A Thanksgiving Miracle

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It is Thanksgiving morning. I woke early and padded out of our bedroom quietly in hopes of writing before my early rising Hubs wakes because today is my very favorite.

Thanksgiving is the day when all the things, the leaves, the foods, the home decor are gold, orange, warm and glowy. 

There are 2 nights in my life when God has healed me. No I did not recover completely but He touched me. There was a shift in which I went from severe pain to no pain, from being unable to eat regular food to being able to eat solids. Both of these preceded Thanksgiving.

The medical term for what I experienced is “Spontaneous Remission”, I call it a miracle.

I realize that not everyone who reads my blog believes in God but I hope that as you read this post you might open your thoughts to the idea that there is something bigger out there because what I experienced is real. Plain and simple, these things happened. And to be honest, that reality gives us hope in a messy broken world.

In both cases I was so far beyond what I could handle. In both cases I cried out to God with a completely shattered heart. In fact, in both instances I was so far past my limit that I felt He had forgotten me.

The first time I was 29. I had spent the majority of that summer in the hospital due to a profound onset of Crohn’s disease. I was brave that summer and believed big for healing in the face of excruciating pain. I was fed through a line in my heart and all the days were lonely.

I frequently sat alone at midnight in the cold sterile hospital room, journal in hand trying to make sense of my unthinkable situation. One night I sat with my Bible and journal in sheer heartbreak. I cried out in grief to God. I told Him that I was absolutely at the end, I could go no further, that I needed something, some sign that He cared.

That night a nurse I did not know came into my room and asked if she could pray for me. I collapsed into her arms in tears as she prayed over me. The next morning the nurse was gone and my body felt different. I knew I had been touched by God overnight. For the first time in months I was not in horrific pain. To make that morning even more abnormal, my doctor discharged me home. 

My recent experience with the healing touch of God is similar. I have been fighting a Crohn’s flare since September. The months have been dark, shrouded in pain and hopelessness. My family and I have been back and forth to specialists and hospitals. We frequently wondered if I was going to be admitted.

About a week ago I curled up in our bed with my Bible and journal. I have been acutley aware of how abnormal my past 16 years have been due to ongoing illness and I have felt a mix of humiliation, loss and anger.

The other night I told God that for the first time in my 16 year quest for healing I could feel myself growing bitter and I don’t want that to happen. I begged God for some sign that He sees me, that He has some plan for my life and then I curled up and went to sleep with my Bible in my arms.

The next morning I woke up and my body felt different; I was no longer in pain. As I made our bed my thoughts drifted back to the night when God touched me in 2001. That same peace washed over me and I knew it had happened again. As the morning progressed I found that I was able to eat solid food for the first time in a couple of months and I have been on a steady trajectory forward ever since that night.

Some years the holidays are extra glowy. Today my family will gather and we will have that same feeling we had on Thanksgiving in 2001, when everything seems to be falling back together after it all came undone.

If today is a hard day for you a couple of things that are helpful to me:

  • Get outside — force yourself
  • Check out The Work of Byron Katie
  • Keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how hard it is, force yourself
  • Distract yourself with fluffy “feel good” movies or books because this hard time will pass you just need to get through it
  • Every day find 1 thing to be thankful for — even if it is as simple as a blanket

Luke 8:42-47

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 

And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years,c but no one could heal her. 

She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 

Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”


Autoimmune Awareness Month 2017

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Before an MRI – jgb

MARCH Is #AutoimmuneAwarenessMonth.
I also turn 45 this March. This picture was taken before one of the numerous MRI’s I have undergone since my Autoimmune journey began in 2001. I have had so many MRIs & CT scans that I lost count years ago.
I’ve had 7 Bone Marrow Biopsies/Aspirations, 1 PET Scan and countless other procedures in the cold, sterile parts of hospitals that most people don’t know exist.
For me, Autoimmune Disease means that when I was 28 I got terribly sick and when I was 29 I landed in the hospital for a prolonged period of time with the diagnosis of Profound Crohn’s Disease and C-Diff.
Autoimmune Disease means getting sick and eventually learning that it does not go away: no matter how strictly you live, nor how strong your faith. There is a hiccup in your immune system.
It means that most people have no clue how many steps I go through daily to live what looks like a normal life and that I will always miss the woman I was who lived without these restrictions.
But it also means the small victories become HUGE Celebrations.
It means that you quickly learn who loves you enough to be there for you when you are rather gross (it’s embarrassing to be gross but sickness does that). However it’s temporary and there are people out there who will still love you on the gross days.
Autoimmune disease means finding a way to live your best life even with scary diagnoses.
It has taken me 16 years. I have a history of Crohn’s, Leukemia, Migraines & Immunodeficiency.
There are days that I run fevers, hurt all over and feel trapped.
But those days have become FEW.
After 16 years of putting together a jigsaw puzzle including pieces God has given me from: Modern Medicine, Epigenetics, Functional Medicine, Real Foods, and a Healing Lifestyle I am finally thriving again.
If you are just beginning your Autoimmune journey it is hard but I encourage you to knock on all the doors because you will slowly find your healing path.

