All these activities are more than enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You don’t have to run to the gym to get results, you just have to stay active. I was forced to make the lifestyle changes to save my life.

There were many days that I cried because of the discipline I needed to have, and the healing process seemed like it was taking forever. For me it wasn’t just about the weight loss. It was waiting every single day to wake up the next morning, use the bathroom, and not see blood in my stool. When you are bleeding internally, there are only two ways for it to come out. You either vomit and you will see blood, or you go to the restroom and see blood. That’s a site that I don’t wish for anyone to have to see because it’s very scary.

I’ve spent the last 1 ½ years doing trial and error and for the most part, planning a dinner with me is not part of my life anymore. What I have found out is that I can generally enjoy going out for lunch if the place can accommodate my order. I try to eat as many organic foods as possible which is not served in the standard restaurants. Chicken or fish with a baked potato is my safe zone. Although the disease is still very unpredictable and even when you ask a restaurant not to cook the food with anything, they sometimes still add margarine or oil and then it triggers a negative reaction for me.

Just recently I tried to enjoy an early dinner with family which landed me in the car halfway through. I asked for the fish to be cooked plain, but they added something, it was probably margarine based on my reaction. I only eat butter, not margarine. I cook with coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil and that is what my system can handle in VERY small quantities.

Part of the other daily battle I face is hypoglycemic episodes (drop in blood sugar.) I can usually only go about 2 hours without eating before my blood sugar drops and it drops fast. I start becoming symptomatic and I only have about a 5-10 minute window to get the right food in me so I don’t pass out. It is very scary when it happens, so I always try to carry food with me. Just recently I went to a dinner party for my husband’s work. I literally had cooked a turkey burger and put it in my purse. The dinner was at a Mexican restaurant and I didn’t know if I would be able to eat anything and I also didn’t know how long I would have to wait for food. This is why I have mentioned before that my struggles are hour by hour.

Your body is a result of what you put in it and the activity that you do. It’s not always easy to make the right choices but what I have noticed about people over the years is that they go for that piece of chocolate cake or ice cream more days out of the week than not. Sugar is one of the worst things that you can eat. It leads to many health issues, including weight gain. So many people don’t know why they can’t lose weight, but I guarantee that if you cut sugar out of your diet alone, within 7 days you will see a difference. Not all sugar is bad for you but there are alternatives to adding the sweetness to your meals. Don’t let the sugar in your life become your poison.

Here is the menu I created. Very simply made with mainly adding only salt for the seasoning and sometimes some paprika. I don’t calorie count, I just eat as much as my body needs. For those of you with Ulcerative Colitis, you would want to eliminate any extras that I added like lettuce or green onion until you have things under control. Enjoy!

connie

 

Until next time…

Mind, Body, Spirit & Finances

We all know that being healthy is a combination of mind, body, and spirit. One of my favorite quotes is, “The body heals with play; the mind heals with laughter and the spirit heals with joy.” I’d like to take a moment to break down what mind, body and spirit mean to me. Also, I added the word “Finances” because finances are the number one thing that most people stress over which affects your health.

Mind – My mind was in a dark place in January 2017, after receiving the Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis along with the little bit of information the doctors shared with me while I was in the hospital. They made me feel like my life was over. During that month I probably cried every single day. Which is not something that I usually do. I have a positive attitude, I love life and I felt like I was looking down a black hole that I would never be able to crawl out of. Eventually, I became Connie again, but in a different way.

The mind is a powerful tool and our thoughts dictate if we live positively or negatively. All of us spend a lot of our days thinking about everything that is going on in our life. Sometimes it’s taking a vacation, saving to buy a house, wanting a new job, problems in our relationships, even a little family drama. The thoughts that we have can play a big role in the choices that we make in life and it affects our well-being. One of the things that I have shared with people over the years is how important it is to see a counselor. You can learn so much about yourself when you can talk to someone who is great at what they do, which can improve your life. Many health insurance plans now cover counseling services because they have realized how important it is for a person. If you take care of your mind the right way, it will have a positive effect on you and your health.

