Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Invisible Illnesses Unveiled – Scoliosis

Ra’chelle is someone I have known since the third or fourth grade. She was our babysitter in Clever, Missouri. Somehow, we both migrated to Florida and became photographers hiding an invisible illness. We touched base on Facebook and she opened up to me about her scoliosis.

I knew Ra’chelle as a badass cheerleader. I had seen her at practices and she would toss other cheerleaders up into the air and she would catch them! She was so poised and strong. I always looked up to her and had the coolest babysitter in town. I never had any idea that she could be in pain.

Scoliosis is a condition of the spine that curves sideways. It usually begins during puberty during the growth spurt.

What is your official diagnosis and at what age were you diagnosed?

I was originally diagnosed with a slight case of scoliosis, around the age of eleven or twelve, during a routine sports physical at school. They said it wasn’t too bad but I could probably get some correction of the curvature by wearing a 24 hour brace. As a new junior high cheerleader, my vanity wouldn’t allow the big bulky brace, which was my first mistake.

Currently, I have severe scoliosis, S shape spine, which has caused crooked hips, one leg longer, ribcage is twisted and ribs overlap on one side restricting my breathing at times. The other side of my rib cage hunches up on my right shoulder, my neck is “swan neck” curving the opposite direction it is supposed to, causing it to feel as though I am carrying a 50 pound head around by the end of the day. I have constant headaches; everything being crooked causes joint pain and catches in my knees and hips. My right shoulder dislocates on a regular basis and has to be popped back in. I recently found out that the exhausting pain I’ve felt in my low back for the last couple years is because I have a fracture in my lower spine. I have degenerating discs and osteo arthritis, consistent muscle tension, spasms, and pinched off nerves from everything trying to keep up with my physical activities. I have lost a total of 3-4 inches in height since high school. These are all issues I never talk about and keep to myself.

At what point in your life did you start to see or feel a change in your body? How did that affect you?

I began having some discomfort toward the end of my high school years, because of the sports that I was involved in, and the activities I proceeded to do without the suggested brace. It didn’t feel serious to me at the time. I was young and invincible! By my early twenties, my condition had progressed enough that I had already lost an inch in height since graduating high school. I was having a considerable amount of pain and symptoms. I had Medicaid at the time, which didn’t cover chiropractic treatment but they sent me through an extensive Pain Management Course. I learned self-hypnosis to help me sleep, had some therapeutic massage, learned that no combination of narcotic pain meds or muscle relaxers were going to help because my body doesn’t do well with heavy medications. I refused to live in the fog that they caused. My days of ibuprofen around the clock began. During this course, they also diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. Add that to the IBS, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and reoccurring vertigo, and ulcers, that were all diagnosed back in high school, and what do you get? Depression!

I also found out quickly that I have pretty severe reactions to most antidepressants! The first time the doctors began telling me to go on disability, I was the young age of 26 with two small children and there was NO WAY I was going to do that! They also had lots of big ideas about surgeries we could try, which I also refused due to seeing my sister in law go through the same surgeries first hand. I didn’t feel like any of these solutions were acceptable. I just powered through and pressed on. Skip forward to 2013 or so, I was late in my 30’s and had spent the years powering through the pain, now alternating Ibuprofen and Aleve all day, every day just to be able to move, and was getting some intermittent chiropractic care. After one hell of a year full of illness from some rare third world country parasite (entamoeba histolytica) that I somehow contracted, along with a hysterectomy and a total prolift surgery, I decided it was time to do everything I could possibly do on my own to maintain my health. This was the start to my health and fitness journey. I began changing my diet and educating myself on the importance of what we put in our bodies as well as getting in shape and strengthening my core, which is of crucial importance with any type of back issues! It was during this transition of shedding fat, toning up, and growing muscle that I began taking photos of my progress which I quickly developed a love/hate relationship with. This was the first time I really began to physically SEE my deformities caused from my S shaped spine. By this point, the curve was causing my entire rib cage to twist leaving some ribs on one side visibly protruding. My hip bones were crooked, and when bending over toward my toes the “hunch back” on one side had begun. This started a whole new mental struggle with my vanity. I stopped wearing little tight shirts as much, always wore my hair down to cover the top of my back if in a tank top, and became very self-conscious of my disfigurements.

What is your biggest struggle?

