You know those friends that just get you? The kind of friend that you can go years without seeing, and then pick right up as if you just saw them last week? I’m blessed with several of those kind of friends and I hope that in the next 50 years, I’ll be more intentional about making sure to prioritize them and our irreplaceable time together when we get to be our simultaneously flawless and flawed selves.
Maybe COVID has had that impact on many of you. The need to see your real friends. Or maybe it’s just maturity. The moment when you know it’s time to make sure to do more of the good stuff, and less of the other stuff, that you let take you away from the good stuff.
Sometimes you just need to hear more of that uncontrollable belly laugh produced by one of these kind of friends. Corey Upchurch Johnson is that kind of friend. Doesn’t hurt that she’s an awesome lawyer, boy mom, lover of big books, purveyor of needed conversations and has fire pit pyromaniac tendencies. Corey is a professional fireside chatter.
My reconnection with Corey came at the perfect time this year. Of course it did. She had quite a story to tell that will resonate with the Oklahoma types. Her story involves our warm weather nemesis: a tick. It didn’t kill her, but it opened up a new health journey that she never would have imagined. And it’s entirely her fault I bought a juicer and started eating/drinking more veggies.
Enjoy Corey’s story of sickness and health:
“I still recall the exact day my (relatively decent) health changed for the worse. It was July 21, 2018 when I began to exhibit symptoms of what I would soon learn was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), a serious tick borne bacterial infection. When the doctor’s office called over a week later with the news, they lead with: “Well, the good news is you don’t have Lyme disease!” Well, I can tell you there is nothing about RMSF that is “good news.” Damn ticks. That tick bite would trigger an odyssey that lasted over a year before I was able to regain my health and reclaim my life.
My daily life deteriorated quickly. If I could go to work, I had to come home and immediately lie down for the rest of the evening. I had a terrible brain fog. A friend who had a child with Rheumatoid Arthritis gave me corn bags to heat in the microwave to put on all my joints. I constantly took hot Epsom salt baths just to get some temporary relief from the pain. I felt awful physically and it was taking a toll on my mental health. In fact, medical professionals told me that I was very likely suffering from depression. I wanted to scream: If I’m depressed it’s because I’ve been sick for a year!
Months later, after yet another round of lab work revealed no answers to my continuing symptoms, I finally got MAD. I was sure I had developed a serious autoimmune disease – it was the only explanation. But of course I hadn’t. I had waited to start feeling better. I had taken all the medication prescribed to me. Was I just supposed to accept this as my new normal? Around this time I remembered something I previously read (and disregarded) about the power of cleansing your body of toxins and clean eating. It was time for me to take a different path.
Since I already had a juicer that I rarely used, I decided to give juice cleansing a try. I sat aside just one day to do this. ONE. I bought enough celery, cucumbers and green apples to extract six (6), 16 oz of juice (it’s a bunch!). Upon waking, I drank the juice every 2 hours, with 16 oz of water in the hour in between. It was a long and hard day. I was tired (but wasn’t I always?), I had a headache and I was hungry! I just wanted the day to end so I could be done with this experiment. By the time I went to bed, I was not quite as miserable as I had been mid-day and at least I could say I tried.
But then something happened. The next day I could feel that my body responded to that tiny effort. It was subtle, to be sure, but after suffering from constant pain and fatigue I knew I was on to something. That something would give me hope for the first time in nearly a year.
Once I felt tangible results from just one day of juicing, I needed to learn more because I was convinced that food was going to be a big factor to restoring my health. As Stacy mentioned in a previous post, I also watched the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. I was inspired. I won’t get all science-y here, but the benefits of juicing made sense to me. Over the next month I incorporated some fresh fruit and vegetable juicing into my every day routine, while also eliminating fast food and processed “junk food.” I was amazed! Not only was I maintaining my original positive response to that first juice cleanse, I was gaining lots of energy back and I was losing weight, which was a great side benefit!
I knew this was just the beginning to understanding the impact the RMSF infection (and the tons of antibiotics I took) had on my body and the damage it had done to my gut health. To be honest, my gut was probably the most susceptible to attack after years of dealing with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which many doctors shrugged off as a natural consequence of the stresses of being a lawyer. I obtained a food intolerance test and was shocked to learn that I had developed a long list of serious food intolerances that had been keeping me in a cycle of illness for the past year. An elimination diet is a great way to determine if food is triggering your pain, fatigue or inflammation while allowing your body the chance to heal. However, eliminating all things that were causing serious reactivity for me: gluten, all grains, all herbs and spices (garlic!), sugar, dairy, cheese, eggs, beef, pork, shrimp –– seemed overwhelming. How could I do it?
Here is where I determined that to kick start my elimination diet, I would only consume 100% fresh vegetable and fruit juice and plenty of water for 28 days. No solid food. I did not come to this decision lightly – remember the part earlier where I said I was MAD? The first 3-4 days were the worst. That’s when a lot of the detoxing was happening. Around day 5, I stopped feeling as hungry and I was enjoying creating tasty juice recipes. I made it through my 28 days and did a lot of research on how I would continue to eliminate the offending foods to allow my body the best chance to heal. It was hard. The realization that I can’t just eat whatever I want was hard. But being so fatigued that it felt like I was covered by a ton of bricks was also hard. Being in so much pain I did not sleep well for months was hard. Feeling like I was disappointing family, friends and co-workers was also really hard.
It has not been a direct path, in fact I went on a lot of side excursions and had some dead ends, but I’ve finally turned the corner on my health. I’ve had to educate and advocate for myself, and maybe most importantly, I’ve learned to listen to my body.”