Learning to Fly

Learning to Fly

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February 4, 2011 – the day my life was changed forever

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.

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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

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My last day in the hospital, finally walking outside of my room!
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Hospital food is…healthy?!?

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41 Responses

  1. mangiapaleo
    | Reply

    I couldn’t love this more! You’re such an inspiration!! <3

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you, Laura!! You’re an inspiration to me as well!

  2. Just Love Your Guts
    | Reply

    You know how proud I am of you for this post, Kris. You are beyond strong, beyond amazing – you are a MIGHTY and you’re changing this world. I’m so inspired by you every day in so many ways. I’m thrilled that you fought for your health & happiness – and you won. ❤️ And I’m beyond honored to call you a cherished friend.

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Love you so much, Heather! I don’t know how I’d navigate this crazy world without you! <3

  3. megtherhn
    | Reply

    you inspire so many people! i love you

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thanks so much, Meg!! <3

  4. michele b.
    | Reply

    What a story! You are amazing!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thanks so much, Michele!

  5. Kiersten
    | Reply

    Man, I’ve got chills reading this. You are so brave and are such an inspiration! I am so so happy that you found your health and are thriving now so you can help so many other people!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you so much, Kiersten! Your support means the world to me, friend!

  6. Jenny @ Paleofoodiekitchen
    | Reply

    You are such a strong woman and your story is very inspirational. You are also one of the sweetest I know online! Thank you for sharing your story 🙂

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you, Jenny! I feel the same about you! 🙂

  7. Bethany McDaniel
    | Reply

    Your story is SO powerful – I love reading about it! This post was especially personal, brave, and inspirational! And can we talk about your back!? You’re ripped!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Haha, thank you Bethany!! You’re so sweet, I can’t wait to visit you one day!

  8. Devina
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing this! As I read this I am in tears from remembering all the things I felt, feel and struggle with living life with this disease but you help me stay positive and I love love love that you shared this secret. Thank you! Xoxoxo

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you, Devina! I know you’ve been through so much with this disease as well, I hope you’re feeling good now! <3

  9. ElaineG
    | Reply

    Amazing story. You are a real inspiration thanks for sharing

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you, Elaine!

  10. healthyleanfit
    | Reply

    Wow, woman! Look at you take on life! You must feel like you’re in a dream now! It’s crazy how different your life is now!! I’m just amazed at the emotional/mental changes that are happening too, as you continue to open up and share yourself with the world! I’m so proud of you! ❤️❤️

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you, Deanna! Your support will always mean the world to me!

  11. kendra
    | Reply

    I’m always crying when I read your stories! You are such a beacon of hope in this world Kristen! So much love for you in my heart! Thank you so much for sharing another part of your beautiful story! Your story goes to show that God has a special plan for each and everyone of our lives. Because of you, there is sunshine in my soul today!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you, Kendra! You are such a bright light in my life!

  12. Jen
    | Reply

    Sis, you continue to inspire me, and you know how thrilled I am that you are telling your story and learning to fly! Love you to the moon and back!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thanks so much, sis!! Love you to the moon and back too!

  13. Thank you so much for posting this!!!!! I am so proud of you…. and proud to be able to call you my friend 🙂 I am sharing this on my FB page right now…. I want EVERYONE to know that this is possible 🙂 LOVE and HUGS and keep up the good work, you really are making a huge difference in this world 🙂

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you so, so much, Mika!! Crazy to think how far we’ve both come since we first met 🙂 Thank you for sharing my story as well! xoxo

  14. Dr. Ed
    | Reply

    Thank you for your share. Our journeys with Crohn’s is so similar–even to the point that I experienced an obstruction and similar surgery in May 2011 (4 feet removed).
    Paleo nutrition has made my quality of life increase 10 fold.
    You’re an inspiration!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you, Dr. Ed! I’m so happy to hear that paleo has helped you so much as well!

  15. Andrea
    | Reply

    Wow,you are amazing! Thank you for sharing your beautiful truth. Thank you for being brave enough and loving enough to share yourself in a real way. It is so needed. I am so blessed to be able to share your story with others who need it so badly!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you, Andrea! It’s not always easy to put yourself out there, but you’re right, it is so important!