My biggest struggle is listening to my body when it is telling me to stop. I have raised my kids and am still young and work very hard to be healthy and physically fit, despite my conditions, because there is still so much that I want to do in life! I love being outside in nature and being active and going on adventures. So often, so many times each and every day, my back is telling me to stop, or my shoulders and neck are telling me to take my hair down and take my bra off because it’s pulling on my muscles. My lower back, hips and legs are screaming to get horizontal to relieve the pressure and it’s so difficult to listen. I don’t claim the disabled title and I do still work and from the outside, people truly have no idea what I am feeling as I push to just keep up with everyday tasks. How do I suddenly stop in the middle of an outing, photo shoot at work, or a shift at the gym and say “I have to stop now.”

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I would say my biggest accomplishment is what I have done to stay strong enough to have raised my littles into bigs and to be fighting like hell to stay strong enough to play with my grand kids when I see them, to carry out my career goals as a photographer, and to go on many more adventures with my husband.

If you had advice for anyone newly diagnosed with your condition, what would it be?

First, drop your vanity and WEAR THE BRACE! I am sure they make them much less bulky these days! Second, start now and never stop strengthening your core. This is so very important. The docs told me early on that the best thing I could do is keep my core strong and also swim thirty minutes each day, neither of which I did until way later into my life. I still don’t swim everyday as I don’t have a pool, but it is a goal. This condition CAN be corrected if caught and treated at an early age of growth. You CAN keep it from progressing as much or as rapidly IF you treat it early on. The only thing I can do at my stage now is just a million different things each day just to maintain and stay mobile. It’s exhausting but it’s necessary.

What are three things you can’t live without?

My loved ones, music, my faith. I wouldn’t want to live without the beach ever again.

Favorite quote:

“Just Be Real”

What inspires you on a daily basis?

Watching how my grand babies are growing into these very active little angels makes me push to keep going so that I can spend more time with them as they grow. Also, seeing the stories of so many other people who have struggles and conditions that far outweigh anything I could ever imagine and how they have overcome and press on. It’s truly amazing what we humans are capable of with the right amount of courage, faith, and desire. Better healthcare would definitely make the fight less agonizing.

Photos by Misti Blu Day

Ra’chelle’s Photography: Majestic Soul Photography

Health, Healthy Food, Sweet Tooth

Smoothie Ideas

  • Splash of Pineapple juice
  • Ginger
Health

What is Banana Bag Oral Solution?

Banana Bag Oral Solution is a specially formulated solution for vitamin deficiencies and dehydration. It is a drink mix and can replace the costly IV from an emergency room visit. The term “Banana Bag” is from the medical field, referencing IV fluids. The drink does not taste like bananas. In fact, it has lemon-lime taste to it. I prefer it to sugary sports drinks that are loaded with dyes, preservatives and artificial flavors. It is also gluten-free.

Banana Bag has been a huge hit for those with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and also other Dysautonomia patients. It is beneficial for athletes, hangovers, the chronically ill, people with gut issues causing malabsorption and keeping general health issues at bay that are caused by deficiencies and dehydration.

This reliable solution restores the body with electrolytes and vital nutrients. It has been a crucial staple in managing my health, especially living with the Florida heat.

No sweeteners | No preservatives | No dyes | No artificial ingredients | No artificial flavors | No GMOs | No gluten.

Health

Hair Breakage, Hair Loss and Hair That Sucks

Before you start looking for a miracle shampoo or magical fairy dust online for your vanishing hair, let’s take a moment to dissect this issue. If your hair sucks and it is breaking off and you don’t have over-processed hair then it may be time to see a doctor. No special shampoo is going to fix this. I am going to walk you through some health issues that may pertain to you and guide you to the right tests to request from your doctor. If you have hair breakage or hair loss, you need to get some blood work done. Below is a list of what to look for.

  • Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiencies are actually fairly common. Even living in a sunny state, you cannot always get enough vitamin D. Even if you have a super healthy and strict diet, you still may not be getting enough. For some, deficiencies are caused by malabsorption from leaky gut, celiac disease or other inflammatory bowel issues that can cause damage. Low vitamin D can cause hair loss, infertility, depression, bone pain and a weak immune system. If you are critically low, it may take at least a month to get balanced. It is important to see your levels in case you need a prescription strength supplement. Most doctors do not test your D levels so ask specifically and then get a copy of your labs for records and to make sure. Sometimes, “Everything looks good, you’re fine” or “it’s probably stress” is not true. Check the damn D!

  • Thyroid Disorders

Hair does not grow continuously. It goes through phases. Telogen is the phase where hair is shed and replaced by new hair. It is natural to shed hair and is balanced by new hair. Stress or illnesses can cause the hair to remain in the resting phase while growth temporarily ceases. The human hair cycle is 7 months so sometimes it takes awhile to notice when it becomes a problem.

