A Holistic Change For The Better Post Diagnosis

There’s nothing like being diagnosed with a rare disease that will get you to start thinking about a probable lifestyle change. In the beginning of my diagnosis, I gained weight and didn’t want to do much of anything. It caused me temporary, aching blindness one eye at a time over a period of several months. I was always in pain and found myself on the couch – a lot.

Eating cookie dough only helped so much, so I decided to drive to Waco to see my twin sister and brother in law for a weekend. One morning, while chatting over coffee with my sister, she spoke truth. I was so sick and tired of being sick all the time and I was the only one who could do something about it. There’s nothing like deep sister talks – she literally makes me feel like superwoman.

So I prayed that day and felt God leading me to a completely holistic, clean, and organic lifestyle. I want the world to know that though we can’t control what happens to us, we can control what we give our bodies.

It’s not a passion for organic foods, natural products, or essential oils – it’s a passion for my body and what I put in and on it now ever since I was diagnosed with a rare disease.

I was basically forced to change for the better after I was diagnosed with NMO, a nerve disease that affects my central nervous system. My choice of lifestyle is a result of being scared to death that I would become permanently blind or disabled, and I just can’t fathom that right now. Not now, not at 28, and not if I can help it. Clean foods and natural products all the way from deodorant, natural skincare products, tampons, cleaning products, and even protection are all things I’ve changed in my life. And the more I fed my body clean things, the less my body felt pain. I go to sleep every night feeling like my body thanks me and that I am healing day by day. Below are some things I feed (and don’t feed) my body.

I stopped eating red meat.

No, I’m not a vegan, as I still eat fish and mostly chicken. But red meat is not the only way to get your healthy dose of protein and vital nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, and zinc. I cut it out mainly to promote less inflammation in my body as I deal with autoimmune diseases like lupus and NMO. Try reading this article about ditching red meat.

I drink raw cacao every morning for breakfast.

I can’t even begin to tell you the wonders of this powder (←buy it), so I’m just going to give you a good read here so you can see for yourself. I usually blend it with almond milk and bananas and even substitute it for coffee in my mornings. I drink this with my vitamins and apple cider vinegar supplements. It’s typically my breakfast. I usually make a pitcher of it so there’s enough for both my husband and I, as well as enough for those nightly cravings (he he).

I drink super food smoothies for lunch and started juicing daily.

I’m in love with Your Super products because they’re completely non GMO, gluten, soy, dairy, AND sugar free and 100% plant based! The founder was diagnosed with cancer at age 24 and their story goes from there. I typically mix my super green powder with a banana, kale, and almond milk and this will be my lunch. I was gifted a juicer over the holidays and I love it! My favorite recipe right now is carrots, apples, pairs and kale. I’m sure that’ll change once I’ve tried all 101 concoctions in my recipe book .

I stopped eating processed foods, added sugars, and dairy.

This is pretty self explanatory, but I pretty much stick to lean meat like chicken or salmon for dinner and will snack on nuts and fruits minimally throughout the day. I also can’t pass up fresh guacamole. I stick to almond milk, rice milk, and almond creamers as my “milk.” Like I said, if you get a craving for something sweet, try another cacao shake.

I walk or jog 5 days a week for 30 minutes.

I have a gym membership, but if the day is beautiful outside, you better believe I’m soaking up that sun and smelling the fresh air. You can read about the amazing benefits here. I feel more energy, maintain my weight, and get an overall mood booster. I typically rest on Saturdays and Sundays as those are my calm yoga, stretch days. I don’t have a specific same time of the day that I do this, I just do it – as Nike would say.

So here’s my why.

Put simply, a major life altering diagnosis made me make major lifestyle changes – and it’s changed my life for the better. I’m losing weight, have more energy, rarely get a headache, have less body ache, and have noticed vibrant other benefits. My vision is about 60% back instead of being fully blind in my left eye due to my condition. As everyday passes, it becomes my normal way of living – it’s become a lifestyle I love. It has made my rare diagnosis bearable. Despite that I have infusion treatments every two weeks to prevent another relapse, I’m stronger everyday and truly believe I am slowly healing my body day by day.

A holistic health approach meets the total well being of physical health, emotional nurture, mental health, and spiritual nourishment. I make sure each of those areas are exercised daily in my own personal way and beliefs and this brings my life a wonderful, organic happiness and joy that only comes from the Lord.

I may not be able to change a rare diagnosis, but I can change what I eat, how I feel, and the impact it has on the rest of my life. I choose joy, health, and wellness – maybe sometimes we’re just forced to change for the better.

Cheers to long life, healthier foods – and believing in yourself!

Why This Hospital Photo Is Bravery At Its Finest

In the summer of this year, I experienced a migraine that lasted two months, vision loss in one eye, and endless vomiting with no answers every time I ended up in the ER. I tried everything to rid my migraine and went so far as to get a painful daith piercing, but nothing helped. In October, I experienced the same symptoms that drew me to the hospital once again, except this time, they found five brain lesions and an inflamed optic nerve that’s caused me to become half-blind. I was diagnosed with a rare disease called NMO that requires infusions every two weeks to prevent another relapse.

It’s taken everything in me to get up in the morning. Work has become an endless struggle. I’m supposed to be the strong one, but right now, I feel like a failure – a disappointment in so many areas of my life.

Then I saw a photo of a little girl in the hospital on Twitter that stunned me. Her name is Akane, and she was diagnosed with NMO in November of 2018. She’s lost vision in one eye and she has to have monthly infusions as her treatment. It broke my heart that such a young girl is going through exactly the same thing I am as an adult and yet – she’s smiling.

She is the epitome of bravery in its finest form.

Akane didn’t ask to be sick. Like so many other children diagnosed with an incurable illness, the time they spend in hospitals should be time spent running outside without a care in the world. They should be role-playing make-believe nurses taking care of sick dolls instead of being a sick patient themselves. Life isn’t fair sometimes, but Akane is showing us that though life throws curveballs, we can still be grateful.

Through Akane’s bravery, we too can smile in our pain. We can be brave like her.

Despite the pain that I know Akane is going through because I’m breathing it right now, her smile is teaching me that I don’t have to focus on my pain because I have it. I can ask for some sonic and a board game on my next hospital visit and be content that I’ll have someone to play with. Whether it’s my husband, friend, or mother-in-law, someone always shows up because no matter what, I’m loved. I’m loved like Akane is loved by her mother, Crystal. We have people with us, holding our hand through scary times, and this is what matters- not doing this alone.

It doesn’t matter how bad the pain we are feeling is, as long as we can still feel the love of those that love us, we will survive that pain, again and again. 

Though life threw me a curveball, I can still be grateful I have my husband who keeps me warm at night, a job that pays the hospital bills, friends that have been there for me, my twin who never fails to make me laugh, and a house to come home to.

As this year ends, despite being sick with a scary, unpredictable diagnosis that has changed a lot in my life, I will be OK because Akane is OK. And if a seven-year-old can be OK in her diagnosis, so can I.

If I know anything about what bravery is, it’s because of Akane.

*Photograph for this article is used with permission from Akane’s parent.

*Donate to help find a cure for NMO at the Sumaira Foundation for NMO here.