Body- After spending hundreds of hours on researching my diagnosis and becoming educated, I created my new life. I knew there would be many adjustments. Going out to lunch and dinner with friends and family is something everyone enjoys doing, but for me, that would not be where I would find my happiness. Food had become the enemy and just the thought of sitting in a nice restaurant and all-of-a-sudden having terrible stomach pains made those types of outings unimaginable. Exercising was completely out the window. I was limited in what I could do physically, so I set a goal for myself that I would find a way to rebuild my strength.

I spent almost an entire year buying a house and building a pool so that I could get the exercise I needed. I even moved out of the area that I grew up in just to be able to afford to accomplish this goal. Sacrifices needed to be made but nothing was going to stop me from achieving this. Just after a couple of months of swimming, I have gained a lot of strength and the muscles in my calves that had started to atrophy, are starting to rebuild again.

Spirit-What does that word mean to you? So many of us have a different idea of what this word means. Some of us automatically refer to religious spirit, some a free spirit, but for me, it’s just choosing to have a positive spirit no matter how hard things get. You probably won’t see any pictures of me where I’m not smiling with the biggest cheese smile possible. That’s because I choose to be happy no matter what I’m going through. I have always isolated myself from friends and family during the darkest times in my life. Not because I was depressed, but because it was necessary for me to be in my thoughts and talk myself through the hard times that I was facing.  Fortunately, I have seen some really good counselors over the years and they gave me great insight on how to deal with problems.

Finances-Everyone should be striving towards “Financial Freedom.” Finance is a word that everyone cringes to talk about. Finance involves how much money you make, credit score, budgeting, planning and is the number one thing that relationships fight about. In school, we are not taught about “real life.” We read about history, learn some math, practice how to spell and write but nobody ever sits you down to show you how hard life will be once you are responsible for yourself. There is no reality check that after you graduate from high school that the money you make will most likely go to bills and there will be a depressing amount left over.

When I started my business 10 years ago I wanted to help start-up businesses, small businesses, and individuals who wanted to achieve their personal life goals. What I have seen so much of over the years is that it doesn’t matter if I’m working with a college graduate or an entrepreneur who has no formal education, everyone is in debt. From student loans, car payments, credit card debt and just life. When I sit down with clients to review their finances, most of them are so surprised about how much money they spend frivolously. Their immediate response is, “I don’t know where the money is going. I don’t really spend much.” That is because they don’t set a budget or keep track of what they are spending their money on. They don’t realize that the one shopping spree a month or every other month costs them almost half or all of a mortgage payment.

Finances are part of your health and it’s important to work with someone who knows how to strategically plan to help you reach your goals. I thrive on doing this because I love helping people reach their personal and professional goals. I’ve had enough life and business experience to prove that my plans work if you “follow the plan.” Check out my website: www.precise-business.net. There are additional pages being developed now, so check back in the next week or 2 for a full scope of services.

I’d like to take a moment to circle back around to the Mind. Finding a great counselor to help you through a difficult time in your life can only benefit you. Churches offer great counselors if you don’t feel comfortable seeking advice from a medical professional. With that being said, I am very excited to introduce to you Carla Michelle, PhDc-MMFT. She and I have teamed up and our new office opens at the end of this week! She has a seminar that is coming up in the month of July, which will be held at our new office in the City of Monrovia. If you are interested in learning more about yourself and would like the chance to connect with new people, sign up, it will be worth it! Right now, she has an early bird price posted. Go to her website at www.drcarlainc.com to get more information. This could change your life! The seminar is called “Discovery Breakthrough Session.” I plan on attending myself, so hopefully, I will see some of you there. We are also in the middle of planning an event so stay tuned for more information on when it will be!

In concluding today’s blog, I wanted to share with you a little bit about me. I was a single mom for many years. Even when I re-married, the term single-mom still defined me. That was a choice that I made so that I could co-parent with the father of my children as best as possible. I know how hard life is in general and you won’t just wake up one morning and have everything figured out. But if you create a plan and each day take a step in the direction to eliminate the negative and focus on the positive, you will create the best Mind, Body, Spirit & Financial Freedom for you. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a bad day where you want to blame the world for things that are going wrong. It means that after you have that moment to vent, get right back on the saddle, focus on the plan and continue to move forward in a positive mindset.

