A Brief Pause

The last few weeks have been a complete whirlwind of emotions, events, and discoveries. I have been tested and pushed to my wits end entirely: physically, mentally, and emotionally.I have had such conflict with myself, in what I want now and what will come to be.  I started along this path of natural medicine and veganism, assuming this would be one long straight path. I mean- I did a lot of research and educated myself as best I could with the resources I had available to me. I wasn’t going into this completely blind. I  never could have anticipated the path I was on would turn into a bendy and windy road that had no clear direction. I am at the point in my journey where I am experiencing the worst symptoms of my Lupus that I ever have in the last eight years. My arthritis has gotten out of control and is completely debilitating. I cannot brush my teeth, wash my face, or even lift a cup on my own. I struggle to sleep at night, because the pain keeps me up. I can’t roll over in bed, or even pull the blanket up if I feel chilly. I have hit complete bottom in my journey. I am at the stage where I am physically unable to do my basic routine, and get through a normal day.

It is at this point I have to throw the towel in.

I have endured so much pain in the last month, it is honestly unbelievable to me that I didn’t crack earlier. It is now time that I listen to my body, and not choose to be naive or selfish in my treatment plan with my Lupus, because I want to experiment. At the end of the day, as much as I want to find a natural cure for Lupus; I do have a real and serious chronic disease. That is a fact that I cannot overlook or make light of.

Please know that this is an extremely difficult decision and realization to come to; it is definitely the most humbling experience I have had. I have cried countless tears, had major breakdowns, and was pushed to the edge more than I could tell you. It was not an easy decision and not something that sits well in my mind and heart. I am extremely stubborn, prideful, and an overachiever in every aspect of my life. My friends know too well that when I set my mind to something, I am committed beyond the means of normality. This experience has really shaken me and made me realize what you take away from an experience is not strictly black and white – not just a success or failure. Once I set my mind to something I have to come out in the end succeeding in whatever it is. I do not accept failure or excuses, and I am my toughest critic. I am the individual who will put all her eggs in one basket, give it 150%, and come out accomplished. I do not want this to come across in a condescending or arrogant tone, but that is what my young adulthood life has consisted of. I commit myself fully to something, whether that be a new job/career, education, or hobby, I work extremely hard, persevere, and come out conquering what I set out to do. The natural journey I started three months was absolutely no exception to that. I went all in; I went completely vegan overnight and began natural medicine almost immediately. The reason why I do everything whole-heartedly is because I never want to live with an ounce of regret. I will only accept a failure in life knowing I did my absolute best. This experience has really changed the way I had initially viewed this journey and life. My goal was to reverse or cure my Lupus naturally, if that was achieved then I succeeded- I was a winner. With everything that has happened in the last few weeks I have done more self-questioning and self-reflection than I ever had.

I had to sit down and really think, “What was my end goal?”. Was it to be off my steroids? And at what cost? At the cost of experiencing pain every second of every day?

I had an appointment with my Nephrologist earlier this morning. It was an extremely eye opening meeting. She showed me my lab results for my kidney function over the last year. She explained when I was first diagnosed with nephritis, my protein levels in my urine were ten times the amount of a normal person. It took about a year and new medications for my protein levels to go down by a third, but I still was not in the healthy or safe range yet. Then we looked at my lab results from last month. My protein levels were at the worst they had ever been, and were twenty times higher than a normal person’s. This news was startling. I mean- I knew I was experiencing the worst pains I ever had, but I didn’t know internally that my body was experiencing the same thing. She explained that if I were to continue on this path and leave my nephritis untreated, it could do permanent damage to my kidneys. This could lead to treatments such as dialysis or transplants a few years from now. She was extremely honest and reassuring when she explained that her goal and my Rheumatologist’s (Lupus doctor) goal was to not have me on steroids forever. They are well aware that there are negative side effects to the long term use of these drugs. They do their absolute best to treat me, without overexposing me to drugs. She wanted me to understand that when my Lupus is flaring I need those drugs to get it under control. An untreated flare could manifest itself and I could be ten times worse than when I started. She explained that once my Lupus was in remission and stable for at least two years, then obviously they would want to taper the steroids and eventually get me off. This was very reassuring to hear that my doctors were looking forward and planning for the future. She explained that at the end of the day, if my Lupus is flaring and I do not treat it with the proper medications, it will only backfire and cause more damage to me and my health in the future. What resonated the most with me is what she said about the likelihood of me having children. If I am not healthy, I will not be able to carry a baby, or even become pregnant. I need to consider my future and what the consequences of not treating my Lupus might look like.

