*Editors Note Below is a guest post by my friend and fellow “Lupus Thriver” Gina, of Beating Lupus Naturally. Her lupus journey includes a near death experience and a dramatic change in her treatment regimen, which has now empowered her to become an active part of her health care team and gain the tools to truly thrive.
Gina is now a Certified Herbalist and new contributor to Thrive with Lupus. She’ll be sharing many of her wonderful healing balms, inflammation reducing recipes and other holistic healing tools in upcoming articles. In this article, you’ll learn more about Gina’s early lupus journey and how she got to where she is today, as well as Gina’s staple detoxifying essential oil blend. Enjoy!
Sick, Confused and Searching for Answers
Author: Gina Welds-Hulse
In 1996 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer two weeks after giving birth to my daughter. Two days before my surgery, my Dr. told me that there was a very strong possibility that I could die. I actually did die, but was revived much to the surprise of my surgeons. 17 years later I am still cancer-free. However, I believe this surgery is what caused me to down-spiral into illness after illness.
To make a long story short: in 2000 I was diagnosed with asthma, which would would eventually be changed to COPD/ mild emphysema a few years later. In 2008 I was diagnosed with a heart condition which put me on the brink of cardiac arrest twice. In early 2012 began to experience tingling and numbness in my fingertips and feet. When the neurologist confirmed global sensory-motor poly-neuropathy, he was baffled by the severity of the neuropathy. And before I left his office and heard a word that I had not heard before. He recommended that I get tested for lupus.
During this time, I had gradually become more and more debilitated. No one seemed to know what was wrong with me. I was tested and the results came back positive for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. At the insistence of my Primary Care Physician, I was tested again. The results came back positive again after several weeks of intensive testing. “Well,” my Dr. said.” “I guess you do have lupus. We better start treating you. You will need to start plaquenil.” My initial response to this was: “What the heck is lupus?”
“I’m going down the tubes,” I said to my doctor. “I used to run cross country. I’m a martial artist. I eat well. I take care of my body. Now it seems that my body is revolting against me. Every time I come here it seems that there is something else wrong with me.” I felt debilitated, depressed, and many years older than my chronological age. Zombie-like fatigue started to plague me. I slept every chance I could get.
Throughout all of this, I also began a pilgrimage, so to speak, to learn as much as I could about this disease called lupus. I learned there was no cure and to me that sounded like a death sentence. However, I had beaten cancer, so I was determined to beat this. At this point in my life I was on several medications for lung conditions, a heart condition, neuropathy, and now I began a new medication for lupus. This led to a frightening event that changed the way I would view my treatment going forward.
The Turning Point
One Saturday morning I got up early as is my norm, drank my tea, and took my medication. On my to-do list for the day was a visit to a local herbalist. I was determined to find herbal replacements for most, if not all, of the medicines that that had been prescribed. I knew the ravages steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications could cause. Knowing that this was the traditional coarse of treatment for lupus, arthritic like conditions, and the other overlapping illnesses that I had, I had started doing considerable research on the side effects of the many medications I was taking. I spoke to my doctor about herbal replacements, and although he was hesitant, he understood my point of view. I was approved to carry out my desire to add herbal supplements to my treatment plan.
I had been in the herbal store for about 30 minutes. I already had a consult with the herbalist, and had purchased several items that I would start that day- when suddenly I collapsed! My attending Physician in the hospital indicated that the two pharmaceutical drugs that I had taken should never have been prescribed together. He said that when I arrived I was on the brink of a cardiac arrest, as my heart rate was extremely high. The trip to the herbal store literally saved my life.
Miraculously, within a day or two I was able to walk without pain, was getting my energy back, was able to sit and stand effortlessly, and my discomfort was a fading memory. And although I had been raised on herbs, I had fallen into the habit of taking prescription medicine for what ailed me. That quickly changed. I had been a vegetarian for many years, but once again I began to question my diet and other aspects of my life in light of all the symptoms I was experiencing.
I started to cut gluten out of my diet, and gradually saw an improvement in the bloating that I had experienced before. I had cut coffee and sodas out entirely, and drank only herbal teas. I learned about healing your gut to heal the rest of your body. I also started to study herbs and even earned a certificate in Herbalism. I have also incorporated the use of essential oils into my treatment plan. I detox on a regular basis, using various methods. I started to take supplements such as bee pollen, a neuropathy blend of frankincense, turmeric and ginger, maca root for energy and many more which I will share with you in this and upcoming articles.