Everyone goes through hard times in their life. Whether it’s divorce, family issues, health issues, financial stress, not liking where you work. YOU have the power to change all of that. By changing your MIND. Every single thing in your life that is negative, you can change. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do so. You just need to want it. Always remember, some of our worst moments in life become our greatest strengths and success stories for the future.  Until next time…

Taking Charge of My Health

When a person starts thinking about writing a blog it is typically built around one specific topic. For example: Fashion, Make-Up, Celebrity News, Health & Wellness, Finance, Business and more. This blog is going to incorporate multiple topics and in general be about LIFE.

I first started writing down everything that I was going through because it allowed me a way to release some of the negative thoughts and snap back into being positive and get through my day. As the years have went on, I would ask myself repeatedly, “Why can’t the doctors figure this out?” As I reached the breaking point, I realized that I needed to take this journey of mine and do something good with it.

I have met some people along this journey who have impacted how I have taken charge of my wellness. Cheryl Meyer is one of them. So today I’d like to share a little bit about her and some decisions I made for myself to try to heal my body naturally by reducing the inflammation.

Cheryl Meyer is a health coach locally in the City of Monrovia with a ton of experience in wellness. I had already been eliminating toxins in my diet because of the research that I was doing. The more I read, the more I found out how food can cause inflammation and can make a person with an autoimmune disease worse. I knew I needed to make a change.

When I met with Cheryl she asked me questions about the symptoms I was experiencing. As she dug deeper into the questions about the foods I couldn’t tolerate and what my reactions were to certain foods and environments, it was like she knew exactly what was happening to me.

Part of her knowledge comes from her own experience with chasing down an autoimmune disease of her own. She turned to Functional Medicine when Conventional Medicine failed her. This is still not something that I have had a chance to research, but it is on my list to get further educated.

If you are going through something medically or if you just want to feel better, get her book!!! Go to her website at cherylmhealthmuse.com. It will help you take charge of your health. In today’s world there are just too many pesticides going into our foods. Health issues from inflammation can take many, many years to rear their ugly head. So, people can be going down the shoot to chronic illness and not know it.

That drive-thru at McDonald’s looks like the only option sometimes, but what it’s doing to your body is slowly eating it from the inside out. Many people say, “I’ve ate that way my whole life and I don’t have any problems.” You will probably be one of the first to end up with hypertension (high blood pressure) which can lead to a stroke. Keep in mind, they call hypertension the “silent killer” for a reason.

As for me, I have created my own elimination diet which allowed me to heal my body naturally without all the medications that could destroy my organs. Everyone must weigh the odds for themselves of what benefits they will receive from medication. For me, my kidneys were already in a bad place and I was seeing dialysis in my near future.

When I had the conversation with the Nephrologist (Kidney Specialist) at Kaiser, he said “We don’t do anything until the kidney function hits 50, for now we will just monitor your blood work.” Eventually my kidney function dropped to 50 and my Bun and Creatinine were rising. I asked my doctors nurse to have him call me to discuss this. When he called me to discuss my test results he said, “We still aren’t going to do anything. We will continue to watch and wait and see how things go.” Then I spoke to my Primary Care doctor who did a urine test and said, “Yes, there’s some protein in your urine but you’ve had that before.” These were all test results going in the wrong direction. I couldn’t take the risk of waiting any longer, I knew I needed to take-action on my own.

After watching my dad go through kidney failure and seeing him make diet changes to prolong the inevitable of starting dialysis, I thought it was worth a shot for me to make the same diet changes to see if there would be any improvement. My mom was a great help with all of this. We started to discuss foods I could and couldn’t eat and I decided to incorporate some of the kidney diet into my life as well. Sure enough it worked. I have the blood tests to prove it! My kidneys haven’t looked this good in almost 2 years. I am thankful that I found a way to improve my kidney function. My medical condition is complex and I’m fully aware that this could change at any moment, but for now I have somehow turned things around.

