Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Unveiling Invisible Illnesses – Endometriosis

Laura Kay Halcom from Rockledge, Florida is 1 of 10 who struggle with endometriosis, a painful disorder in which the tissue that grows on the lining of your uterus spreads to other organs like the fallopian tubes and ovaries. With no way to exit the body like normal menstruation, the tissue becomes trapped and causes pain, scaring, adhesions and fertility problems.

Endometriosis is difficult to diagnose without an invasive procedure, a laparoscopy. Often times it will be misdiagnosed with IBS or deemed psychological. Symptoms can range based on severity but can cause nausea, low grade fevers, heavy bleeding, lower back pain, pelvic pain, painful intercourse, painful bowel movements and fatigue.

Treatment usually starts with birth control hormones to try to regulate your cycle but unfortunately, some women are very sensitive to the hormones and don’t always respond to that treatment. Another option is an endometrial ablation, but it is not always suggested if you plan to have children. A hysterectomy is a final option but there are studies that it still is no cure and it is a rough surgery. If your endometrial tissue grows onto other organs, removing the uterus is not going to help. There are studies that nutrition can play a big role. An anti-inflammatory diet can help minimize symptoms.

Avoiding gluten, red meat, sugar, caffeine and alcohol can help alleviate symptoms and inflammation. Having a well-balanced diet full of nutrients, antioxidants, fatty acids and iron rich foods is important. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory compound that you can take as capsules or sprinkle on your food. Having plenty of rest, staying hydrated and support will be your best friend for this diagnosis.

Meet Laura

What is your invisible illness?

Endometriosis, Depression, Anxiety

When and how were you diagnosed?

Endo: June 2017 by laparoscopic surgery. It took 12 years and dozens of tests for me to be diagnosed. I have had anxiety & depression since I was 16.

What were your struggles and fear after diagnosis?

There is no known cause, and no cure. Now, the treatments of birth control and antidepressants are just making things worse. I also fear infertility.

What advice do you have for anyone going through a new diagnosis?

Be patient with yourself. Keep records of everything. Find your community of people struggling with what you are fighting. Talk about it. Educate yourself so that you can educate others.

What are your goals and dreams in life?

My goal is to finish my business degree. I want to be an educator and an entertainer. I dream of my own business, where I can express myself through art, music, and nature. I dream of adventure in far away places.

Three things you cannot live without: Sunshine, hugs, and my heating pad!

Favorite Quote:

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

Endo Warrior Shirt

Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

How To Be There For Someone With A Chronic Illness

Imagine you have two people who are not on the same page, let alone the same book. One struggles with chronic illness and the other is averagely healthy and maybe even deals with a common ailment here and there, but how can they relate when it comes to health? It may not come easy to some when they have never had their health jeopardized. It is important to build a bridge to have a connection with your family or friend.

Invisible Illnesses

Perhaps your friend or loved one has an invisible illness. This means that they look healthy on the outside but on the inside they struggle with an illness like diabetes, lupus, PTSD, POTS, Thyroid diseases, Cardiac and Neurological diseases, to name a few.

We all have our own battles.

It can be tough to look at someone who looks fully capable of living life the way you do but we are all different. Understand that just because you may be healthy and can juggle so many tasks, does not mean it comes easy for others.

It is important to recognize that with all things, there is a spectrum. With chronic illnesses, that spectrum can vary day to day. One morning, we may have so much energy that we can clean the house and go out to get lunch but the next morning we may be bedridden.

Personally, putting on makeup every day is my way of putting on war paint. I hide my dark circles from waking up every hour. I conceal the redness in my face or sometimes add blush to my pale skin. When I look well, I don’t get asked if I am sick or told I look tired. I feel normal and ready to take on the day.

Just because you friend or loved one looks put together and seems young and healthy, doesn’t mean she wasn’t up at 4am with severe back spasms and again at 5am feeling dehydrated and again at 6am in more pain and a numb arm until it is finally time to get up for the day. She probably got dizzy a few different times while her blood pressure dropped, causing nausea and tachycardia. Be grateful she answered the phone or showed up for lunch and she we be grateful for you.