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving

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Autumn Gold Leaves — JGB

It has been 4 months since my last blog-post.

We celebrate Thanksgiving this week and I am completely healthy.

Two years ago the Hubs and I had just purchased our first house together and I had a leukemia relapse. One year ago I developed a drug-resistant bronchitis/pneumonia which led to a bronchoscopy and a failed IVIG treatment.

Those years blistered with pain and heartache. Each person in our family carried a broken heart. 

This year is different. We are happy, we are healed. We are in a season of goodness and celebration!

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Chris and Jessica Historic Roswell

Last summer I got healthy again and had a very hard time moving forward. I did not know what to do because, what do you do when your life has been thrown so far from center for such a long time? Though it sounds simple, finding yourself and moving forward after life altering crises is actually quite challenging.

In my experience unplugging, taking lots of healing walks, praying, listening to positive podcasts, allowing myself to cry and ask why are necessary steps in moving forward.

When I got sick in 2001 I did not understand any of it. I loved my life prior to illness and I played by the rules. Though I was young and certainly  made immature decisions (aka “mistakes”), I was a compassionate and loving person who had a committed relationship to God. I had worked so hard for a career that was budding in my early 20’s. It made no sense that my world would collapse due to illness.

From the very beginning of my journey I prayed that God would use my story to encourage other people who are hurting. I understood that if my life could turn on a dime so could the lives of millions. I hoped that God would put a purpose to the pain I went through because…well, don’t we all want some purpose to come from the most defining moments of our lives?

15 years later, hurting people are inspired by my story and seek me out for suggestions because they are where I once was. This role brings with it much more weight and humility than I ever imagined it would.

As I type this post I have precious people in my mind who are facing mountains, their world is upside down, their families are hurting. My spirit hurts for them and while I cannot provide perfect words to soothe them I do know that healing happens in baby steps and God is faithful.

3 weeks ago during one of my healing walks, our pup and I came across a bench that took me back to younger years. It looked like a bench I would have spent time at when as a camper or a camp counselor. Then God brought to mind the verse I have clung to through the brilliant and brutal times of my life.

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” — Deuteronomy 31:8

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Reflections — JGB

He is always right here with me and during the darkest times He picks me up and holds me extra close.

To those of you who are hurting this Thanksgiving, I pray that you can hold on to the hope that what you are facing today will not last forever. Cling to positive words and find strength in gratitude which has been a healing tool in my life.

You can find most of my writings, recipes and follow along with me as I do my best to live a healing lifestyle at my Instagram account dedicated to The Feel Good Days.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Mourning Has Broken

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Last spring my oncologist predicted that summer would be an easy season for me. While I finalized paperwork from the previous school year I imagined lazy days spent poolside reading novels, kayaking with hubby, cooking yummy meals. I was so excited to get back to writing and blogging.

Yet, before any of the fun could begin I had to come undone. And by undone I mean ugly tears and questions of why.

Over the past 15 years, I have not asked God “why” very many times. But this summer, I sat in puddles of tears and shamelessly cried out for answers.

I have spent 9 of my past 15 years either hospitalized or severely sick with Crohn’s disease or leukemia. That does not include the horrific migraines or striving for mental wellness through these years of adversity.

After an intense 1-1/2 year battle for my health, the first 6 weeks of summer demanded that I heal emotionally.