Since I have more than one health problem, I am on a combination of the kidney diet, the ulcerative colitis diet and the heart-healthy diet. I eliminated the following foods from my diet to help accomplish lowering the inflammation in my body without the harsh medications.

Eliminated from my diet:

• Alcohol
• Dairy
• Sugar
• Fried Foods
• Red Meat
• Pork
• Raw foods (No sushi for 1 year, no raw vegetables, no salads)
• Sauces
• Dressings
• Condiments
• Nuts
• Seeds
• Spices
• Carbonated Drinks (No soda or any other carbonated drinks)
• Sugar Substitutes (No Splenda, Stevia, Sweet-n-Low or any other kind of sweetener)
• No wheat or whole grain bread (White breads only)

I am living proof of what “living healthy” can do for you. I do have to allow myself sufficient sleep so that I can continue to be in serious work-mode and of course I’m always trying to take over the world. 🙂 I have frequent blood work done and one of the tests shows the level of inflammation in my body, which is currently within the normal range. If I don’t stick to the specific diet that I’m on, the inflammation goes up right away.

Balance is key to healthy living. I work a lot but absolutely love what I do, so I believe it brings a balance to me. It satisfies me mentally and that’s something that I personally need. Some people look at my photos on Facebook and message me that they would’ve never guessed that I had all of this going on and that’s exactly why I’m trying to bring awareness to everyone. Some of the messages that I’ve received have said reading my blog brought them to tears because right now they have been going through the same hell that I did trying to get diagnosed.

Autoimmune diseases eat you away from the inside out and many people fall into depression because of it. They start feeling like crap, every day is a struggle. They go see a doctor who tells them nothing is wrong. The doctor makes them think they are crazy or a hypochondriac. It generally progresses slowly, and the disease is different for everyone, so it goes undiagnosed for too long.

I am one of the fortunate people who has a certain outlook on life that keeps me out of depression. Every day I tell myself, I can’t allow this to destroy me. There were many times that I felt like giving up, many days that I just felt defeated. I’d call my mom and tell her how my day was going, she knew immediately if I wasn’t myself and she would say, “Don’t give up!” in her strong German voice. Those words were exactly what I needed to hear. Failure is not an option for me, giving up is not an option for me and I want everyone in my situation to have the same hope and fight through this, one day at a time. Like my mom always says, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Until next time…

#NeverJudgeABookByItsCover #RomeWasntBuiltInADay #NeverGiveUp #TheBestIsYetToCome #ulcerativecolitisfighter #lupusawareness #raynaudsphenomenon #autoimmuneawareness

Never Judge A Book by Its’ Cover

I want to start this off by saying a special thank you to my mom, Harriet. I don’t know how I would’ve made it this far without all of her wisdom and determination to help me get through this. I love you mom.

I’ve seen so many disappointing changes in today’s medical field, which made me feel like I needed to share my journey over the last 7 years. My hope is to help some other people who have been on their own difficult journey in finding the answers they need. As you read through this blog, I will share with you a timeline since 2011 up until now of what I have been through to get properly diagnosed. Please keep in mind that none of this is intended to solve anyone else’s medical problems. It is intended to show you what I have personally been through, to never give up hope, never stop searching for answers and never, ever let someone tell you nothing is wrong when you know something is.

In March 2011 I started having symptoms that were greatly affecting my quality of life. It first started with being at my son’s baseball game when all-of-a-sudden I started having tachycardia (fast heartbeat) and broke out in a rash. I immediately went to my car and turned on the air conditioner. After about 20 minutes I was better. I got back out of the car to go watch the game and then it happened all over again. One of the moms at the game asked if that had ever happened before and I said no. It felt like I was allergic to the sun.

A couple weeks later I woke up in the middle of the night and saw an open wound on my forehead along my hairline. I had seen a mark there before, but I thought I nicked myself with the blow dryer. Now the mark was open and bleeding. I called the doctor and they were able to get me in right away. On March 31, 2011 they took a biopsy and it came back positive for basal cell carcinoma. I ended up having MOHS surgery in May 2011 to remove it and then went to Hawaii 2 weeks later to celebrate my wedding anniversary. While I was in Hawaii I contracted a severe upper respiratory infection that I suffered through the entire trip and didn’t go to the doctor until I got home. Once I saw the doctor, he put me on antibiotics, but nothing was working.

