And I have a rare autoimmune disorder.
My life used to be drastically different. My idea of good-eating was anything calorie-laden and decadent. My idea of exercise? A night out dancing with my friends. That counts right?
Honestly, I didn’t think about diet or exercise until my 1st child was born in 2007. Because I was fat. Not because I wanted to be healthy. Oh no, that came later. It was pure vanity.
Around this time, however, I started to delve more into natural products. I became more concerned about what I was putting on my baby’s sensitive skin. I started using cloth diapers on her little butt. I started using mineral makeup. It was beginning of my love for natural products.
After my 2nd child was born in 2011, I began to notice reactions I was having to certain food. I’d drink a large latte with skim milk in it, and immediately fall asleep. Anything with gluten either upset my stomach or made me so foggy I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I’d try eliminating them, going paleo and all that. I’d feel great, fail, and go back to square one.
It wasn’t until my son was 2, I started getting rashes behind my ears. My physician wanted to send me to a dermatologist. But knowing what I knew about digestion and how food relates to health, I didn’t want to see a dermatologist. My daughter has eczema. We’ve been to one. I didn’t want a cream to clear up the rashes, I wanted to know WHY they were there and WHAT was causing it. So I saw a naturopath.
Blood testing confirmed intolerances to dairy, gluten, yeast, soy, egg and almonds, and I was having autoimmune reactions to them.
I was floored, but it explained so much.
Then in mid-2015, I started getting sick. It started with stomach issues, not being able to keep anything down. After being hospitalized twice for dehydration and really low blood pressure, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis. Basically my stomach muscles stopped working. So anything I ate either sat there in my stomach, or came back up. Mostly came back up.
I was rapidly losing weight, but I had an answer. Or so I thought. One day I noticed that I was having a hard time lifting my left leg. A week later I couldn’t move it at all.
Luckily I was able to see a neurologist and she immediately sent me to the hospital for an MRI and a lumbar puncture. Test results showed inflammation in my spine and brain stem and I was treated for transverse myelitis.
After 5 days in the hospital and lots of heavy steroids, I regained the ability to walk. I went home and started working on slowly rebuilding my strength.
About a month after getting out of the hospital, life was slowly returning to normal. I was walking on my own and starting to drive again.
Then the official results of the lumbar puncture came back: Neuromyelitis optica.
Neuromyelitis optica or NMO “is a rare relapsing autoimmune disorder that preferentially causes inflammation in the optic nerve and spinal cord. It is characterized by longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis (LETM, myelitis which is 3 vertebral segments in length or greater), which can leave one quite debilitated at presentation, and unilateral or bilateral optic neuritis. It was once thought of as a variant of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and is still oftentimes misdiagnosed as MS.” (source)
With this diagnosis, I’m even more motivated to stay healthy. I do my best to eat well, but I’m human. I’m passionate about finding natural alternatives for my family’s health and our home. I’m not completely against medication, but I do believe strengthening the immune system can help manage autoimmune symptoms.
This is my journey. What I’m learning, what I’m doing, how I’m feeling. My goal is to manage my symptoms through good nutrition and healthy living. I’d love to have you along for the ride.