I took our dog for long walks and slowly found my heartbeat again. I frequently unplugged from social media to still my mind. I limited the amount of news I watched or read because I was too raw to process mass amounts of sadness or fear. I listened to a positive podcast everyday to fill my mind with inspiration and goodness. I talked to confidants and professionals who helped me find a way through the pain, people who could listen without judgment, and gracious they are hard to find but God does supply them.

I have gone through emotional recovery after severe illness multiple times over the past 15 years. You would think I would be a genius at this by now. However, there are some things that I just don’t think we get better at, mourning over loss being one of them.

It hurts horrifically to have illness uproot your life. It is hard to reconcile damages done. I do think the one thing I have gotten better at is recognizing that I am going through stages of healing and that I will come through them but the pain and heartache, the tears remain guttural.

I did not think I would get sick again in my 40’s. The recent leukemia relapse was just as unexpected as the other medical crises that upended my life.

I had hoped my 40’s would be a new decade filled with health.  Relapsing in my early 40’s was such a disappointment. I had hoped for a long stretch of uncomplicated days.

19 months after it all started, I am finally better both physically and emotionally.

A few weeks ago our dog and I were in the kitchen when my husband walked in the door after work. Jackson ran over for a pat on the head and then I hugged hubby tightly. I thanked him for standing with me through the grieving season because it was dark and I know that it required much of him. I told him that the grieving, the mourning, the crying is over.

When we got married 6 years, 10 months ago neither of us anticipated that we would be challenged so early in our marriage. I am incredibly proud of my husband and our marriage. We made it through a fierce storm together. And, by the Grace of God, We are entering a new season.


Healing

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An old Family Photo–We are Currently Healing

When I wrote my last blog post I was crushed in spirit. I received so many kind messages and I have been too worn down to reply to most of them but I want you to know that your prayers and messages carry me. Thank you.

It has been one month since I wrote that post. I can barely remember the days between then and now, though they were long and seemed to stretch eternal.

After the serum sickness, I recoiled and became very small, absent, empty. I grieved in a way that is required of us after life deals too much hurt.

The past 15 years have been harsh, at times brutal. And life has been intense since late November/early December 2014 when my case of leukemia relapsed.

In March my oncologist gave me an IVIG treatment to boost my immune system because it is wiped out from chemotherapy.

When I got the treatment, I was actually in a getting better stage. I had returned to work in January; our dog and I were walking an hour a day. I was joining other women for yoga and even barre workout classes. It seemed like we were finally getting back to life.

I had a wicked reaction to the IVIG called serum sickness which you can read about here. It was a horrific set-back.

I felt like someone pummeled me right when I was coming up for air sending me back under the water, wiped out, weary and having to fight the current again in order to survive.

The physical pain of the serum sickness and chemical meningitis was devastating; the night at the ER which went so wrong left me feeling stripped of dignity.

When my oncologist called me the morning after my ER trip, she explained serum sickness and that I won’t be having IVIG again. I slept feverishly and fitfully for a couple of days; when I woke up her words became clear to me and my heart cracked wide open in sadness.

That time period is now blurry and void of details other than the sting I felt in my heart and the shallow breaths that accompany severe sadness. I remember PBS was running an Anne of Green Gables marathon that Sunday and I watched it, recalling younger years spent with my sister and my college girlfriends during what was an uncomplicated stage of life.

I returned to work and focused on survival. I worked and I slept. I had become severely iron deficient and was scheduled for an iron infusion. The anemia made everything that was already so hard, extremely complicated.

It felt as though I had a blindfold around my eyes and was being shoved through a thorn-filled maze.

It hurt, I was exhausted and I knew that the only way through it was to go through it. I put one foot in front of the other and did not think past the moment.

The Sunday before my iron infusion fatigue draped heavily over me; I simply could not stay awake. It was a sunny day and my husband was working in the yard, I wanted to join him because I longed to spend time with him. I also knew it would be good for me to be in the sun.  He found me in the house with defeat stamped across my face. Tears pooled in my eyes while I told him how badly I wanted to be outside with him.

He chose compassion.

He took my hand and guided me to our bedroom where he wrapped me up in my favorite blanket. He told me to rest, to nap, that I would feel better when I woke up and that he would be right outside.

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched him through the window until I fell asleep.