After several rounds of antibiotics, I was running a constant fever. I had body aches all the time like I had the flu and I told the doctor that I hurt all over, even down to my bones. I left there with no answers and another trip to the pharmacy for more Motrin which was becoming a round the clock need for me just to get through the day.

In August 2011, my sisters and I went on a trip to Las Vegas to surprise my dad for his birthday. While we were there I was having a hard time catching my breath. I was nearly falling asleep at the dinner table because I was exhausted from trying to catch my breath all day. My sister asked me how long this had been happening and I explained for several months but it seemed to be getting worse. After being in the smoky casino for a couple of days, it exacerbated my symptoms and I ended up in the Urgent Care when we got home. I had already complained about the breathing trouble I was having to my General Practitioner, but she said I was fine. The Urgent Care doctor had me do a simple test to see what my lung output was, it was terrible. He referred me to see the Chief of Pulmonary for follow up.

After many tests I was diagnosed with Adult Onset Asthma. It was unbelievable to me. Someone who was constantly active, always able to work out, snowboard, ski, water ski, jet ski, chase my kids around, woke up one day to randomly have Asthma? It was very hard for me to digest this diagnosis. The Pulmonologist said “If I hadn’t met you I would’ve guessed based on your test results that you were an 80-year-old woman that I would be putting on oxygen for the rest of her life. This type of asthma can be reversed but I need you to give me one year and I should have you back to normal.” I was prescribed 3 different inhalers to use day and night and nothing was working.

I spent almost a year sleeping while sitting up in the corner of the couch. My husband would come check on me, worried if I would still be alive. At one point, my husband and kids were sitting on the couch with me and my son, Anthony said, “Mommy, why don’t you laugh anymore?” My heart sunk to my feet. I said, “Son, I do laugh, I just can’t laugh like I used to because I’m having trouble breathing. When you see me smiling, I am laughing, it’s just different now.” That day stands out in my mind like it happened yesterday. He was only 11 years old at the time.

Later that year I went in for another pulmonary function test and my lungs were continuing to decline. The doctor finally prescribed a medication that is used for patients with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and it worked. I was so relieved that I finally had a medication that could help me get through my day. When I asked him if I had COPD instead of Asthma, he said, “You don’t want COPD on your medical record.” I ignorantly said “ok.” This medication only helped me enough to get through my day, it never brought my test results to a normal level. 5 years later I went in for a follow up appointment. The doctor came in the room, sat down and said “5 years.” I said, “Yep, 5 years.” He said, “And still no change. What do you want to do?” I said, “keep doing what we’ve been doing because it’s keeping me alive.” Rewind Time- remember when he first met me he said, “This type of Asthma can be reversed in one year.” Here I was 5 years later and still no change.

October 2011, I ended up in the ER and shortly after was diagnosed with Endometriosis. I had multiple ovarian cysts over the next couple years that landed me in the hospital. By the end of October 2011, a rash had developed across my face and I was sent to Rheumatology. She said nothing was wrong and sent me on my way.

April 2012, another trip to Dermatology for another diagnosis of Basal Cell Carcinoma. At that time, I was also noticing other small red spots which she biopsied. She never paid attention to the results. She just focused on the basal cell skin cancer and told me the other results were a rare type of inflammation and didn’t need any follow up. She was wrong. That inflammation was the sign of another underlying condition.

In January 2013 I was diagnosed with Costochondritis which is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone. By now I’ve had several inflammatory diagnosis’, yet no doctor connected the dots.

In February 2013 I was having unexplained drops in potassium which was causing my tachycardia to get worse. I was referred to the Nephrologist because my primary care doctor said that my kidneys should be regulating the potassium. I spent a year getting potassium infusions, limiting my fluid intake so that I wouldn’t deplete my potassium but my body was still struggling to maintain normal potassium levels. This can get very dangerous for the heart and can cause a heart attack.

