For those who don’t know, I love to hike and take long nature walks. I’m very fortunate to live in an area that has an abundance of nature preserves to get lost in. I actually used to start each morning with a hike with my best friend before starting my day in the greenhouse. I was in great shape and was very connected with my body.
So, in the spring of 2008 when my hands and feet were swollen each morning after waking up, I chalked it up to humidity and too much salt in my diet. After a few weeks of meal adjustments and worsening symptoms, I knew I had to see my doctor. I could no longer tie my own shoes and it took over an hour to straighten out my fingers in the morning. The pain was becoming unmanageable.
As soon as the doctor saw me and heard my symptoms, he knew it was Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and referred me to a specialist. My Rheumatologist confirmed the diagnosis - I had RA. Of course, my reaction was, “Not possible, I’m too young and no one in my family has RA”.
That was the beginning of my education.
For those unfamiliar with Rheumatoid Arthritis, it is an autoimmune disease, whereby the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. This inflammation results in pain and swelling in and around the joints. In my case, it attacked my hands and feet. It’s a degenerative disease, meaning if the inflammation goes unchecked, it can damage the cartilage and bones as well as lead to joint deformity. The damage is irreversible, making early diagnosis (and in some cases aggressive treatment) necessary. I also learned that three times as many women have RA than men, most diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60, which is very typical for most autoimmune diseases.
Within days of diagnosis, I was put on a course of steroids to help reduce the swelling in addition to Methotrexate, a common drug used for patients with RA (at high doses Methotrexate is considered a form of chemotherapy often used in cancer treatment, at lower doses it’s considered a disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs - DMARDs - and in my case the first line of defense against RA ). I consider myself very lucky - the medications worked and allowed me to get the disease under control. While I did suffer from some of the more common side effects associated with Methotrexate , I felt like I had gained a part of my life back. I had mobility and my constant pain reduced significantly. Sadly, I was no longer able to work in my greenhouse or the farm that I built on my property, but it seemed like a small price to pay. In fact, that inability to work in the dirt led me to creating some products, using the surplus of ingredients I was growing, and well, we all know what that ultimately led to. But that’s another blog post.
Four years after my initial diagnosis, the side effects of Methotrexate were too much for me to take. Under the supervision of my Rheumatologist, I weaned myself off and changed my lifestyle to a more holistic approach. I’m fortunate to be able to keep my flare ups under relative control through a healthy diet, sleep, meditation and stress management. I listen to my body, know its limits, and know when it needs to be honored. When I hit that point, I know to slow down.*
My journey with RA would be very different if it were not for my support system. This is something I learned the importance of when I was first diagnosed with RA and then later with the brain tumor. Like most chronic diseases, a support system is key to living your best life. They know when to tell you to slow down and when to remind you it’s okay to ask for help.
That’s why this brand is so much more than skincare. It embodies my journey to a healthier lifestyle - mind body and soul. While the brain tumor was my awakening - the path leading up to it was filled with so many more signs that this was my life’s calling.
I truly hope that the stories I share with you inspire you to live your healthiest lives, and to know that we are in this together.
*I do want to note that this has been my personal experience and journey, and I don’t recommend anyone undergo this treatment without consulting their doctor.