This man, who has never been “sick” who does not understand by experience what it feels like to have your body stop working correctly; this man who is not naturally inclined to extreme patience has been immensely generous and patient and loving towards me. His dreams have also been dashed by my health crisis because it impacts everything from our finances to our ability to socialize to what he has had to witness. He has chosen to love me and to stay committed to me. He breathes words of life into me and treats me gently when he could easily allow resentment to build up toward me. But every day he makes the conscious decision to choose love over resentment. I am amazed. 

When I awoke from my nap that Sunday afternoon, I did not feel better, I felt hopeless. I remember standing in our kitchen wondering if all of my good years are over. Then I shook my head and told myself to “stop”. I reminded myself that God has always provided for me. I literally stood in our kitchen and talked to myself “yes, there have been times when I have been in pain and at times it has been profound, but God has always supplied hospitals and medications for me. There have been horrific moments but there has always been an end to those moments”. “There are places in the world where that type of pain relief and medical rescue does not exist. I am grateful that I live in a place where I have been able to have those rescues”.

I expressed gratitude for my husband and his choice to stay faithful to, and supportive of, me during this time which has seemed ruthless.

In my experience, there are stages that are part of healing and I wish I could skip steps and rush through the painful ones but it does not work that way. We have to go through each stage. It is the only way we heal.

I am not crying or grieving anymore. We are laughing again. I am still working full time and my dog and I are taking our daily, one hour walks. I am stretching it out in yoga.

My heart is not yet light again but we are adding play into our lives now that I am medically stable. I know that the light-heartedness will come in time.

I have been through these stages before; it has just been a while since I had to do it. This is not easy.

I recently heard a song that reminded me of the way that God has been with me over the past 15 years. As hard as they have been, He has peppered them with joyful moments too.

The song is really beautiful. I hope it encourages you too, whatever you may be facing.

 


Breathing Easy

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2 weeks ago, flanked by my husband and father, I went to the Pulmonologist. We had an early morning appointment to get the results from my bronchoscopy.

I was braced to hear hard words from the doctor. I had prepared myself to get a sad report and then muster strength, look for the silver lining and find a way to turn it into good news.

The reason I was in that frame of mind is because that is what Crohn’s Disease, Chronic Migraines and Leukemia have forced me to do for the majority of my adult life.

Looking back over the years, I have been courageous.

Tuesday morning, I was granted a pass. The lung specialist came into our room and did what he probably enjoys doing most: he told me that all 11 biopsies revealed healthy lung tissue. Healthy.

I am writing this blog post early on a Saturday morning. Tears spilled over my cheeks as I typed the word: Healthy.

To be fair, part of the reason for the tears is because I am listening to Adele and it is a confirmed fact that Adele makes people cry.

But Come ON:

…after 15+ years of repeatedly being thrown into hospital beds, excruciating pain, Emergency Rooms, scary diagnoses, frightening procedures…

…after cheering friends’ childbirths while trying to make sense of my childless life riddled by words such as “profoundly ill, hemorrhage, too young for this, blood transfusions, stat, cancer, potential complications, no other options”…

…to hear the word: “Healthy”…

Cue Adele, dammit and let your heart explode!

Cry the kind of tears you cry when All that Was Wrong is Suddenly Right, and it may not make sense, but it Just IS.

I have been breathing easily ever since we left the office of the Pulmonologist 2 weeks ago: off all antibiotics, steroids, inhalers.

It is if as the respiratory complications that crushed me from November-January never  happened.

God still works miracles. Most often they don’t seem to match our timeline and in so many ways they don’t even seem fair in this world where too many people suffer horrifically.

However, occasionally, He pulls back the veil and allows us to witness something truly magnificent which goes without explanation. I thank Him for choosing me this time.


Peace During Times of Fear

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I learned to find peace through being Present during times when I faced pain, uncertainty and fear due to hospitalizations, Crohn’s disease and leukemia.

This lesson helps me through life’s frightening moments.

Right now high levels of fear and sadness prevail across the world due to recent tragedies and scary news of what may happen next.

I encourage you to remember that as long as there is life, beauty exists.

You may have to search hard to find that beauty but it’s there: in the sky, autumn leaves falling, a favorite song.

In order to find life’s beauty we must be Present in our own lives.

I am not suggesting that we abandon all news but I do recommend taking a break to breathe and find the goodness in your personal space.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

 John 14:27


A Crohn’s Disease Pep Talk (for Newbies or for When You Are Flaring)

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When I was diagnosed with crohn’s disease 14 years ago, everything stopped.