By December 2013 I was having severe muscle and joint pain. Every single joint and muscle hurt in my body. I couldn’t do simple things like clean my own house. I would cry in the middle of the night because the pain was so bad. My husband would try to massage the areas that hurt but it just caused more pain. If I tried to workout, it felt like my muscles were torn and it would take several weeks to recover.

2014-2016- I had 2 more basal cell carcinoma surgeries, continued joint and muscle pain, rash across my face, constant low-grade fever, kidney function declining, tachycardia, inflammation in my eyes, asthma, costochondritis and feeling completely exhausted. My husband went with me to one of the doctor’s appointments and explained that whatever was going on was progressively getting worse. I had already been sent back to Rheumatology at the beginning of the year and again after a 10-minute visit she said nothing was wrong with me.

January 5, 2017 I was hospitalized and diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Ulcerative Colitis. Here’s a little recap of what happened from January 1st-January 5th, 2017. My husband took me to the hospital on New Year’s Day. The Urgent Care doctor, ran some tests, put me on antibiotics and sent me home. By January 5th I knew something was wrong. I went back to Urgent Care and after 3 hours of tests the doctor told me that my blood count was a little low, to eat some iron but that I was fine and could go home. I did my best not to punch him in the face. I said, “Do I look like someone who takes pictures of their poop?” He said “No.” I said, “Well look at these photos and tell me again that I’m fine and that I can go home.”

He excused himself from the room and was back in less than 5 minutes. The nurse came in with him and had a wheel chair. The doctor said they were admitting me. I asked if I could go move my car because it was parked in valet and they were closing soon. He said “no.” He said, “we are experts in this situation and security will handle your car.” I was thinking WTF? I said, “5 minutes ago you were sending me home and now you’re here with a wheelchair and telling me I can’t move my car, what changed?” He said, “the photos you showed me is what changed, and you need to be admitted to the hospital.” He then had me sign paper work for a blood transfusion which was another shock.

The next day I had a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis which is an autoimmune disease. My husband’s first innocent question was “Is it something she ate?” The doctor said “No.” She said that I needed to start treatment right away and that they were stopping all antibiotics because I can’t have antibiotics because it exacerbates the symptoms and causes more bleeding internally. I asked how long do I have to be on the medication for? She said “forever.” I said “FOREVER?!?!” She said “Yes.” That was a very difficult moment for me. The doctors wanted to keep me in the hospital until the biopsy results came back but I asked if I could go home. After 3 doctors talked to me they agreed to let me go home. I remember going home that day and reading an article about a man who had went into remission after doing a complete diet overhaul. I cried while reading it to my husband, then he started crying and said, “I will do whatever I have to do to help you through this. I will change how I eat, I will shave my head, I will do anything.” We laughed and cried, cracked jokes and then I realized that I needed to get educated as much as possible about this disease.

A few days after I was discharged a Gastroenterologist called me to tell me that my biopsy results showed extremely high inflammation and that if they couldn’t get the inflammation under control that my colon would need to be removed in a year. That was a very ignorant statement for the doctor to make. Sure enough, I had my first appointment with him and he changed his entire tune. He also said that a change in diet would not help at all. He was wrong and later admitted that several of his patients control the disease strictly by diet.

After this latest diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis, I called my General Practitioner and recapped the last 6 years and asked her what her thoughts were. She said that she felt that it was just another diagnosis, but it wasn’t the underlying problem. I asked if she felt that I should see Rheumatology again, she agreed it was necessary and put in another referral.

I saw the Rheumatologist within a couple of weeks, he spent 5 minutes with me and started the appointment off by saying “So why are you here?” I said, “Did you read the email my doctor sent you?” He said, “No.” I said, “Well I suggest you read it and then we can discuss why I’m here.” He read the email which stated all the concerns over the last 6 years. He didn’t ask me any questions, he didn’t order any tests, he didn’t do a physical exam, he just said, “You don’t have anything Rheumatologic going on so there’s nothing I can do.” I said, “Ok.” My daughter, Kayla and I left, and she turned to me and said, “What kind of appointment was that? He didn’t even order any tests or ask any questions.” I said, “I know, this is what I’ve been dealing with for 6 years, pure stupidity.”