As my energy improved I began to walk more. However, I purchased a treadmill for home use. Due to my heart condition, I decided I’d rather be safe than sorry. Another important change was that I learned to say “no” to anything that did not enrich me or my family, and surrounded myself with supportive and loving friends, eliminating those who were not supportive or were overly critical of my approach. Also, when I was growing up, I played a lot outside without shoes. I started doing more research into “Earthing” and started to practice it more. Earthing is essentially the idea that we are meant to connect with the earth’s energy field to balance and restore out systems. Shoes prevent this from happening and the resulting lack of earth’s electrons in our body’s results in our bodies getting out discombobulated.
Enjoying a New Life- Empowered to Heal
With each passing day I see improvement. Had I not known any better, I would probably have accepted the only traditional treatment at the time- plaquenil and prednisone for life, in addition the other pharmaceuticals for breathing conditions. But I had pledged to do everything in my power to avoid pharmaceuticals and was having great success. Some of you may be concerned about the cost of maintaining a constant nutritional regiment such as I’ve described. Traditional medications may be less expensive than nutrients because of health insurance, but I am happy to pay the price of supplements in exchange for good health.
Occasionally, I will have a flare-up that reminds me that this disease is still with me. A nasty, persistent oral ulcer sometimes appears. Fatigue, puffy knees, and some skeletal pain manifest themselves periodically- especially when the weather changes. When this happens, I sleep, get off my feet, and chew on caramelized ginger. Exposure to sun will precipitate a flare so my life style is to avoid the sun, wear lots of sunscreen, eat a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, ground flax seed and eliminate simple carbohydrates. I also get plenty of rest.
I thank God for the neurologist who recommended I get tested for lupus. The results showed that it was not all in my head. I thank God for the collapse in the herbal store and the ER doctor who confirmed that I really should be looking at alternatives, and for a doctor who accepts my desire for herbal treatments. I probably would not be alive today and would have undoubtedly suffered many of the innumerable side effects of long-term treatment with pharmaceuticals.
The point of this story is to encourage people to investigate alternative treatment, to educate themselves in the benefits of good nutrition, and to question their doctors. And as a society at large, in order to curb ever rising health care costs, emphasis must be put on prevention of illness and acceptance of natural medicinal alternatives. And even if you do opt to explore the natural route, one must always research the validity of any treatment you accept from a reputable practitioner of alternative medicine.
Western treatments can sometimes put the fire out, but they don’t get to the root of your symptoms and stop the problem. As a result, the war rages on and lupus is smoldering its way through the body. I believe that many people with lupus and autoimmune diseases would be helped tremendously if research would prove that my turn around was not accidental.
Gina’s Detoxifying Essential Oil Blend:
3 drops of each essential oil.
Grapefruit essential oil is great for cleansing and for weight loss. Geranium detoxifies, balances hormones and helps with the circulation.
Rosemary is a great immune booster, helps to detox the liver, is antibacterial, a digestive aid, is anti-inflammatory, and helps to improve circulation.
Clove is great for indigestion, stress and skin care (I also use it in my homemade toothpaste and mouthwash). Roman chamomile detoxifies the liver and reduces information.
This is an excellent massage oil blend and if particularly effective when rubbed onto the abdomen and also the soles of your feet. This blend can also be added to your bathwater for a detoxifying soak.
*Editors Note What Gina described is a similar path that I and many others battling autoimmune illness have taken. If you are interested in beginning a natural or holistic treatment regimen, take some time to look for Integrative, Functional or Naturopathic Doctors in your area. They specialize in addressing the root cause of disease and can also monitor your blood work and guard against any negative herbal/pharmaceutical interactions.
Also, Gina mentioned this in passing, but one of my main goals with Thrive with Lupus is to establish a research fund for the exploration and validation of natural therapies for the treatment of chronic autoimmune diseases. With these types of efforts, it is my hope that we can greatly reduce the amount of suffering and create a new standard of inclusive and integrative lupus treatment.