WARNING: I practically wrote a book when writing this post. If you don’t read it, I won’t be offended.
Okay, so Josh has been doing the ‘What I’m Loving’ posts on the photo blog for awhile now. And I’m seeing a lot of other people doing it too. And, since I’m always practically the last person to jump on any trend or bandwagon (I seriously never owned a pair of capris until a year ago!), I figured, it’s about time. So, my first edition of what I’m loving is my health.
I am LOVING that I am healthy.
If you’ve known me for awhile, you probably already know a little bit about the health problems I’ve had the last two years. If not, I’ll give you a quick rundown (and even though it’s a tad long, trust me, if I told you everything, this story could go on for days).
In January of 2008, when I was pregnant with Lia, I started getting these headaches. every. day. For a month. Then the rash came. Then I came down with Influenza B. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sick in my life. I was SO sick in fact, that my doctor put me in the hospital. Along with the flu, I had this crazy rash all over my body. And every time the doctors tried a new drug, it would get worse. They thought that I surely must be allergic to the drugs. But after like 10 different drugs, they started to wonder.
Over the course of the next few months, I was hospitalized 2 more times and made 5 visits to the Emergency Room. I saw all kinds of doctors: infectious disease specialists, hematologists, neurologists, allergists, regular doctors, obstetricians, a perinatologist, and even an oncologist. And probably some more I can’t remember.
They didn’t know what the heck was wrong with me. Maybe I had Fifth’s Disease? Or Lyme disease? Or a million other things? They tested me for everything under the sun. Literally. At the point when they ran out of tests to perform, they simply diagnosed me as having ‘multiple viral infections’.
My symptoms were headaches, horrible itchy rashes, swelling in my legs & feet, super high fevers.
At some point, after months, all the symptoms finally started to disappear and I gave birth to a healthy baby (hard to believe, huh?). I was even told that maybe I was somehow ‘allergic’ to my baby.
in December of 2008, I got a migraine. That’s when the headaches started again, and the rash too. This time, doctors were calling it Hives (Urticaria). I can’t even begin to describe to you how bad the itching was, and I hope and pray that you never find out firsthand.
Very soon after that, I started having bad joint pain & swelling. Like I couldn’t pick the baby up bad. Like I couldn’t walk bad. Like I couldn’t reach for something above my head bad.
I started seeing a Rheumatologist. I had a bad experience with the first one, and after a few wasted months, moved on to another Rheumatologist, Dr. Katzenstein. He’s the only specialist I ever saw that actually tried to help me and cared about whether or not I got better. Most of them didn’t care. I even had one doctor tell me it was all in my head.
During the spring of 2009, Dr. Katzenstein ran test after test after test. Crazy tests for diseases nobody’s ever even heard of. Long shot stuff. Nothing panned out. Was it an autoimmune disease? Was it Lupus? Was it Urticarial Vasculitis? Was it Rheumatoid Arthritis? All we knew was that I was getting sicker by the day. At one point, I was taking over 15 prescription drugs everyday, as well as 100 mg of Benadryl every 2-4 hours. Yes, I was O/D ing on Benadryl and most of those days were a complete blur. He finally put me on a super high dose of Prednisone, I’m talking 80 mg a day. That finally knocked out the hives, but I was never able to get off the Prednisone.
In July I went to the Cleveland Clinic and saw 6 different doctors. They had new theories and new tests to run. Nothing panned out. Their advice to me was that Doxepin would be my miracle drug. I immediately started bumping up my dose of that and noticed a difference right away. Yay! That was the answer I had been looking for. Or so I thought.
By September, I had weaned off the Prednisone. I was at a high dose of Doxepin, I believe 75 mg. And, I had gained 40 lbs. Yikes! The prednisone made me grumpy and fat. The Doxepin made me extremely tired (like I can’t function tired) and fat. Fun. And within 5 days of stopping the Prednisone, the Hives were back in full force. Bad. Really Bad.
I had started seeing another Rheumatologist, not to replace Dr. Katzenstein, but they were working together to try to get me healthy. The last time I saw him, he told me that we were out of options. He actually told me that I would have to learn to live with this: the Hives, the joint pain & swelling, the itching, the headaches, the side effects of all the drugs, ALL OF IT. He told me I would be on Prednisone for the rest of my life.
The next day (and after MUCH urging on the part of Josh I might add), I finally made the decision to go see Dr. Diane Diehn at Integrative Medical Specialists. She’s a Naturopath. They practice all natural medicine. I’m not gonna lie. I was totally skeptical. I told Josh, “I know what she’s going to say. She’s going to tell me I need to stop taking my drugs. And I can’t stop taking them. Imagine how sick I would be if I wasn’t taking all these drugs?”
But I was out of options. So I went to see her. And I told her everything. Way more than what I just told you. It took hours. She listened. And then she told me that the drugs were making me sick. I didn’t want to believe that it was true, but I had nothing else to believe in at that point. I simply wanted to be healthy and to get my life back. I stopped taking the Prednisone the next day.
She explained to me that all the drugs I was taking were doing damage to my kidneys, my liver, my gallbladder. And that damage was keeping my organs from keeping my body healthy. So, over the course of 3 months, she slowly weaned me off every prescription drug I was taking. We did it through a combination of lowering/stopping doses, a diet change (no dairy, no spicy foods, no caffeine, no alcohol), and all natural supplements to support my liver, kidneys, and immune system among others.
I held onto the Doxepin until the end. I was SO convinced that the Doxepin was working. But when I dropped my dose, my hives got worse for a day, then better. Everytime I dropped the dose, this happened, until I stopped taking it completely.
ONCE I GOT OFF THE LAST DRUG, WITHIN 2 DAYS, ALL OF MY SYMPTOMS HAD COMPLETELY GONE AWAY.
I’m going to say that again, ONCE I GOT OFF THE LAST DRUG, WITHIN 2 DAYS, ALL OF MY SYMPTOMS HAD COMPLETELY GONE AWAY.
It turns out that the antihistamine properties in the Doxepin were temporarily clearing up my hives, but at the same time it was doing damage to my liver, which was making the hives worse. It was a vicious cycle, and I can’t believe that I didn’t see it.
Okay, so now that you’ve read this whole damn post, you’re thinking, okay, so what’s the point. I know that you probably didn’t care to know all that info about me. Sorry. BUT, I’m sure at some point in your life, you or someone you know or love will be in a similar situation. When that time comes, and doctor after doctor is clueless, and test after test comes up empty, consider trying a Naturopath. I only wish that I had done so sooner. I lost almost two years of my life to this ‘disease’ that turned out to be nothing.
I couldn’t believe it when Dr. Diehn told me “There’s nothing wrong with you.” And now that I’m off all those drugs, there isn’t anything wrong with me.
I’m SO happy to finally be healthy. It’s been 3 full months since I’ve seen even the slightest glimpse of a hive. Or had even a tiny ache in my joints. Or had any kind of headache.
Today (and everyday), I am thankful to be healthy! (P.S. And I’m SUPER thankful to whichever of Josh’s facebook friends recommended Dr. Diehn to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.)