alternative health, autoimmune diseases, environmental illness, herbalism, holistic health, nutrition, plant-based

Recovering from Environmental Illness: My Story

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I feel it’s time I share my journey in further detail, how I became so passionate about natural medicine and have found my purpose in helping others with plants.

This was the top of my head in 2014:

By this point, I was several years into my chronic illness and living in South Florida.  This picture was taken several nights before an important job interview, one that I arrived at wearing a wig in the dead of summer.  I remember this night so well.  I’d washed my hair, and in the middle of my shower, clumps of my locks fell into my hands and around my feet in long, tangled ropes, the way I’d imagine might happen to someone undergoing chemotherapy.  It had happened before in my illness, but nothing like this.  I took this picture after getting out of the shower and blow drying what was left of my hair.

At this time, I had already visited about fifteen doctors about my mysterious illness that began around 2010 and gradually escalated to over fifty symptoms.  In the end, I would visit over twenty doctors, be on seven different pharmaceutical medications to combat the symptoms, and inevitably, continue getting sicker and sicker.

This night, looking in the mirror, was proof that there was something seriously wrong.  This was the first time my symptoms were drastic enough to take on a physical identity that the entire world could see.  Prior to that, I had chronic illness that only I could relate to–a slew of symptoms that tore me apart inside but kept me pretty and packaged on the outside.  “You don’t look sick, ” I got from friends, family members and physicians who were trying to understand what I was going through.  Some days, I couldn’t peel myself off the couch.  Getting dressed was agony.  An outing with friends would have me paying for it in bed for three days of resting and recovery.

My symptoms included joint pain, chronic migraine headaches, hair loss, muscle aches, a metallic taste in my mouth, anxiety, extreme exhaustion, depression, brain fog, tinnitus, tightness in my throat, numb extremities, tingling, heart palpitations, chronic diarrhea, sudden food allergies, chemical sensitivities,  chronic cough, air hunger, chronic skin infections, sudden onset cystic acne, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to heat, mysterious rashes, the list went on.

I landed in the hospital in 2010 and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  Now, I had a diagnosis.  The doctors hung my symptoms like new clothes on hangers in their diagnosis closet.  Case closed.  Take this pill. You’ll be fine now.

But I wasn’t.

In spite of medications for my thyroid, symptoms continued to pile.  That summer, I started sprouting hair all over my body like a monkey.  Literally overnight, I had back hair, a beard, chest hair, and was morphing into an ape.  I visited my gynecologist in a panic.  “Sometimes, these things happen to women of your age,” he explained.  “Here, take these pills to regulate your hormones.”  I took them while asking, “But why all of a sudden? What might be causing this?”  He seemed unalarmed.  “These things just happen to women and their hormones, ” he explained.  But that didn’t sit well with me.

The ape-like hair growth subsided over time, but looking back now at my crazy symptoms, I understand that this was my body screaming at me, yelling, “Listen!  There is something very wrong here!”  My body continued to scream its strangely cryptic symptoms at me.

In 2015, I developed two MRSA infections on my face that again landed me in the emergency room.  Rounds of antibiotics were completely unresponsive.  At this point, I could barely tolerate any food–everything ran through me.  I had gone on a very restrictive diet and was working with an acupuncturist and nutritionist, but my mystery illness still presented itself.

It wasn’t until a routine mammogram in 2016, that I was able to connect the dots and uncover the root cause of my illness.

The mammogram came back “normal,” but a few weeks after the procedure, I developed extreme pain and an exacerbation of my systemic symptoms.  Ding! Ding! Ding!  It was coming from my breast implants.

We trust our doctors, the FDA, the manufacturers of our devices.  Of course there are risks, but never would I have thought that mold could grow inside of a breast implant that was only supposed to contain sterile saline solution.  It turned out I wasn’t the only woman poisoned by her breast implants.

One google search later, I uncovered thousands of women in a support group online who were also experiencing the same symptoms as me–some had silicone toxicity, some saline, others gel—it didn’t matter what medium, there were thousands of women with the same list of mysterious symptoms that also had breast implants.  These symptoms, overall, improved, after removal of their breast implants.

After having my breast implants removed, I had to spend two years detoxing my system.  My intolerance to external mold sources and extreme heat coupled by the absence of any medical professionals willing to help me with what now I had identified as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome caused by mold toxicity led me to selling my personal possessions and moving to Colorado, where I could have access to cannabis.  At this time, I was delving deeply in research regarding ways to support my toxic system and flush it naturally to once again achieve optimal health.  I knew it was possible.  Nature was my remedy.

In Colorado, I worked with a medical cannabis physician on specific ratios of cannabinoids that would help taper my inflammatory response and target the mold toxicity with such cannabinoids as CBD and high CBG.  A 3:1 ratio of CBD to THC worked for me during daytime and then the reverse ratio THC to CBD in the evening to promote rest and combat insomnia.  Healing is not a straight line upward, and those months felt like a roller coaster, but I noticed daily improvements, gains I could document and begin to see in my complexion, energy levels, hair growth (on my head), and overall well-being.

Nature healed me, providing me with a landscape of beauty that nourished me in a variety of ways.  I spent as much time as possible outdoors, enjoying mountain hikes, putting my bare feet in the streams, taking long bike adventures on the magnificent web of Colorado trails.  Nature wrapped itself around me and gave me hope; she promised me wellness with the changing seasons.  She gifted me with healing in every windy whisper.

Perhaps what took a great blow other than my physical health was my mental well-being, including my body image, dealing with multiple physical and emotional scars left behind from this medical trauma.  Anger brewed in me constantly–anger in our healthcare system from the doctors up to the FDA and our own government.  Once I plummeted down one rabbit hole, other began appearing, provoking me to keep jumping down intricate mazes of deceit and corruption.  Suddenly, the ground I stood on was slanted.  Reality–everything I had believed about healthcare, our food, our society, our world was something to question.

I’ve learned that grief requires a river-like movement toward acceptance. My time in Colorado, although physically healing, had me wading in situational grief and anger and feelings of helplessness that eventually moved me to discover my purpose and call to action.

Back in Florida, I miss the mountains, the healing hot springs, my endless mountain hikes deep in forest bathing with all those medicinal terpenes doing their magic.  When I feel the beginnings of aches and pains that coincide with rising inflammation now, I take off my shoes and walk on the beach, try to find an uninhabited corner of nature to share with the birds for a while, regroup, recharge, reaffirm the purpose of my journey.

Healing with plants is that purpose.  I believe my health struggles landed me in this current space of exploring nature as medicine and helping others to heal.  I’m grateful for not only my health but my experiences, which have brought me to an opportunity to give back, make a difference, and be part of changing our world for the better.

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