Ironically I was 29 years old, so it was figuratively and literally the end of an era for me. My 20’s had been magical. They were filled with laughter, friends, first love, and the early years of a successful career.

I am so glad that I got to have that decade.

I celebrated my 30th birthday quietly, at my parent’s house. I was living with them while trying to get into remission from a profound onset of crohn’s disease because I was too sick to take care of myself. I remember the night of my 30th birthday. The sky was clear and I could see the stars and I felt…I felt lonely and displaced.

Everyone with crohn’s or colitis has a story. There are people who don’t have horrible cases but a lot of us have some significant heartbreak in our history, even if we look totally “ok” on the outside.

Before I got sick, I left North Carolina (the state which holds my heart) for 2 reasons:

1. I had the opportunity to work as a speech therapist on a unique brain injury unit in Atlanta; as a professional I was excited to have the opportunity because working with patients with brain injury was my professional passion.

2. My family lives in Atlanta, so I thought it would be nice to live near them.

In retrospect, I think that God must have known that my world was going to fall apart and that I would need to be near my family.

1-1/2 years after I moved from the Carolinas to Atlanta, I collapsed at work and was rushed to the hospital where a nurse later found me rocking back and forth in excruciating pain with a fever of 104.7 (F).

The next morning, my GI doctor told me that I had either crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis; he said that he was not sure yet but that I had some form of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease).

I did not understand that with his diagnosis, my life had changed on a dime.

I remember lying in that hospital bed in horrific pain with my family at my side. When he said the words crohns or colitis, I thought “that means I can’t eat corn” because at some point in my life I had known a person who could not eat corn due to one of those conditions. That is how removed I was from the moment. I did not put it together: the reason I was laying in the hospital, in excruciating pain, bleeding form my intestines was because of this new diagnosis.

I was hospitalized for the majority of that summer and into the early fall. I had to be fed through a central line in my heart because I could not eat or drink anything by mouth.

My friends were getting married and having babies and I laid in bed, in a big hospital in Atlanta. I stared out the windows at the magnolia trees which were in bloom.

Social media was not really “a thing” back then; actually cell phones were just starting to be something that everyone had. Thus, there were no blogs for me to read. I did not have Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest to distract me.

My days and nights were filled with: an insane amount of pain, lamaze breathing lessons by the nurses to coach me to get through the pain, naps, books, a TV in the corner of the hospital room that played 12 stations. I journaled. I slept with a Bible in my bed and missed my dog. I tried hard to laugh and not cry.

I was very scared and nothing made sense.

In addition to crohns, I also had C-Difficile. The C-Diff was resistant to several rounds of antibiotics. It finally responded to a third round. After it cleared I was left with what the doctors called a “profound onset” of crohn’s disease.

I did what any person would do if he/she was placed in a hospital room with no real social outlet for a prolonged period of time in horrific pain, bleeding from the gut, requiring blood transfusions and being fed through a line in their heart: I examined my life and wondered if I had done something wrong to cause everything to fall apart.

When I was younger, I had an unhealthy relationship with food and often chose “skinny” eating over “healthy” eating. I asked God to forgive me for not taking care of my body, I worked through the process of forgiving myself.

I envisioned days of health returning and I clung to faith that one day I would be able to eat again, that I would live without that horrible pain.

I worked through the feelings that any 29 year old woman goes through when her body goes from being desirable to not working correctly. I felt like damaged goods and like nobody would ever be able to see me as beautiful or desirable again. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I think that at one point my weight was down in the 80’s. I remember rumors flying about eating disorders and I remember feeling so sad and hurt by that judgment because I really wanted to be out of pain, I wanted my intestines to stop bleeding and I wanted to be able to eat again.

It is hard to be judged. I had to learn to let go of what everyone was saying or thinking about me.

I was allergic to most of the medications used to treat crohns which meant that I went through allergic reactions and they were scary. They also left me feeling hopeless and concerned that maybe nothing would work.