The Spoon Theory

The Spoon Theory is a metaphor to explain the limited energy that someone with an invisible or chronic illness struggles with. Say you get 12 spoons each day and each task costs a spoon or two. Sometimes a shower can cost 2 spoons on a rough day. Going to work can cost a lot of spoons as well. Cleaning the kitchen? That will be 3 spoons! Sometimes if you push yourself too hard, it costs spoons from the next day which will leave you in bed with limited spoons.

We call people “Spoonies” who fit in to the Spoon Theory.

How to be there for a Spoonie:

  • Understanding – The fact that you have read this so far is already a huge deal for your Spoonie. Trying to understand what life is like for your friend or loved one shows a lot of compassion and empathy. This is your biggest step and the most important. For some, we are constantly judged, assumed we are lazy, told it is in our head, called a hypochondriac or just straight up dismissed. Certain medical conditions sometimes take up to a decade or longer to get diagnosed. Often times there are several misdiagnosis’s and even people get left in a grey area where no one knows what to do. We feel alone and lost.
  • Keep Your Ideals To Yourself – We appreciate your concerns, absolutely. I can vouch for myself that I have done plenty of research, am fully aware of my body and what is normal for me, have a strict diet with optimal nutrition and supplements, non drinker, non smoker and always staying positive as well as seeing a therapist. My health is a full time job. You can’t even pronounce what illnesses I have so please don’t try to cure me. Of course, we appreciate advice but keep it simple and keep it at that. Do not try to push your ideals on someone or tell them if they exercise more they will feel better or that they can meditate to a cure. All we want is a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, positive vibes and understanding.
  • If You Are Sick, Stay Away! – Seriously, some of us have compromised immune systems and if you have a cold or flu and bring your germs to anyone, even a healthy person, it is just simply rude. If you bring your germs to someone who is already ill, it is cruel. We don’t fight infections and other illnesses very well and most of the time it makes our other issues worse and for some, it could mean a trip to the hospital.
  • Social Gatherings – There is a good chance we might not make it to your event or night out. I can assure you that we wish we were there but more often than not, our health makes us flakey friends. Please don’t stop inviting us! We will always try, even if the chances are slim. Also, please don’t get upset with us if we don’t make it. We would rather be out having fun with you than stuck in bed.
  • Know That We Are Fighting A Battle – If we seem a little off, let us be a little off. There are countless times when I was hanging out with someone while my vision blurred and I start seeing stars, getting light headed and heart palpitations but I push through because this is my normal life. Something that has always bothered me was when strangers, coworkers or peers say “Smile! It can’t be that bad!” Well, maybe I am struggling with an ocular migraine that day, low blood pressure or didn’t sleep well, so if I have a case of resting bitch face then let it be. I know it could always be worse but I am here, smile or not!
  • My Illness Does Not Define Me – I am a strong warrior. I love art, music, travel, culture, anything vintage, food, nature, giving back and being creative. I can be sensitive but I persevere and I keep my chin up. I have not given up and I won’t. I have bad days but I climb above it and stay positive, even it it is a full time job. I am not my illness. However, it is part of my life, whether big or small. It may affect me but it is not who I am.

Body and Beauty, Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Yoga Newbie

One of my many goals for the new year is to stretch more. I am in severe pain every single day and last year I did absolutely ZERO exercising. It is a challenge to do any workouts due to my heart condition but I hate the idea of getting weak. One of my amazing Wildling Apothecary homes is The Yogi Perogi in Melbourne, Florida. I thought, what a perfect way to support them too, while working on my goal to stretch and hopefully reduce the pain in my body.

As a yoga newbie, I felt that Amy Ustjanowski lead the class so seamlessly. I started with the Vinyasa Flow, which she recommended. I did avoid a pose or two since my pacemaker is in an odd location and causes pain still. There was no judgement and no feeling awkward with my lack of experience and knowledge. I felt fairly out of shape but any time I started to worry, she somehow was a step ahead of me telling us not to. I realized that yoga is also something that will strengthen your body but most importantly, remind you to breathe. As silly as it sounds, I never remember to breathe.