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can cause hair loss. Treating a thyroid condition is the only way to help with loss of hair in this case. Also, if a shampoo causes you to “detox” your hair then you should throw it in the trash. I promise it is not normal and your hair won’t grow back tenfold.

Normal hair shedding is 50-100 strands per day. Keep in mind that if you have a ton of hair, you may shed a little more than average. If you have not brushed or shampooed your hair all week, you may shed a little more when you finally do. Everyone has their normal. If your normal changes then it is a sign that something is going on.

  • Autoimmune Disease (Lupus)

Autoimmune Diseases are unfortunately not understood enough by doctors. Hopefully, in the future we will have more research and more answers but at the moment, a lot of doctors do not really understand how they work. Rheumatologists typically handle autoimmune diseases. If you are suspicious that you have an autoimmune disease, ask your primary care physician for an ANA blood test, which tests antinuclear antibodies. If you are ANA positive you can then be referred to a rheumatologist. However, most rheumatologists just prescribe. No one seems to wonder WHY is my body freaking out and attacking itself? I personally believe autoimmune diseases are caused by something such as Lyme Disease, malabsorption due to intestinal damage, Epstein Barr Virus, Deficiencies, etc.

  • Leaky Gut

Malabsorption due to intestinal damage, a messed up gut biosphere from processed foods and overprescribed antibiotics, alcohol, sugar, too much bad bacteria and less good bacteria are a few reasons to throw off your gut balance. Do I sound like a broken record? I am sorry, but you are reading this for a reason, right? Think about it… food is nutrition. We eat food and our bodies function from the vitamins and minerals in our food. For example, potassium (found in bananas) helps our heart rhythm. Muscle spasms? That is magnesium. No energy and a headache? Vitamin B. Food helps us function and we are literally putting garbage in our bodies. While you choke down your McDonalds cheeseburger, bag of Doritos, Diet Coke and Zebra Cake, you are filling your veins with sugar, preservatives, aluminum, dyes, artificial flavors, and whatever other fillers and junk that are used to make a cheap snack. Then, we bitch about achey joints and a headaches. Get your body right and treat yourself to the self care you deserve, which is nutrition.

  • Iron Deficiency – Anemia

Being anemic will certainly cause hair loss too. Brittle nails, headaches, lethargy, restless leg syndrome are a few other symptoms. This is a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells which carry oxygen to your body’s tissues.

  • Hormones

Before you try any “magical” shampoos, know that red clover can mess with your hormones, especially if you already have hormonal issues. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is common with male pattern baldness by shrinking hair follicles. Women’s hormone levels decline as menopause approaches. Men have their peak hair period at the age of 17 and women at the age of 19 and it goes downhill from them.

Now that we have learned a little about the ROOT cause of hair loss (pun intended) we can try to correct these issues and get healthy. I also suggest Biotin for hair help and Vitamin C, which helps with collagen production and our immune system. It also takes time for our body to get in balance so a 30 day program or fad diet will not suffice. It is a lifestyle changing, habit breaking zone you need to get in. Inflammation causes hair loss and our bodies are inflamed from the many inflammatory things we consume. Stay hydrated, eat clean, check your blood work and treat your body right.

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.

Healthy Food, Sweet Tooth

Chia Pudding!

I have had chia seeds galore but did not know how to use them. Chia pudding sounded a little scary to me, for whatever reason. While browsing Instagram healthy food porn, I stumbled upon some delicious looking treats using chia pudding so I thought, why not give it a shot? And damn! It was super simple!

I poured two cups of Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla almond milk, 1/2 cup of chia seeds, 2 tablespoons of carob powder, 1 teaspoon of macca root, and I also sprinkled in some flax seed and cinnamon. If you want it to be sweeter you can put some honey in the recipe or even drizzle it on top later.  Mix it all together, cover and set in the fridge overnight! 

I topped mine with raspberries and chocolate coconut chips. I am sold! What a great breakfast, snack or dessert.

Healthy Food

Sunday Brunch Favorites 

Sunday breakfast in bed is my favorite! It is the only day that we actually have time to make something fun, relax and enjoy it without rushing off to work. Today was an acai berry bowl with local honey and So Delicious coconut milk yogurt (only 1 gram of sugar!!) and lots of fresh fruits, sliced almonds, flax seed, granola, carob, cinnamon, chia seeds and chocolate coconut chips. Yum!