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.

Progress Report #5

 

doctor-clipboard PROGRESS REPORT #5

 

 

 

  1. How many days of adopting a vegan diet have I accomplished?
    I am on my 65th day of eating vegan. This week has gone very well in terms of my diet. I have gone back to my regular completely green eating post PMS. 
  2. How do I feel today?
    Today I feel well. I am feeling rejuvenated this week and optimistic about my health. 
  3. How is my energy level?
    I feel energized today. I have been out and about in the beautiful sun doing errands and enjoying myself. My energy levels have been quite consistent this entire week.
  4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how prevalent are my Lupus symptoms? Joints? Skin? Fatigue? Kidneys?

    My rating: 7

    Joints: My joint pains and morning stiffness have still been very prevalent this week. I have a lot of difficulty in the mornings doing small tasks that require my arms, hands, and walking. Although the upside this week is that I haven’t woken up in tears from the pain, so that is a win for me. Whether that means the pain is subsiding, or my body is just becoming more tolerant, I am unsure. Skin: Skin and scalp looks the same, whoop whoop! 🙂

    Fatigue: Fatigue has not been bothering me at all this week. I have no complaints in this department. 

    Kidneys: No new signs of swelling anywhere.

  5. Have I displayed any new symptoms? Good or bad.
    The stiffness in my knee that I developed as of last week is still continuing to bother me this week. I struggle to walk around my house in the morning without some padded slippers on.

  6. How long have I been off my steroids?
    It has been 62 days.

  7. Have I learned anything new to adopt in my natural approach?
    I went to Finladia Pharmacy a couple weeks ago to see if there was anything I could take to help ease my joint pains my Lupus had been giving me. The Homeopath I consulted with suggested starting with supplementing the basics. I explained to her my situation and how I was taking natural medicine. She was happy with my decision to stop steroids, start natural medicine, and become vegan. She explained that with natural medicine there was a rebound effect, that it would get a lost worse before it got better. This was comforting to hear this from a Homeopath, because I was experiencing the worst of my Lupus that I ever had. She mentioned that when transitioning to natural medicine the immune system had to be in good health and strong to help with the process. I could see why my body was suffering so much from the change, because Lupus is an autoimmune disease. My immune system has always been weak, so made sense why I was experiencing so much pain. She suggested taking an omega-3 and Vitamin D supplement to help boost my immune system. I have been taking these vitamin supplements for a week or so now. I’ll give it at least 3-4 weeks before I report whether or not it is helping with my pains and overall well being. Here are the vitamins I have incorporated into my vegan diet: 

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Progress Report #4

This week has definitely been the toughest week I have experienced since going vegan. I have been struggling physically, mentally, and emotionally. The pain I am experiencing is by far the worst joint pains, muscle stiffness, and all around soreness I have ever had. I think my pains have gotten more severe due to the natural medicine. The Naturopath I saw in Vietnam warned me the first couple weeks would be extremely difficult on my body, because it was detoxifying and trying to rid of all the diseased cells. Also, he mentioned that if I didn’t stick to the strict diet regimen it would conflict with the medicine and make me feel worse. To remind you all of the food restrictions I am on while taking the natural medicine; no fried food, no toasted food, no baked food, no grilled food, no artificial colouring, no soy sauce or any dark sauces, no bread, and no meat of course. I do have to admit I have had some fried foods and some soy-based sauces. This diet regimen is one of  the most challenging things I have ever put myself through. I had a few moments where I broke down and cried, only because I felt so limited in my food options. Going vegan overnight was already a challenge in itself, and now I have a whole other list of food items I can’t eat. At some points during the week I just wanted to give up. I wanted to stop restricting myself and just go to any restaurant, and be able to order anything off the menu. Luckily for me, at every breaking point my boyfriend and my friends reminded me of exactly why I was on this journey and why I needed to persevere. I had to push through and go completely out of my comfort zone, because what I was comfortable with before (taking steroids every day for the past eight years) got me nowhere in my Lupus treatment, and the steroids started to affect some of my vital organs. I had to remind myself this was my only option if I wanted to see a positive change in my future and in my health.


 

doctor-clipboard PROGRESS REPORT #4

 

  1. How many days of adopting a vegan diet have I accomplished?
    I am on my 53rd day of eating vegan. This week I had to deal with the tail end of my PMS cravings. Luckily I was able to kick those hormonal cravings to the curb and continue eating vegan.

