This picture was taken almost one year ago to the day. Virtual school was officially out for the summer. We had made it through a spring filled with virtual school/homeschool and me working from home full time, so we celebrated with ice cream on the beach and our first camping trip of the summer! It is still one of my favorite memories.
However, this memory has become all the more precious to me because on that day, I had no idea how much my life and my health would change just a few short days later.
On this perfect summer day, I felt better than I had in a long time. I was less stressed. I had been exercising, eating healthy, and drinking water regularly. I felt energized and incredibly peaceful.
But just a few short days later I would stand up after eating dinner and feel as though I couldn’t catch my breath. I will never forget the feeling! At first I thought it was an allergy attack so I took a shower and some Benadryl. As the evening went on I could still barely gather enough breath to talk in full sentences, so I said goodnight to my husband and went to sleep, hoping this feeling would be gone when I woke up in the morning.
The next morning my breathing was worse. I could not catch my breath. And then I began to panic.
My husband and I decided it was time I get checked out and before long I had been sent from urgent care straight to the ER, where they promptly put me in the Covid isolation unit. Every doctor I saw was convinced I had to have Covid with my sudden breathing issues, but they ran some other tests anyways.
After a long day filled with tests and fear, my Covid tests were negative and none of my other tests could show any reason for my sudden breathing issues. I was sent home along with orders to get bed rest, sleep by a humidifier, and to have my husband check my temperature and my blood oxygen levels frequently to ensure I didn’t need to be admitted.
That crazy day began what would be about 5 months of constant doctors appointments, what felt like hundreds of tests, and countless theories about what could be causing my mystery illness.
I was no longer filled with energy. I struggled to do any exercise, let alone walk around much without a lot of pain and a hard time catching my breath. My hands and feet would swell, sometimes with the swelling going all the way up to my knees and my elbows. I had joint pain. My eyesight got worse. My stomach constantly hurt. And there was absolutely no explanation.
Finally, in late September, the complicated pieces of my health began to come together. Throughout my illness, I had several different doctors run ANA tests, which always came back positive for an autoimmune disorder (specifically for limited scleroderma). But I didn’t fit their “standard” profile for this type of disease. My skin wasn’t hardened or discolored as it usually is with that type of autoimmune disease, but rather my skin was just extremely dry. My tests had also revealed that I had some other allergies and food sensitivities I didn’t know I had previously.
And that was when it began to make more sense. I had an autoimmune disease that was making my body attack itself every time I was exposed to an allergen or ate a food I was sensitive to. And that was why my whole body had been suffering! In fact, my breathing issues were caused by my esophagus spasming when I ate foods that were hurting me. I decided to make some serious changes to my diet based on the food allergy/sensitivity testing and see what happened.
Based on my testing I needed to cut out almost all grains (especially wheat, oats, barley, and rye), eggs, garlic, bell pepper, honey, yeast, and white potato. I also started taking a few prescriptions to help manage my inflammation and acid reflux along with a host of natural remedies to reduce my inflammation and get my body working better.
The results were amazing! Within days some of my symptoms began to disappear. And then over time, little by little, my health began to improve drastically! I no longer swell up. My stomach no longer hurts. I can breathe pretty well the majority of the time. My joint pain is less severe, and I am stronger than I have ever been before.
It’s not perfect. And I still have times when I have a flare up that will leave me pretty weak, tired and sore for awhile. But in general, if I stick with my diet and remember to rest regularly, I can manage my autoimmune disease with very few prescriptions.
Now here I sit a year later, in much better health, with summer on the horizon once again, and I am so grateful for how much I have learned and how far I have come in the past year. This will be an ongoing process for me, but it’s an easy lifestyle change when you see that the payoff comes in the form of living a full and healthy life with these people I love so much!