For far too long, I tried to hide what I thought were my imperfections, from the world. Magazine covers, television, and the internet all show us what we’re supposed to look like, what is beautiful, and what we need to live up to. But what if this doesn’t happen? What if our story is so very different from what we’ve been shown it should be? I’m here to show you through my own story, that it’s okay to be different. I no longer have anything to hide. This is simply another layer to my very long and complicated story, and is also something most of you don’t know about me. I’ve found my wings, and now it’s time to fly.
I have an ileostomy.
Before my surgery, an ileostomy wasn’t something I could even imagine. It’s not at all what I had planned for my own life, but as it turns out, sometimes the universe throws you a major curve ball. My disease was one of the two most aggressive forms of Crohn’s Disease that my Gastroenterologist had ever seen. The medications were no longer working, and they were quickly destroying my immune system. I was scared of being around anyone with even the slightest cough. None of this is anything that I had ever considered to be a possibility. It wasn’t supposed to happen to me. The life I thought I knew began to crash all around me.
My life forever changed the day I ended up in the emergency room with yet another obstruction in my large intestine, over Christmas 2010. I remember that day, that very moment, as if it were yesterday. As I lay in my own bed in an incredible amount of pain, shaking uncontrollably, I knew that I just couldn’t do it any longer. I wanted my life back. I was taken to the hospital by ambulance, something I only ever did if I couldn’t physically walk in there myself. My body was failing me and I was running out of time. The pain from my obstructions was so severe, that I wondered if I would even survive.
The possibility of having this surgery consumed my every thought and haunted my dreams. After having three doctors confirm this was my only real option, I knew it was what I needed to do. The universe had big plans for me; I just couldn’t see them yet. I was terrified, yet I had hope that everything would eventually be okay.
On February 4th, 2011, I had surgery to remove over six feet of intestine, my entire large intestine (colon), as well as part of my small intestine. The surgery was supposed to last 5 hours, but took only 2 ½. Many miracles happened on that day; miracles that made me believe even more that for some unknown reason, this was all meant to be.
After my surgery, it was painful to walk even a single step. It took me a week to gain the strength to walk around my small hospital corridor. My husband did everything for me; he slept in a bed next to mine just so that he could always be there. Life began to have an entirely new meaning. For the first time in my life, I truly understood what was important. It was all of the things that I once took for granted.
My recovery from surgery was much harder, and much longer, than I had ever anticipated. I had a small glimmer of hope left inside of me, and that’s what kept me going. Most days felt like they would never end. Some days, I wanted to give up, but I knew that wasn’t even an option. I don’t know how to give up. Deep down, I knew that I would find true health again. I knew there was a reason for the pain.
I was told that within six months of stopping my Crohn’s medications that my immune system would rebound, and I would be healthy again. That never happened. Six months came and went, followed by a year, followed by two years, and I was still very sick due to my destroyed immune system. I was spending at least a few days a week stuck in bed, and my energy was always so low. I was placed on never ending rounds of antibiotics that were causing more issues of their own. Life was far from what I thought it would be.
My doctors could save my life, but they could not make me healthy. There’s a very big difference between the two. It’s not their fault, as they cared very deeply for me; they just couldn’t provide the tools that I needed to heal. My surgery prevented my intestines from bursting, but it did not repair the many years of damage that the medications had caused. This surgery simply bought me time. In order to find true health, I had to fight for my own life, no matter what it took. Finding, learning about, and following a Paleo lifestyle gave me my health back, and also made me realize just how much control I have over my own life.
I’ve fought incredibly hard to be where I am today, and none of it happened overnight. In the beginning, my ostomy was such a big deal to me. My life had been flipped upside down and I didn’t know how to find my new “normal” again. I moved forward with my life, but always felt held back a bit, as I was different from everyone else. That’s at least how I made it out to be in my own mind. Over time, I began to realize that my ostomy would only be as big of a deal as I thought it would be. I learned that my reality was a direct reflection of my thoughts and my actions.
All of a sudden, my ostomy stopped feeling like such an issue. I wore a bikini on our recent vacation to Hawaii, something I never thought I would do again. I became tired of covering up something that I no longer felt I needed to hide.
My journey has been long, and at times, I wasn’t sure how I could make it another step. I never once gave up, and that’s what has made all the difference. It’s the reason I’m here today. I truly believe that if I had changed my diet long ago, I never would have needed this surgery. Back then; I didn’t know that I had any other options. I trusted my doctors fully, 100%, and thought their decisions were the right ones. I’ve realized that just like me, they’re only human. No one has all the answers; it’s up to each of us to do our own research, and advocate for our own health.
With that said, I have no regrets. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Everything has a purpose.
There is a reason why I was so sick for so long. There is a reason why I had to endure all of this pain and suffering. It is my hope that I had to experience all of this so that you won’t have to. I now dedicate my life to sharing my story and helping others. Do not underestimate the healing capacity and power of real food. Remember, this is how we sustain ourselves. You truly are what you eat.
I wish each and every one of you a lifetime of health and happiness!
To read more of my story, click HERE.