  2. How do I feel today?
    Today I feel a bit better than I had felt the last few days. I think the fact that today is my day off from work as well really allows my body time to rest and reenergize.

  3. How is my energy level?
    My energy level seems to be the most consistent change that I have noticed since going vegan. I haven’t seen too much variation in my fatigue levels. I can definitely tell that my energy has gotten better since going vegan, and it is just a matter of time before I feel at my optimal level.

  4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how prevalent are my Lupus symptoms? Joints? Skin? Fatigue? Kidneys?My rating: 8

    Joints: Over the past week my joint pains have been excruciating. I have been waking up in tears from the amount of pain I experienced in the mornings. It has been so bad that I literally cannot roll over in bed, or lift my blanket without wincing in pain. I struggle to open doors and do just about anything with my hands and arms in the morning.

    Skin: Skin looks the same and again no signs of any new rashes 🙂

    Fatigue: Fatigue has not been as prevalent this week as it usually is. Ensuring I get enough sleep has been a major contributor to my energy level throughout the day.

    Kidneys: Still no signs of swelling, hoooraaay!

  5. Have I displayed any new symptoms? Good or bad.
    This week I noticed I was getting stiffness in my knees a lot after a long shift at work. I experienced a lot of shooting pains in my knees, swelling around my knee, and tenderness in my feet. My feet would be so sore from work that the next morning I would barely be able to walk on my hardwood floors without wearing padded slippers. I am hoping my knee pains subsides soon, because it has made it extremely difficult to work when I am on my feet all shift.
  6. How long have I been off my steroids?
    It has been 50 days.
  7. Have I learned anything new to adopt in my natural approach?
    I recently looked into starting a vegan B-12 supplement. Vitamin B-12 contributes to the production and maintenance of red blood cells, and it plays a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system I know there is a lot of debate whether or not a vegan needs to supplement this, or whether they can get it from a plant-based diet. After all the research I did, I felt as though supplementing is what I agreed with. I purchased the Now Brain B-12 supplement for $7.99. There are 100 servings in the tiny bottle. Make sure when purchasing a B-12 supplement it has the word “Methylcobalamin” on the label. This ensures the vitamin is an easier absorbed form of vitamin B-12. The pills are lozenges, so they just dissolve underneath your tongue. I have been taking the vitamin supplement for a few days and can definitely see a difference in my energy level. When you are vitamin B-12 deficient you may experience signs of weakness, tiredness, and light-headedness. Those are the symptoms that I noticed, which is why I looked into a supplement. I am very happy to be incorporating this into my natural pursuit.

 

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Progress Report #3

As of last week I introduced natural medicine into my treatment plan. I met with a naturopathic doctor while I was in Vietnam a few months ago. He was known to cure people of cancer and other diseases through the use of natural medicine and diet. He was extremely specific and concise in how I was to take this medicine and how I would feel on it. He assured me within nine months to a year my Lupus would be reversed and cured. I don’t want to be too hopeful and optimistic, but I am willing to give it try. My mother has always been searching for a cure for my Lupus since the day I was diagnosed eight years ago. I have tried every crazy concoction she has found to try and “cure” my lupus- to be frank I did it just to please her. After so many failed attempts I told my mom to stop trying and wasting money. I stopped caring and couldn’t be bothered to experiment anymore. I reassured her that I was fine with having Lupus and it was nothing to be sad about. When she heard through family in Vietnam about this naturopath curing cancer patients she said I had to go see him. She begged me to go and I finally caved. I made sure she knew though that this was going to be my last and final attempt.

It was a seven hour drive to see this famous naturopath. He lived in a tiny little village in the South of Vietnam. His home and office were a humble abode. There were at least 12-15 patients lined up outside his house to see him. Luckily for me the naturopath remembered speaking to my mom when we were in Vancouver, and saw us first since we had travelled so far to see him. The naturopath listened to my different pulses and explained to me how my Lupus was now affecting my liver as well. At that moment my trust in his work was instilled. Right before I left for Vietnam my Rheumatologist (Lupus doctor) said my liver tests and enzymes were all over the place, and things were out of whack. He was afraid my Lupus or my steroids were affecting my liver, so we started cutting down on one of my steroids. It really spooked me that the naturopath found that out solely by listening to my pulse! He brought me into the back room where they store all the herbal medicine in big styrofoam boxes. He picked up a small plastic bowl and started concocting the perfect blend of herbs and natural medicine to give me. He explained I would have to cook the natural medicine down to make a broth from it-very similar to the traditional Chinese medicine.  I am to drink it three times a day, about 1.5 cups each time. While on the natural medicine I am to avoid all fried, grilled, toasted, or baked foods. Basically his reasoning behind this was to avoid having the food produce any carcinogens from being charred. I can’t consume any sauces with artificial coloring, like soya sauce. I was not to have any dairy or meat as well, so it worked out perfectly that I had intended on going vegan anyways. He explained the first week on the medicine would be the toughest for me. He said I would feel extremely ill, weak, and achey, as if I had a really bad flu. This is exactly how I have felt this last week being on the medicine. The past week has been the toughest week during my journey thus far. I am excited though to start another natural pursuit in my attempts to reverse my Lupus, and for the opportunity to share this experience with you all.