I definitely enjoyed the class and plan to try many more. Koah does a Rock n Flow class on Saturdays with live music! I think it is always very important to challenge yourself and to try something new. I also want to be more aware of breathing… inhaling and exhaling. Though it is autonomic and something that you just do, I realized that I don’t do it right. Letting go of the stress in your body and taking the time to rejuvenate is something that has never been a priority until now.


To DNA or not to DNA? 

I think everyone, early on in life, should have their DNA tested. 

1) This would allow for so much information on genetic diseases and linking DNA to specific changes in chromosomes, genes and proteins to rule out conditions and see what people are genetically predisposed to. 
2) People would not have to struggle with misdiagnosis for most of their lives and could have answers and pretreat or avoid certain conditions from worsening. 
3) This could also potentially save lives in so many ways. For example, people with the MTHFR gene will have difficulty eliminating toxins from the body and are low in important vitamins and minerals, therefore prone to developing an autoimmune disease from interfering with absorption and raising inflammation. How great would this have been to know in advance so that prevention of debilitating health issues could be possible? Also, this gene was only recently discovered over collecting a large DNA database, hence why everyone should be involved. More genes would also be discovered. 
4) If you have certain gene mutations, there are medications that could be dangerous for you. CTP2C19, for example, is a liver enzyme that is responsible for metabolizing a wide variety of drugs, including anti-seizure medications, blood thinners and anti depressants. There are patients who have had psychotic episodes or suicide attempts after starting new antidepressants and other patients who had their medications fail. All of this could have been prevented if they had genetic testing done. Doctors would not prescribe potentially fatal meds or meds that you would be resistant to if they knew, which they could know if they had your genetic testing done. 
5) It is 2017. I know there is no money to be made from healthy people but it is ridiculous how blinded everyone still is and always will be by following the government’s food pyramid, designed by a board filled with lobbyists. Even if we all had our genetic testing available, people would still eat sludge anyway because bacon is trendy and vegans are nerds and people would rather drown their veins with animal fats, sugar, preservatives, pesticides and hormones than to prevent the consequences of what shitty food does to you over time. 

Healthy Food

Pasta and chill

It is Friday! Although, I do have to be up at 7am tomorrow. Regardless, I am down to have an awesome hearty meal. My husband is taking our daughter to ballet so I can cook, otherwise I would probably order takeout or make something quick and lazy because my back hurts and I am exhausted. I have been thinking about making this all week. The time has come!

In one pan I am sautéeing portobello mushrooms with light olive oil, rosemary, balsamic and pepper. In the other pan I am cooking Gardein vegan “chicken” with turmeric, sage, shallots, garlic, pepper, lemon, oregano and himalayan salt. 

I tend to over season because I am making the sauce from scratch and want the flavors to get picked up after adding unsweetened almond milk.  Earth Balance butter, which is non dairy, is my favorite. The flavor is fucking amazing! My picky daughter loves it. Seriously, look how good the mushrooms look. If your mouth is not watering, please exit this page. You can put whatever you want in the sauce. Tomatoes, zucchini, basil, broccoli. Have fun! You don’t need me to hold your hand. 

I also added chopped spinach and (not pictured yet) sweet peas. I have no idea why but I love peas with my creamy pastas. Just do it.

Follow Your Heart makes the perfect dairy-free parmesan. I love adding lemon pepper and garlic to my “Alfredo sauce.” You will also need to thicken it up with Daiya mozzarella. This makes a rich and creamy sauce that will fucking knock you in bed with some cozy feels. 
Tonight, I am watching  the Netflix premiere of Lady Gaga’s documentary Five Foot Two, which allows us to peek behind the curtain of sweat and fame to see the reality of a young woman battling severe pain and fighting an autoimmune disease. I am so excited that someone with such power can raise awareness to invisible illnesses and chronic pain. It is about damn time. 
Anyway, back to food! I start my sauce by warming up the almond milk. I am not a traditional lady in the kitchen. I just eyeball it for the most part. I would guess I poured 3 cups and a big scoop of the dairy-free butter and you can add a scoop of dairy-free cream cheese. Keep in mind I am feeding an army and used two boxes of pasta. I seasoned the sauce, even though a lot of flavor will be picked up from everything we sautéed. Keep in mind we can always add more! I added rosemary, oregano, pepper, lemon pepper, parsley, turmeric, sage and garlic.