Do I want to take the all natural path and experiment for now, with the risk of damaging my kidneys and possibly other vital organs? Or do I take my steroids until my Lupus is at a better place, and pray that one day I will be in a good place to healthfully get off my medications?

I left my appointment today being able to make a better educated decision about my treatment plan. It was hard to hear the real facts and results of my tests, and to be told my Lupus was not doing well with the natural medicine. But it was exactly what I needed to hear; I needed affirmation that I had hit rock bottom and I had to do something about it. I have made my decision and plan on staying on my steroids until I get my Lupus under control. It was not what I had intended I would be doing at this point in my journey, but it is the right thing to do. I have to respect my body and look past my pride, and just understand that this is what I need to do for the time being so I can live contently. I am not viewing this as a failure, or even that I am giving up. I have chosen to be responsible and look at the bigger picture. I need to do this for my future, and as impatient as I am, I need to be patient with my treatment and my Lupus. I have come out of this experience having learned so much about my Lupus and myself – that is something I will never forget. I am happy to say at least I tried to take the initiative to do something for my Lupus; it was a completely empowering feat. I don’t think this will be the end in terms of natural medicine for me, but for now it is a brief pause in a lifelong journey of treating my Lupus.

Confessions – Part I

This week I was faced with a moral dilemma. One I thought I would not have to face for a few months…informing one of my many doctors of the new treatment plan I had created for myself, and how I had stopped taking all my medications and steroids altogether.

My next appointment was with my Nephrologist (my kidney doctor) in November. I was hoping by that time I would feel a lot healthier and fully adjusted to the natural medicine; where I could be sharing only all the positive changes that have come about from my natural approach. Unfortunately I received a call from her earlier this week informing me that my latest lab test results showed a large amount of protein in my urine. To give you a bit of background information, my lupus affects the lining of my kidneys-this is called nephritis. In a normal functioning kidney it filters out strictly waste like urea and ammonia. Unfortunately in my case with nephritis, the walls of my kidneys become inflamed where they begin to excrete needed protein from the body into the urine. Loss of necessary protein due to nephritis can result in several life-threatening symptoms. Since discovering my nephritis I have been on medication to help build the lining of the kidney,and reduce the amount of protein being excreted. So when I received this call from my Nephrologist telling me my protein levels were high again, I was deeply saddened. I had stopped my medications for only two months and my body was already telling me I needed them to function properly. My doctor asked me if everything was alright and if I felt well.  I was completely caught off guard by her phone call-I was not mentally prepared to tell her about all the changes I had made, and how I had stopped taking my kidney medication. I was scared to find out how she might react; whether she thought I was absolutely crazy for doing this, or just irresponsible and stupid for stopping my medications.

So…

I didn’t say a thing.

She wanted me to repeat the lab work again, and if the results were the same she was going to change my kidney medication. I left the phone conversation feeling scared, disappointed, disheartened, and clueless as to what I should do. Do I tell her about the new treatment plan? And if I do, what if she tells me my nephritis is getting worse and that I need to take my medication? I was not prepared to give up on my natural medicine just yet. I felt terrible for lying and not being honest right then and there, but I was not prepared to tell her my secret.

I gave myself a few days to recoup and think about how I was going to deliver this information to her. I wanted to be prepared to explain, educate, and prove to her why this natural approach was the right thing for me to do. When I finally had the conversation with my doctor, I have to say I was completely thrown off by how supportive she was. She explained to me that it wasn’t uncommon for Lupus patients in my age range to be looking at alternative medicine knowing that they would be on medications for the rest of their lives.  She thanked me for being honest with her and having the courage to tell her. She supported my decision and wanted to follow me more closely in the next few months. She said that currently she isn’t too concerned about me getting off my kidney medication, if I really wanted to. She is more worried about my future, and what no kidney medication could manifest to five-ten years down the road. She is concerned that if damage is done to my kidneys because of the absence of medication, it may not be reversible. She also mentioned how my state of health five-ten years from now will dictate if I am able to conceive and healthy enough to carry a baby. Her last point really resonated with me.