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The first picture is a single batch of the herbal medicine the naturopath gave to me. The second picture is the “broth” cooked down from the herbal medicine.


doctor-clipboard PROGRESS REPORT #3

  1. How many days of adopting a vegan diet have I accomplished?
    I am on my 41st day of eating vegan. This week I am having a hard time with cravings, I think it has to do with PMS and the cravings I get before my time of the month strolls around.
  2. How do I feel today?
    Today I feel okay.I was quite stiff in the morning upon waking. I struggled to roll out of bed today and lift my blanket off myself. It is now 6:30pm and I am feeling better than I did this morning. I really just have to be patient and allow my muscles and joints to loosen up naturally.

  3. How is my energy level?
    My energy level today is on the lower side. Lupus is very sensitive to the sun, and I definitely notice when it is warmer out my energy falls immediately. I was able to do a few errands this morning, but had to rush home for an afternoon rest.

  4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how prevalent are my Lupus symptoms? Joints? Skin? Fatigue? Kidneys?
    My rating: 5-6

    Joints: The last week my joint pains have been hard to handle. I think the pain stems from being off my steroids, as well as starting the natural medicine. I am hoping the pains start to subside soon, because they are exhausting my body and wearing me down.

    Skin: I have not noticed any significant changes in my skin since last week. To date I have yet to spot another scalp rash, yippee!! 🙂

    Fatigue: Fatigue has been quite prevalent this week. As the naturopath advised me I was going to feel weak and tired during the first week of the natural medicine. I have simplified my schedule this week to allow my body time to rest whenever I need it.Kidneys: No swelling at all to date!! This is one of the big changes I am most happiest about.

  5. Have I displayed any new symptoms? Good or bad.
    This may be too much information, but I figure if I am sharing my story I need to be as honest and authentic as possible! Since I started eating vegan I noticed quite quickly that my bowel movements had become completely regular. I normally would go once every 1-2 days. Now I am going twice a day, which feels a lot better. I haven’t had any random episodes of diarrhea or constipation, which would happen if I ate the wrong thing, or if something just didn’t agree with my stomach.
  6. How long have I been off my steroids?
    It has been 38 days. The naturopath told me I was to stop taking my steroids as soon as I started the natural medicine, because the two would interact negatively.Looks like I won’t be taking my steroids anytime soon!
  7. Have I learned anything new to adopt in my natural approach?
    I mentioned earlier in this blog piece that I have introduced natural medicine into my regimen. I am excited to incorporate natural medicine as it is something I have always been interested in. One of my best friends, who is a vegetarian and hippie at heart, has always pushed me to see a naturopath and to try natural medicine. I was ignorant and naive, and didn’t care to question Western medicine. Never did I think she was on the right path all along!On a completely separate and personal note, I have decided to start pursuing naturopathy. I was originally going to school to pursue Psychiatric Nursing. Now with a turn of events and a drastic change in my lifestyle I felt as though Psychiatric Nursing would create a moral conflict. I feel as though I have seen more positive changes and benefits since starting veganism and natural medicine. I would not feel right implementing steroids and other medications on patients, knowing it never worked for my disease. Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor is going to be a long journey, a lot of schooling, and a lot of student debt, but I truly believe it is a career I will be passionate about forever. Knowing the treatment I offer patients won’t have any adverse effects, or affect any other parts of their body negatively was a real selling point for me. Naturopathy focuses on preventative measures and treating symptoms and the body as a whole, not as separate systems. It makes logically sense though because your body is intertwined in every way. Naturopathic Doctors can provide treatment plans through natural medicine, diet, lifestyle change, acupuncture, botanical medicine, etc. I am beyond the moon excited for the next chapter in my life! I feel really really good about my next endeavor 🙂