I remember one particular moment in an ER when I was so incredibly sick. I was in the hospital bed, throwing up and simultaneously passing blood from my intestines. My GI doctor ordered blood transfusions. I then watched him ask my parents if they were willing to let me to fly out of state to one of the country’s top IBD clinics because the Atlanta doctors could not seem to get my case under control. When he asked that question, the look of grief and hopelessness that washed over my parent’s faces penetrated the ER. After they agreed, he said, “I pledge to take care of your daughter and I will”. I was looking at my parents and my doctor from my bed; they still looked sad and serious, but a bit of the grief was relieved with his pledge and at that moment he became a hero to me for helping them.

After that, I was admitted (again) and given blood transfusions but I did not have to fly out of the state. Something changed that time and my body started to calm. I started to get well and it has been a very long road to wellness.

I have always said that if someone who was living well with crohn’s disease had visited me in the hospital, I would have felt so encouraged. There would have been a real person, who was living a full life, for me to look to for tangible hope.

While I can’t be the person to walk into your hospital room, I can tell you that I have spent hours on the floor crawling and screaming in pain unimaginable; I have rushed to the bathroom every 15 minutes only to pass copious amounts of blood from my gut (it is gross and painful). I have had diarrhea so badly that I learned about using Boudreaux’s Butt Paste (by the way, it is totally appropriate to laugh at the name of that, I do, however it works).

When I was 30 and just starting to heal, I went to the grocery store in a nice area of Atlanta and totally lost control of my bowels, in my favorite pair of jeans. #LowPoint (possibly #LOWESTPoint)

I have also

Healed ❤

Dated ❤

Fallen in love with a man who thinks I am beautiful even though he has seen me at my worst ❤

Had a fairy-tale wedding at a winery ❤

Traveled ❤

Spent nights laughing until the sun came up ❤

and

I rarely have trouble with crohn’s anymore ❤

Everyone with IBD is different but this is what has worked for me

  1. I work at maintaining a great relationship with my GI doctor.
  2. If I feel a flare coming on, I call the doctor. I learned this the hard way when I was younger; I used to refuse to call the doctor because I did not want to admit that I was about to flare nor did I want to have to go to the hospital. Since I refused to acknowledge what was happening, I often waited too long, and I became an emergency admission to the hospital. Now I know that if symptoms start and I call the doctor, they can usually call something in. If I take what they call in and rest, the flare can usually be averted.
  3. I take my medications as prescribed. Years ago, I was on high doses of multiple medications but now I am on a very low dose of 1 maintenance medication.
  4. I follow a healing diet. Gut Health is fundamental in healing any illness but especially an illness that involves the GI tract. For years I followed the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). Now I follow the Autoimmune Protocol of the Paleo Diet (AIP).
  5. I am involved in support groups so that I don’t feel alone in my walk toward wellness.
  6. I have completely changed my lifestyle over the years to decrease stress. At times, that has meant walking away from relationships and even positions at work that were not healthy for me. Those decisions have not always been easy for me. However, when you find that you are constantly in flare mode or being hospitalized repeatedly, you must evaluate your circumstances and identify sources of stress which can be removed. As much as possible, choose environments that encourage you to feel less stressed, even if that means making choices that other people might not understand.
  7. I have learned to deal with stress in ways that help prevent flares. When I feel overwhelmed, instead of allowing myself to focus on feelings of worry, anxiety, or something I can’t do anything about, I focus on something “fluffy”. When the weight of the world is crashing down on me, I will watch a feel good movie or read a feel good book to help alleviate the stress so that I don’t end up flaring. You must find a way that you can “check-out” of toxic stress.
  8. I take daily walks. See my previous post on exercise and autoimmune disease.
  9. I practice yoga. See my previous post on exercise and autoimmune disease.
  10. I journal: this is a great exercise for getting your emotions outside of yourself (especially those feelings like stress and anxiety which are triggers for flares).
  11. I get good, quality sleep. Sleep is another fundamental key to healing. 
  12. I don’t compare myself to other people.
  13. I practice gratitude: throughout the day, I give thanks for even the smallest blessings.

I also eat amazing foods now, without pain. Here are some pics of what I have been eating lately

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Chicken de Provence

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Filet and sauteed Kale and Grapes

 

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Mexican Hot Chocolate (from Down South Paleo cookbook)

 

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Pancakes from Paleo Down South cookbook

my pumpkin latte

My Pumpkin Spice Latte

Migraine Friendly, Nightshade-Free Potato Salad

Grilled Chicken Thighs with My Migraine Friendly, Nightshade-Free Potato Salad

Friday Funday milkshake

My Friday Funday milkshake

cherry pie based on grazed and enthused bars

Cherry Pie Based on Recipe from Grazed and Enthused Website

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One of my favorite Healing Soup Bowls

 In my experience, the first few years were the hardest because I went from being totally normal to being dreadfully sick. Doctors had to find medications to get my case under control and I had to learn what it meant to live with an autoimmune disease.