It has always been a dream of mine to be a mother. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to have babies and lots of them! If I were to find out in the future I was not healthy enough to carry a baby-I don’t know what I would do. I would be beyond devastated that the great gift of life that women could give, I could not. There is no way I can imagine my life and future without kids. A lot has been on my mind this week, whether or not to continue my journey knowing what my Neprologist said. I will be seeing her in two weeks to discuss what the effects of abstaining from my kidney medication might look like, and a new treatment plan that I will morally feel good implementing.

Dinner at Yew

I recently found out that the Yew restaurant in Downtown Vancouver offered a vegan menu. I had been there a few times before enjoying their regular dinner menu, but I never noticed they had a completely custom vegan menu as well. I was beyond excited to try the menu and it was very fitting for date night with my boyfriend this past week. He works out of town and is home every two weeks, so when he is here we try to plan one nice date night where we go out and enjoy great food and great drinks. We are big dorks and get super dolled up, on any given date night he’ll be rocking suspenders and a bow tie, and I will almost always be in a dress and heels. Our usual date nights consisted of either dinner at Gotham’s Steakhouse, Joe Fortes, or Blue Water Cafe. All these restaurants had wonderful food, and I would normally have a 16oz rib eye steak cooked medium rare, or a miso glazed sablefish. So planning this date night was a lot more challenging. I had to find somewhere that my boyfriend would be able to have his perfect ribeye steak, that didn’t leave me with only a salad as a vegan dinner option. Yew restaurant was the perfect spot for us! The regular dinner menu covers all the various proteins; steak, chicken, and a vast array of fish and seafood. I am so happy I discovered this, because now when I want a delicious vegan meal it won’t have to be at a restaurant that is entirely vegan. Click here to check out the vegan dinner menu! 

I started with their delicious tomato salad ($12). It was one of the best tomato salads I have had even prior to me going vegan. Normally I always opt for the tomato and mozzarella salad, or a caprese salad at any restaurant. The Yew tomato salad was their take on it. I was very happy with it and it didn’t leave me longing for the fresh mozzarella that usually accompanies it. The tomato salad was tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette with a sweet balsamic reduction. On the side was an arugula pesto, which was to die for! It was garnished with pickled cucumbers and fresh basil, which just gave every bite that much more flavour. The plating of the dishes were so beautiful, they were intricately crafted and looked like pieces of art. I know the saying is “people eat with their eyes first”, well after my eyes saw how pretty the plate was I didn’t even want to eat and mess it all up!

For my entree I had the cashew cream pasta ($20). Honestly, this was the best pasta dish I have ever had-hands down. I rarely order a pasta dish at a restaurant, or even cook pasta for that matter, but this pasta dish was loaded with mushrooms so I just had to give it a try! I was stunned by the creaminess and richness of the sauce, I hadn’t tasted anything so rich since going vegan. I could’ve sworn there was a ton of cream and cheese in the sauce, because of the velvety texture. I was shocked that they were able to get that creaminess strictly from a cashew puree. I was literally on the moon when eating this pasta. The sauce had a smoky flavour from the roasted cashews and the mushrooms added a hearty earthiness to the pasta. Everything just worked so perfectly together.

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Now to finish my grande meal off on a sweet note I had their one and only vegan dessert, the chocolate tort ($10). After having this dessert I completely understood why they only had one vegan dessert, because nothing could compete with this tort. It was absolutely heavenly. The tort was the perfect consistency for my liking, almost like a chocolate truffle cake. Where the chocolate is set-it’s still smooth and creamy, but it has a little bit of a bite to it. Paired with the tort was a raspberry sorbet and raspberry chia seed compote. You honestly can never go wrong pairing berries and chocolate together. It was the perfect marriage. Ever since I had this tort I have been craving it every day! It will be my new late night dessert run if I’m downtown and can’t fight the cravings.

The restaurant itself is absolutely beautiful. The decor is modern, clean, yet warm and not pretentious. Our server was extremely nice and professional. She was very curious as to why I went vegan-normally I never share the fact that I have Lupus with people I know, let alone complete strangers! For some reason she made me feel very comfortable with sharing that part of me with her. After I explained to her my reasons, she said she was truly inspired and moved, and that she wished me the best of luck on my journey.

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I highly recommend the Yew restaurant for anyone wanting a meal that will have your taste buds singing. It was an unforgettable meal. For all you vegans out there who struggle to find a a fine dining restaurant that offers delicious vegan dishes, Yew should be your go-to!