Once you heat it up you can add the entire container of the parmesan. I turned the other burners off and put everything to the side and start on the pasta. Cook the past of your choice as instructed. After it is ready, strain it and put it back in the pot and add all that good shit together, including the mozzarella and stir. After tasting, I decided it needed a hell of a lot more garlic. I thought I had minced but I tossed what we had after the hurricane. I always prefer fresh, of course, but be real… I am not a little farm girl picking my herbs. I am busy as fuck and forget things. 

We also made some bread to soak up all the deliciousness. Now I am signing off! It is time to get in bed and try not to drip food on our new comforter while watching Netflix. You know you do it too. 

Also, we need a new cookie sheet and are registered HERE! Gross! 

* Best served on paper plates to avoid more dishes


Banana Bag Oral Solution – Getting My Life Back

Banana Bag is an oral solution that you mix in water and drink. It is like getting a bag of IV fluids at the hospital, only without the needles and scary bill. If you are like me and can get dehydrated easily, this is going to be your saving grace! 

Summertime is the worst time for me. I absolutely hate it. Seriously, it is the definition of hell. However, I live in Florida so it is hot most of the year. Let’s face it, I have three kids and live between Cocoa Beach and Orlando which makes it is hard to avoid outdoor activities.  

My daughter is on a swim team and I had to sit in the heat for 4 hours during her swim meets and the first one landed me in the hospital. The second one, I tried Banana Bag and I made it through. This year, my mother treated my family to a day at the water park and I also made it through without getting dehydrated and sent to the ER.  I froze a liter of water with the solution and I put some cherry juice and fresh raspberries in it so that it was a frozen chunk of ice that slowly melted throughout the day for a constantly cold drink. It kept me cool, hydrated and prevented the usual health issues. It does have a vitamin taste so I like to add more water and some juice for flavor but I prefer it over hospitals and sugary sports drinks. It is such a relief to be able to spend time with my family without having to end up in the ER to get a bag of fluids. This is a game changer!

I have a rare connective tissue disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome that I just got diagnosed with this year after struggling with health problems my entire life. EDS is a collagen defect which causes joint hyper mobility (such as being double jointed) and a plethora of health issues including Dysautonomia. People with dysautonomia dehydrate faster.

For me, my dysautonomia comes in the form of low blood pressure, temperature control such as easily overheating and easily cold with full blown shivering,  pre-syncope with waves of lightheadedness, vision loss and numbness, painful kidney spasms, tachycardia, POTSNeurocardiogenic Syncope and Sinus Node Dysfunction, (pacemaker since June 2017) to name a few. 

I have cut out preservatives, limited sugar intake and eat an anti-inflammatory and autoimmune diet. I take high does of vitamin C and CBD daily. I do not digest meat well so I cut it out and only eat fish and eggs. I cut out dairy because 90% of it gives me migraines with aura and so does MSG and artificial sweeteners. It has also taken me most of my life to learn what I cannot have. If I accidentally consume any of these things, I can guarantee a 4 hour comatose nap and wake up with a migraine and flashing lights, a racing heart and disorientation. This will last all day and sometimes the following day.

 It is also CRUCIAL for me to get all of my minerals, vitamins and electrolytes because I tend to get deficient in quite a few. Vitamin deficiencies can also cause so many health issues and unfortunately get missed and mistaken for other diseases. Vitamin B deficiency, for example, is very common and can cause tingling sensations in your extremities, depression, fatigue, weakness and irritability. 

The cool thing about this product is that it was made by a pharmacist who also made the IV solutions for ERs. It is awesome for POTS, autoimmune diseases, traveling, athletes, hangovers and anyone who is just exhausted, overworked and drained. 

It’s time to start living life to the fullest, which means having the health to do so! I am so grateful to have a home remedy for preventing dehydration and trips to the ER. I feel like I am finally starting to get my life back. 

Health, Healthy Food

Invisible Illnesses Unveiled – Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten ingestion can cause damage to the small intestine and other long-term health issues. 