  16. Debbie
    | Reply

    You are absolutely A-mazing! Such an inspiration to so many, and encouragement to all of us to be healthy by eating healthy – Paleo! I love your recipes and your posts. Thank you for sharing. You are as beautiful on the inside as the outside. WOW, just look at you now – oh so fit!! : )

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you so much, Debbie! That’s so kind of you to say! 🙂

  17. Colleen Stewart
    | Reply

    Oh Kristen! Thanks for sharing your life! You are a beautiful young lady with such a good heart! So brave and inspirational ❤❤❤

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thanks so much, friend! <3

  18. Jen
    | Reply

    Thank you sooo much for being so CANDID!! I found you through a comment on houseofbelonging Instagram account!! I went septic from a perforated Colon in May and had emergency surgery and ended up with a colostomy. I have Hodgkin’s lymphoma in my rectum from the drug 6mp that was “treating” my Crohns. I’ve always had a healthy diet and now I have a crazy healthy diet. Do you hav the option of a reversal? Mine are not sure yet if my colostomy is permanent and I’m definitely still in the slightly angry stage. I was on the drug for less than 2 yrs when my entire world was turned upside down. I have So far To go with the cancer and h Crohns. Did it take a long time before you felt better on paleo? I feel much better in some ways but still pour out my rectum with mucous and blood and liquid. Praying it eventually all goes away the longer I push through for my health. I’ll be following along and trying lots of your yummy recipes!! Blessings!

    Jen

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with me, Jen! I was on 6mp in the past as well, although it made my white blood cell count drop to zero, so I had to immediately stop taking it. I can’t tell you how sorry for all you’ve been through and are still going through, I more than understand the angry stage, I’ve so been there. My ileostomy is technically reversible, but it’s not something I’ve even considered at this point. At first it was so hard to deal with, but now I forget I even have it! Everyone is so different with how long their bodies take to heal, and you’ve obviously been through a lot. My Crohn’s was in remission when I started paleo, but my immune system was still shot. I noticed changes within the first month, but it’s been the longer that I eat this way, the more my body has healed, and still continues to heal. Check out my friends blog – http://www.slightlylostgirl.com – Mika has had a slower healing journey with Crohn’s, and she’s had to fight hard for her health, but she’s finally feeling really, really good! I don’t want you to feel discouraged, I know just how frustrating it can be! Feel free to contact me through my blog if you have any questions, I’m more than happy to talk about anything! I’ll be thinking of you, and hope that you start feeling better soon <3

  19. Erin
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    This story hits close to home. My soon to be husband also suffered with UC during his college years, and after two years of suffering, decided to have a total colectomy. But luckily, he was able to have a J pouch put in, so no ostomy. I wonder if your surgeon has recommended this to you? His quality of life is so much better now. Although, his battle with autoimmunity is sadly not over. thank you for sharing your story!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Hi Erin, I’m so glad to hear your husband-to-be is doing better after having J-pouch surgery! My surgeon said he wouldn’t suggest a J-pouch for someone with Crohn’s Disease, as their are too many complications that can occur (UC is different in that way). I wish you and your fiancé the very best, and hope that his health only continues to improve! Thanks so much for reading my story!:)

  20. Jay
    | Reply

    Randomly found your site. Just wanted to say what a wonderful blog 🙂 I have been going through some nerve and muscle issues that put me in a wheelchair, but similar to you, I’ve made miraculous progress (using a variety of trial and error methods incl Paleo principles, and also spending half a yr with indigenous doctors near the Amazon jungle). I could really feel your words here and in some of your other posts I read, speak to my soul… I love how you reflected on your experiences, your learnings and life lessons. Its really really beautiful and inspiring. Thankyou

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Jay! I’m so glad that you’ve found healing as well!

  21. […] a life-saving and life-changing surgery to remove over 6 feet of diseased intestine. I was given an ileostomy, which once again, changed how I looked. The months following this surgery were the darkest that I […]

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