It does get better, life does return to “normal” again, and you stop living in constant pain/crisis mode. My best advice: reach out for encouragement and today’s social media world has made that so easy, especially with Instagram and the use of the #.

Just use #Crohns and you will find a community ready to support you ❤


My Personal Take on Blood Cancer Awareness Month

bone marrow bx 7

Sistah and Jessica Bone Marrow Biopsy 7

If you are one of my regular readers than you know that I have a history of chronic mylogenous leukemia (CML) and that I had an unexpected relapse last year when I grew resistant to my chemotherapy.

The posts on this blog dating from late November through April/May and even into June chronicle dark days marked by pain.

Two weeks ago, Hubby and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary and we are now embarking on my favorite season, fall.

This is when my health began to unravel last year.

Because last year was cruel and every day seemed to hold exclamation points of tears, fevers, bone pain and blood it is very hard not to be a tiny bit afraid of what lies ahead this year. 

As we note the passing of days, we both find ourselves trying to place events. When I say “I am so glad this is not last year” he will say “you know, you were actually already starting to get sick right now…you were tired…”…and we start to piece the ugly, messy puzzle together.

I see my oncologist this Friday and will get my latest numbers, the markers which indicate whether or not the CML is in remission. I feel well and I believe that I am in remission. However,  there is a nervousness that I think almost anyone would feel given the circumstances.

Last year was hard and scary and I don’t want life to unravel again. It seems like my life has unraveled too many times because of crohn’s and leukemia. I hope that I get a great report on Friday. And I pray that I get great reports for decades to come. 

This month is blood cancer awareness month and this morning I saw a cute parody video that I am going to share below.


Awesome Podcast on Autoimmune Disease(s) Reversed by Diet & Lifestyle

Dancer Pose

Yoga with my niece a few days ago

My niece was with us this week. Dang, I love that girl!!

Back when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2001, I lay in a hospital bed for the majority of a summer and early fall. My sweet niece was about 1-1/2 years old and my precious sister and brother-in-law would drive 5 hours every weekend to see me in the hospital.

Talk about love ❤

They would always put a Gerber Daisy on the front of her little stroller and push her through my hospital door first and she would be babbling away “Aunt Jessie” (she is the only person who was allowed to call me that, I prefer Jessica).

I was so horrifically sick. Prior to that slam dunk into the hospital bed, I had been athletic, I had been a runner. I had been a very successful young adult, I was a hard worker,  I was not used to having to stop anything. But Crohn’s Disease, it stopped me (temporarily).

While laying in the hospital, feelings of hopelessness and confusion would wash over me, I fought them, but it was a battle. I was allergic to almost every medication the doctors tried. At one point, I remember being back in the ER, with my GI doctor ordering Stat blood transfusions while I overheard him asking my parents if they were open to sending me out of state to a different IBD clinic because they could not get my case under control.

Then he said the sentence that kind of made me fall in love with him (in a family-love kind of way), he said “I pledge to take care of your daughter, and I will”. I think I threw up on the ER floor after that, quite possibly blood.

I think that the first real “hopeful” moment in regard to what my future might look like came that fall. My parents and I attended a convention in Atlanta led by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. The former Miss America, Mary Ann Mobley was the featured speaker. She had crohn’s disease. As she stood in of us and told her story, I sobbed. I cried a cleansing cry.

For the first time since July 3, 2001 I felt hopeful that my life would continue. This woman was standing up there in front of an auditorium telling her story. She was just adorable and I could relate to everything she was saying in regard to the sheer pain of crohn’s disease. The fact that this gorgeous woman knew what it was like to crawl on the floor, screaming in agony, made me feel less alone.

From that point on, I said that if only someone who had a history of crohn’s, who had put their life back together, had come into my hospital room, maybe it would have helped me through those horrific months. I try so hard to give others hope, at the same time, I know that everyone responds to illness differently.