Theresa Lanno is a hairstylist and my business partner at Bombshells Barbershop & Glam Lounge in Rockledge, Florida. We busted our asses to open our salon. Stress can do a lot of things to our bodies. Theresa was rapidly losing weight without trying. She was coughing up blood and having stomach issues. The first doctor she saw gave her ulcer medication and chalked it up to stress. Can you imagine if she just took those pills and did not push for further tests? She would be damaging her body for many years to come and suffer from more health issues. Many autoimmune diseases are a dominos effect on your health. 

 Long Term Health Effects

Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods or medicines that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems. These include the development of other autoimmune disorders like Type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS), dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash), anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, short stature, and intestinal cancers. 
*Read more here.


Theresa also had a vitamin D deficiency, which can cause brain fog, bone pain, fatigue, depression and muscle weakness. Deficiencies are common with celiac disease. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and 1 in 100 people overreact to this particular protein, which damages the villi in their small intestines and causes poor absorption of food. Malnourishment can eventually lead to infertility, miscarriage, bone density loss, neurological diseases and certain types of cancer. 

Fortunately, the cure for celiac disease is to completely cut gluten out of your diet. My goal in unveiling invisible illnesses is to push others to be their own advocate and to get answers and not just accept the first guess a doctor quickly throws at you before their next patient. We want answers and and test as well asnproper treatments and not bandages or pills to mask our symptoms. 

Even if you are not Celiac, gluten sensitivities can cause similar issues minus the intestinal damage. Gluten has been know as an inflammatory food. You can read more here about research and references. 

*Photos by Misti Blu

At what age did you discover symptoms and how long did it take to get an official diagnosis?

Theresa: I found out I have Celiac disease in April. I’ve always had stomach aches and low energy.  I never thought anything of it until the past two years when my life got miserable. I couldn’t eat or drink with out feeling sick. I would get migraines, nausea, dizziness,  heartburn, brain fog and joint pain, which ruled my life. 

How do you feel about the healthcare system? 

Theresa: The healthcare system is very flawed. I went through tests for 2 years before getting a diagnosis. Every doctor said I was young and healthy with low vitamin levels & stress. I lost 20 pounds in 2 months. I knew it was something else and not just stress. Thankfully, after many different doctors, I went to a walk in clinic begging for answers. They finally sent me to a gastroenterologist. Even after going through all my tests it took over a month to get a diagnosis. Celiac disease isn’t very common and many doctors still don’t have knowledge about this disease, which is so frustrating. 

Do people have a hard time understanding your illness?

Theresa: Yes!  The worst thing about this disease is that the only way to feel better is by sticking to a strict gluten free diet. Cross contamination is a nightmare, which makes eating out almost impossible. Also, people use gluten free as a fad diet which makes restaurants not take it seriously. I get asked if my body’s intolerance to gluten is “a choice or an allergy.” Why anyone would make this choice for no reason is beyond me. Gluten free is not a fad, actually gluten free breads and sweets usually have more sugar and calories than “regular” things do! 

Do you have a message for people in your shoes who are struggling with this illness?

Theresa: It gets easier! The cravings are part of the disease. Be strong and don’t give into cravings. Celiac disease is strongly linked to cancer, MS, neuropathy, and diabetes. It’s no joke and there are so many people out there who feel the same!

What do you miss the most from before your diagnosis?

Theresa: I miss having a normal dinner with my friends and family.  I was such a foodie! I still am but it’s just harder now.  I don’t want to be the person who asks the waitress a million questions or has to fear getting sick from a chef’s negligence or server error.  But, most of all I miss real New Haven style PIZZA! 
What is your new favorite (gluten free) dish?

Theresa:  I have learned to make almost everything I loved before in a gluten free way. My favorite thing has been chicken parmesan! Barrilla makes the best GF pasta! I love Boars Heads deli meats for lunch and Goodie Girl Cookies are the shit for snacks! Sweets are my weak spot, and the Melting Pot has the best GF spread you will ever see! 

How have you changed or felt since your diet change? 

Theresa: All in all, the sucky diet is so worth the change. I feel so much better. I am down 20 lbs all together.  I still have days where my energy sucks and everything hurts but that is part of the autoimmune thing. No more crippling migraines or joint pain. It sucks sometimes but it could always be worse!