My autoimmune problems started before I even knew they existed. This is often the case because you may have an autoimmune condition up to 15 years before you are diagnosed. Someone may have antibodies 5, 10, 15 years before diagnosed, often with no symptoms. At some point when I was 18 my body started this process. Interestingly enough when I was 18 I went through the hardest thing I have ever experienced, my father past away. Everything about my life during that time and up to two years after was continuous trauma and suffering! No need to go into more details.
At 32 years old (2007) I started to experience severe pain in my left big toe. It was my second summer living on the lake in Vermont. I remember it hurting so much the light bedsheet would bring me sharp tingling pain. So I went to the doctor. Often at this point, and I was no different, you start the diagnosis dance, which can take on average up to 1 ½ years. I was told to go to a pediatrist and was told to wear a brace on my toe and that I had injured it. So the summer went on it did not get better. Within a year my primary care doctor luckily decided to run more tests. She discovered that I had rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and hashimoto’s. At that point I had never heard of RA before and was so scared hearing her discuss all this with me! Sitting with her I started to cry, for some reason the first question I asked was would I still be able to get married. Basically I was scared of so many things in that doctors visit. I was told that I would need to go to a rheumatologist where I would be helped further and get drugs to manage this disease. After 4 months I was able to get in to see my new rheumatologist. He quickly told that I would need to get on medication starting with the drug Plaquenil (which my cause visual problems and other side effects). I resisted and set out on my own to find a cure as I was a huge believer in natural medicine and that the body wants to heal.
February 2008, I ended up getting hit by an oil tanker that jackknifed on black ice and hit me head on. While I watched the tanker come at me, in what felt like slow-mode, I screamed “not now”! My car spun around and I ended up in a ditch. I was so afraid that the tanker and or my car were going to explode that I was able to quickly get out of my car and start running away from the scene. Long story short, it was awful and a huge piece of trauma that took over a year to calm down from. At the time of the accident I only had toe pain and pretty minimal and manageable. The accident left me with a frozen shoulder and a blast of nervous shock. My RA seemed to take a bad turn after the accident. Within a year my knees were blowing up and I was having to get cortisone shots and fluid taken out. Inflammation was taking over. I made the hard decision to take the drug Plaquenil. By late 2009 both my wrists started to have nightmarish pain. By 2020 I ended up on Enbrel and Methotrexate both toxic heavy drugs that I did not cerebrate taking. My wrists were not get better, I found myself in the rheumatologist/hand surgeon dance. The hand surgeon recommended I fuse both my wrists with metal but I was to scared and decided to live with the pain. 24 hour hand braces were my best friend. Time went on and things like taking the heavy wet laundry out of the washing machine made me cry. The pain was intense for at least a full year. Simple things like making the bed, taking things out of the fridge, yoga, washing dishes, all became so hard! I had to stop teaching cooking classes and just focus on things that brought me joy and activities/chores that did not extreme cause pain. In 2011 I became a master gardener and that summer won best garden on the local garden tour. The cool thing was that I was growing 95% vegetables and it was my own design and technique using continuous companion square foot gardening. I loved it!
Finally, I was disappointed that my close to two year long costly efforts to put my RA in remission was not going to be successful. Time went on and I did my best to stay as happy as I could. Cortisol injections were helpful in my knees, shoulders, and hand. About two years after the accident my right foot (the foot that was on the break in the accident) started to hurt and grew a pretty wide bump on it that my rheumatologist said was fine. It was not fine. Another year goes by and and by my doctors surprise, both my wrists had auto-fused. My right shoulder got better with lots of alternative injections and acupuncture, and my right foot continued to get worse. By 2012 I started to get acid reflux and heartburn garnished with anxiety. I was sent to a new doctor and had many new tests done some uncomfortable. It’s just a long story of feeling like craptastic and dealing with doctors that were not helping me!
In 2013 I opened Chef Contos kitchen & store. I was extremely driven and passionately motivated that I did not feel my pain. Thankfully joy was able to push it aside. My biggest problem a few times a year seemed to be acid reflux, which friends and doctors brushed off as normal and to jump on the usual gut damaging medications. My sweet store and cooking school became an instant success with the most amazing customers. Sadly my foot pain was so bad that after a class I would hobble around and take lots of Alive. Make it happen was my motto. Just keep pushing forward. My rheumatologist appointments continued and were always very sad. I would cry and beg for relief and never once did I not ask if they had found a cure yet. The drugs I was given would be switched around from Enbrel to Humira and was told they worked better with methotrexate. Time went on. I was always in some kind of pain. My wrists were not perfect but surprisingly better, my foot was getting worse but business was good and classes were selling out. 2015 my school was named top in the world by Food & Wine magazine! Life was good and I continued to manage the pain. In 2017 I married my love. That same year I had two hand surgeries in the same exact place. My right hand kept swelling up and my naturopath and my rheumatologist (basically whoever was available) would extract the fluid on my tendons. Finally it was clear I needed hand surgery before my wedding in Mexico. So in 2017 I had the same surgery twice, once in February and again in October.
April 2018 I knew change had to come, it’s been 12 years.
Stay tuned here for the story of how I turned all this around in my new health journey.