That being said, right now, I am listening to an ~awesome~ podcast regarding autoimmune disease and role of diet and lifestyle in healing/reversing the disease.

It is really fabulous and I encourage you to share it with anyone who either has an autoimmune disease or with their loved ones.

At the same time, let me qualify my statement with the reality that people will make lifestyle and dietary changes when they are ready. And that is so important to remember. Getting sick with an autoimmune disease is a horrible feeling. All of a sudden, your life flips upside down and you just want to go back to ‘normal’. You are suddenly forced to change so many things. For some people, the thought of changing diet or lifestyle is really the last straw so they might have to come to that decision later (or possibly never). For me, it has worked and I want to share this with you. 

I think that the reason I was so ready to plunge into the diet change is because when I got crohn’s disease at 29, I was in the hospital for the majority of a summer and early fall and had to be fed through a central line IV that was inserted into my heart.

One of my best friends told me about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and she went on to tell me that many people with crohn’s who follow the diet are eventually able to eat and live normal lives again. I wanted to be able to eat again. I also wanted to live a normal life again, so if that meant trying the SCD, I was all about it.

Over the years, I heard about how people with crohn’s disease do well with the Paleo diet and I scoffed at that idea because in my mind, the “Paleo diet” meant bacon slathered on top of more bacon (and I can’t even eat bacon due to migraines). For the life of me, I could not understand why a “healthy diet” would be based on eating only meat.

…clearly I did not look into the diet or I would have understood that it involves a TON of veggies and fruits.

I fell onto the Paleo diet out of absolute desperation.

It happened last January during my leukemia relapse. I had grown resistant to Gleevec. The oncologists started me on the new chemotherapy, Sprycel, which is a fabulous drug. However, side effects can include colitis and intestinal hemorrhaging. For one, the drug is coated in lactose as a protein binder. So my oncologist had me taking it with Lactaid but that was not helping. It was like my case of crohn’s which had been “quiet” for such a long time had come back.

I spent a lot of time going back and forth between my oncologist and my GI doctor. I was not having a real crohn’s flare, but my intestines were being torn apart by the new chemo. It was dangerous, given my history of a profound onset of crohn’s in 2001.

We had to look closely at the bone marrow transplant option because we were not sure if I would be able to continue with the Sprycel.

In addition to being emotionally crushed, I was so sick.

I decided that I would go back on the intro diet of the SCD in an attempt to get the inflammation of my GI tract down. I was looking online for SCD recipes that did not include nuts or dairy and information about the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol of Paleo) kept popping up on my search.

I decided that I would give it a try.

It worked! The inflammation in my GI tract calmed and I was (am) able to take my Sprycel without any problems. I do continue to take a Lactaid pill with it.

But, so much more has come from the AIP.

Seriously. I went on it to be able to take chemo, to get my GI tract back to being OK (because I was doing OK before the chemo change). But I was not this healthy, vibrant or pain-free before going AIP.

Crohn’s disease is a disease of malnourishment. No matter how much I ate, I was always struggling to absorb nutrients, my skin did not glow and my body hurt. It is common with many autoimmune diseases to hurt or ache, to have joint pain.

Most of the “autoimmune symptoms” that I used to have are gone now and I have only been on the diet for 7 months.

I never expected it to make such a big difference in my life. I recommend that anyone with an autoimmune disease give it at least a 1 month trial.

There is an awesome “support group” on Instagram which you can find by using #AIP and I think that is very important because it gives you ideas of how to follow the diet with yummy recipes. It also gives you a huge network of people who don’t see themselves as victims of illness; they see themselves as strong people who go through the same fights that you go through.

It is very healing.

Below you will find a link to the podcast. It is an interview led by Eileen Laird of the Phoenix Helix. She shares her story which is so encouraging, in which she reversed Rheumatoid Arthritis through dietary and lifestyle changes.

During this podcast she interviews 5 people whose dietary and lifestyle changes have healed and mostly revered their autoimmune disease (some take low-dose maintenance medications). Today’s podcast interviews include the following diseases:

*Rheumatoid Arthritis

*Takayasu’s Arteritis

*Multiple Autoimmune Syndrome

*Multiple Sclerosis

*Lupus

Here is the link to the free podcast (click on the little gray box under “Listen to the show”)

http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2014/09/14/my-new-podcast-dedicated-to-autoimmune-healing/