After that appointment I decided to continue the lifestyle and diet changes that I had made and try to survive until the end of year when I could change my health insurance. I waited every single day for open enrollment so that I could get out of Kaiser and go find doctors who cared to help me find the root of my medical problems.

March 2018, finally the month that changed my life. I had an appointment with an OBGYN who referred me to several great doctors. One doctor was a General Practitioner. After he listened to everything I had been through he laid down the law. He said “People don’t go to Kaiser to get diagnosed, they go there to die. You need a team of specialists who offer multidisciplinary care who are going to talk about your specific medical problems and come up with the underlying diagnosis.” I started to cry. My daughter, Kayla was in the room with me and I think my heart hurt more for her to hear the seriousness of my condition, I wasn’t expecting him to be so upset. He then wrote me two prescriptions, one to go straight to the Emergency Room because I was having tachycardia and he was worried. The 2nd prescription to see a team of specialists at Loma Linda University, USC Medical Center or UCLA. This doctor saved my life.

I am now with a team of specialists at USC Medical Center who have done a great job with me so far. They have added Systemic Lupus to my diagnosis and Raynaud’s Phenomenon, which are two more autoimmune diseases. The list seems to be growing and I’m sure there will be some new diagnosis’ over the next year. They understand that I need to work and are coming up with a personal plan specifically for me that allows me to live my best life. This includes, doing my own injections from home whenever necessary to save me a trip to the doctors, scheduling blood work and communicating through email and phone as much as possible. USC used my 4,000 pages of medical records from Kaiser to diagnose me. They did do their own blood work as well, but the Rheumatologist was pretty upset that all the symptoms and tests were right in front of their eyes and I was completely neglected. I could tell at my last appointment he was very sad for me. I almost felt like I was going to have to console him. 🙂

These autoimmune diseases are a struggle every single hour of every single day and very unpredictable. I have lost quite a bit of weight from my diet overhaul. My calf muscles started to atrophy from the lack of protein that my body is able to absorb. I am extremely limited on what I can eat, and one wrong choice can send me into deep trouble. Many people with an autoimmune disease look healthy on the outside and it’s very hard for people who don’t have an autoimmune disease to really understand what it’s like. You can ask how someone is feeling or what it’s like, but it’s truly something you can’t understand unless you live through it yourself.

So, there you have it.  If you or someone you know has symptoms that won’t go away, don’t give up, be persistent, don’t worry about being nice and do your best to stay positive and respectful while trying to get a diagnosis. Outside of these diseases I have a great life and it’s worth fighting for every single day. My family is my number one priority and my son has made me promise him since he was 7 years old that I will live forever and that stays with me every single day. I am fortunate to have a loving and understanding husband and a daughter who stepped in to support me in my business during the hardest time in my life. Without the 3 of them, I don’t know where I would be. They keep me chasing answers and believing in making the impossible, possible.

I want to leave you with this last thought. A doctor takes an oath to uphold specific ethical standards. That oath should be above any employer commitment. In my situation I don’t believe that the doctors that I have met over this 7-year journey have done that for me. I’d think after 7 years of tests, biopsies, many urgent care and ER visits and 4,000 pages of medical records, someone should have done their job, but they didn’t. There is not one to blame, there are many to blame. Some doctors, not all, don’t listen to their patients. They pay more attention to how you look on the outside and standard blood work. They aren’t interested in diagnosing you, they just want to write a prescription and treat the symptoms. That’s not enough. I don’t know where the medical field will be in the next 20 years, but even with all the technology, it seems like they know less now than they did 30 years ago. The amount of people getting diagnosed with autoimmune diseases is outrageous. Medicine needs to change, priorities need to change, awareness of these autoimmune diseases need proper funding to get to the answers of why it’s happening and the opportunity to maybe finding a cure. Most of the people I know went through their own hell trying to get diagnosed. Shame on me for taking so long to get out of Kaiser, but shame on them for neglecting what was right in front of them.

Until next time…

#NeverJudgeABookByItsCover #NeverGiveUpHope #LetsFindACure #TheBestIsYetToCome