About Me - The Long Story
My journey largely consists of dealing with chronic illness alongside all my other life experiences. It started when I was very young, and although I wouldn’t consider myself a “sickly” child that wasn’t able to do things, it seemed that I was sick quite often growing up. There was a time when I had ear infections every 6 weeks and was put on antibiotics each time. I also had a lot of bronchitis, sinus infections, and general flus and colds. Yet I was still able to function and be active for the most part. I was very active throughout high school, with aches and pains and illnesses here and there. Throughout my chronic illness, I’ve always been able to continue to push through things and remain mostly active. I just don’t feel well and have pain all the time. But I’m very grateful for what I call “tender mercies” that have enabled me to keep going and to have a lot of experiences and joyful moments.
After high school I headed to college for three years. Then when I turned 21, I went to Northern Virginia to serve a voluntary mission for my church for 18 months. Just before I left for this service, I had my first major “attack”: severe, sharp pains in the upper mid-region of my abdomen. I ended up in the ER and had some tests done, with nothing being found to be wrong. This episode passed, and I headed to Virginia. About half-way through the 18 months, I started to feel strange all the time. I felt as if I were in a haze, kind of a light, fuzzy feeling in my head. I was still able to function, but I just didn’t feel quite right. When I had about six months left for this service, I started to get more pains throughout my abdomen and started to lose weight. I went to a few doctors and had a few tests, but again, nothing could be found. I made it to the end of the mission and returned home having lost 15 pounds within those last several months. My parents were very worried, and started sending me to more doctors where more tests were run. The results would always come back “normal”, and it was concluded that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome and would just have to learn to deal with it and figure out what I could or couldn’t eat as I experimented with this.
A year later I got married to a wonderful man that I had met only 3½ months before we married. It clicked right away, and we moved forward into our new life together. I pre-warned him about my health challenges that nobody could seem to figure out, and he was on board to love and support me come what may. I’m very grateful for him in my life these past 20 years!! We had our first child a year and a half after we were married. I felt so good when I was pregnant (besides a lot of lower back pain), and was able to gain 40 pounds. My family members were all surprised and happy about this and said that it seemed that my body liked pregnancy. I continued to feel pretty good and gave birth to Baby #2 just over two years later. I had lost the 40 pounds from the first pregnancy, but gained 40 again during this second one. However, I started to not feel well about 6 months after this birth. The stomach problems were getting worse, and I always felt like I had the flu, with generalized aches and pains and low energy. I also had chronic sinus infections and tonsillitis. It was decided at that point, at age 27, that I would have my tonsils removed. My second child was about 18 months old, and the oldest child around 3 years old. Getting my tonsils removed was a good choice, as it helped with some of the problems I was having. But the recovery was very difficult while trying to take care of two little boys. I’m grateful for all of the help I received from my family at that time.
From that point on, my body really struggled. It seemed that things kept getting worse and worse. I ended up in the ER again with severe stomach pains, and after a series of tests, nothing could be found to be the cause. By this point I had spent 7 years with problems, going to various doctors and having a lot of tests, with no answers as to why I was feeling the way I was. I started to get the feeling that some of the doctors didn’t believe it was real, or that I was depressed or too stressed and this was causing all my problems. But the doctor that I saw in the ER that time was new in town, and he wanted to follow up with me in a week and look at things further. I ended up seeing this doctor quite often for the next year, with him sending me to many specialists and for various tests. After that year of appointments and tests, all of which continued to show that things were “normal”, my doctor sat with me in his office one day for about an hour, going through all the test results and scratching his head, wondering what we were missing. Then suddenly, as if a thought had been placed in his head, he asked me if we had tested for Celiac Sprue. At that point, in 2003, I had never even heard of that. A blood test was done, in which my numbers were elevated, and I was sent for an upper endoscopy with a biopsy. The results came back confirming that I did have Celiac Sprue. Finally, we had a diagnosis! It sounds crazy, but we were almost celebrating when we got the diagnosis, because at least we finally had an answer. And it was something that I had control over by changing my diet. That wasn’t an easy thing to do, but at least there was something that could be done.
After being on the gluten free diet for 9 months to a year, I started to notice a lot of improvements. We thought that was finally the answer to feeling better! We had felt the desire to have more children but had held off on that for a while as we tried to figure out what was going on with my health. When we started seeing positive results on the gluten free diet, we felt ready and Baby #3 was born. This time I gained 50 pounds and again felt great during the pregnancy. But during this pregnancy I developed an allergy to strawberries and a couple other fresh fruits. That seemed to go away after the baby was born, and a couple years later Baby #4 was born. This pregnancy was like the others, with feeling better overall and gaining weight. But more allergies developed, and this time they seemed to stay after the baby was born. My husband and I always tried to follow what we felt was right, keeping my health in consideration as we decided to have children. After a while we felt that there were still more children waiting to come to us, so in late 2008 I became pregnant with Baby #5. The typical story continued with this pregnancy, but after the birth of this baby, my body seemed to keep going downhill more and more. During this time, I went back in for more tests and to more specialists, with no answers once again. A couple of years after this fifth baby, I had an unexpected pregnancy that only lasted for 6 weeks, ending in my first, and only, miscarriage. At that point I started to look at alternative medicine and began working with a couple of alternative medicine practitioners who live near me. They provided me with many herbal tonics for cleansing and rebuilding of my body. After a year with them, I started to feel much healthier, and my husband and I both felt strongly that we needed to have one more child. Soon I became pregnant with our last baby, #6, and he was born one week before I turned 40. Surprisingly, that was my best pregnancy out of all of them! My body also stayed strong for about a year and a half after he was born, longer than it had with any of the others. I attribute this to the herbs I had been on and the strength they had given my body in preparation for this pregnancy. But then the cycle started again, and as I have continued to try various ways to heal, my body has continued to steadily decline for the past two years.
I’ve gone back and forth between traditional and alternative medicine. There seem to be no answers for me at this point with traditional medicine, and I keep searching for answers and trying new things with alternative medicine. I personally believe there is a place for both sides, and I’m grateful for the help I’ve received along the way and the things I’ve learned from both sides of the spectrum. For the past several years I have tried to avoid antibiotics and medications as much as possible, and have instead been trying to find the underlying causes of my illness and not wanting to just put a band-aid on my symptoms by taking medications. We have recently found strong evidence that I may have Lyme disease, along with a set of multiple infections, including Epstein Barr Virus, among others. I am currently undergoing some natural treatments at a clinic in Pocatello, Idaho called West Clinic. I am beginning to have greater hope that I will be able to find healing and learn the right balance for my body. I have learned a lot of different things from various sources and am trying to apply all of those things as I work toward healing.