My story began twenty two years ago when I was a freshman in college. I became very ill around exam time with a sore throat, ulcers all inside my mouth, and large, red, sore lumps all over my legs. I felt as if I weighed 1,000 pounds and was walking around in knee deep mud. I muddled through my exams and welcomed the break after them. My parents were very concerned, but doctors just passed it up to stress and a virus. Looking back at that one incident, little did I know how my life would play out due to this disease that was just beginning to take over my body.
From that day, my body began turning on me. From the time I was in second grade, I knew in my soul my purpose in life was to be a teacher. I worked full time, got married, and finished college all the while every stressful situation landed me in bed sick. Doctor after doctor and test after test, no one knew what was going on. When I began my teaching career, the fatigue from this mysterious illness was overwhelming. After a day of teaching, I went straight to the couch and spent the weekends recovering and gearing up for the next week. I managed to get very routine with the illness and even knew when flare ups were eminent. I started a family, and life went on. I believed my life was perfect; I was a teacher, like I had always wanted to be, had a husband and beautiful baby boy. Life was good!
Years passed, life happened…divorce, remarried, new baby girl, two new step children and a brand new grade level to teach! Talk about stress! So, of course, my body let me know by putting me down each and every time I wouldn’t listen to the small messages it would send out. I learned to cope with the cards I’d been dealt and resolved to be happy and positive for everyone in my life, but most especially for me. After 13 years of doctors not knowing what was wrong, I walked into a new family doctor and she said, “You have Behcet’s disease, why hasn’t anyone ever told you that?” Things immediately changed. Test after test and medication after medication, we were on a mission to stabilize this rare autoimmune disease.
What is Behcet’s Disease? NINDS Behcet’s Disease Information Page
Behcet’s disease is a rare, chronic inflammatory disorder. The cause of Behcet’s disease is unknown, although there have been reports of a virus found in some individuals with the disease. Behcet’s disease generally begins when individuals are in their 20s or 30s, although it can happen at any age. It tends to occur more often in men than in women. Symptoms of Behcet’s disease include recurrent ulcers in the mouth (resembling canker sores) and on the genitals, and eye inflammation. The disorder may also cause various types of skin lesions, arthritis, bowel inflammation, meningitis (inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord), and cranial nerve palsies. Behcet’s is a multi-system disease; it may involve all organs and affect the central nervous system, causing memory loss and impaired speech, balance, and movement.
The effects of the disease may include blindness, stroke, swelling of the spinal cord, and intestinal complications. The disease is common in Japan, Turkey and Israel, and less common in the United States.
Once the disease was stable, I began running and even finished a ½ marathon, 13.1 miles, while wearing my Behcet’s shirt. I wanted to prove that I could overcome this.
In 2005, I had a hysterectomy and my entire life was turned upside down. The surgery went fine, I was given a clean bill of health, and I went back to work. Two months after the surgery, my vaginal cuff opened up and my intestines fell into my vaginal canal. I was rushed into surgery and my gynecologist repaired the damage. Two months later, it happened all over again! We were all shocked. My doctor had never heard of such a thing happening two times in a row (seemed to be I was an enigma to the medical world). Phone calls were made to Iran, Turkey, Florida, and many universities to determine if this could be a result of my disease. No one believed it could be; no one had heard of this before. Biopsies of the damaged area proved that it was disease process. Once again, emergency surgery to fix the damage, but this time there was a new plan. My doctor explained to me that I was going to be put into a hyperbaric chamber for 30 days, 3 hours at a time. I was petrified. The theory behind this was that the pressurized oxygen forced through my body would speed healing. It worked, and the cuff finally sealed shut.
Well, when things go wrong, they really go wrong. When the cuff healed, the nerves got trapped in the healing tissue and formed marble sized neuromas causing constant pain, making even walking around difficult. I was still teaching, so I was on my feet all day long and having to maintain a high energy level and positive attitude. Finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I was sent to NYU to meet with a doctor who specialized in chronic vaginal pain. I endured injections of alcohol in the nerves four times in an attempt to “kill” them. Nothing worked. In fact, the pain was worse now. My doctor at NYU decided to operate to remove the neuromas. We were all so scared after learning internal healing was so difficult for my body. We prayed and put our trust and faith in God and the doctors doing the surgery. After surgery, I was back in the hyperbaric chamber for 30 more days. I went back to school and believed this was all behind me. Not the case at all.
The pain returned with a vengeance. I was told that it could, but I believed the powers at be would just know I’d been through enough, and let this surgery work. But I had another surgery, another 30 day stint in the chamber, and more neuromas when I finally healed. Obviously, this nerve damage was here to stay. The worst day of my life came when I was forced to resign from my dream, being a teacher. I felt like a complete failure. What do I do now? How will I ever make a difference in anyone’s life again? I sunk into a very deep depression.
I began having to travel two days a week to John Hopkins University for pelvic physical therapy (believe me, that was an experience). My therapist tried to release the tension on the nerves and get me some sort of life back. I even had to endure electrical therapy “up there”! Along with many doctors and my psychiatrist, I came out on the other end. My life was all new to me now, but I was not going to just give up. I had a life to find and children to be an example to.
Now, I take injections in my abdomen every other week along with other medications to keep my disease in check. I have to be careful being around anyone with an illness because the medications I take suppress my immune system. Any future surgeries will result in hyperbaric chamber visits to speed healing. My bones are very brittle because of the meds I’ve been on. I have fractured both tibias running, my thumb, and my spine due to the loss of bone mass.
In December of 2010, I was introduced to Melaleuca by Jerri O’Donald. She was at dinner with me and she began talking about these vitamins that had helped her husband and her so much. Instantly, the bells and whistles went off in my head. Was this a sign of what I was meant to take? I believed it was, and agreed to be a part of a Delivering Wellness presentation. My life did another 360 after that. I began taking the vitamins and within 20 days, I was running again!! I experienced such a profound improvement in every aspect of me: physically, mentally, and spiritually. I wake up feeling great and am able to make it through most days with much less rest. My family is thrilled, but at first, it was a cautious happiness. My whole life has changed now! I am a determined Melaleuca business builder. I feel a renewed purpose and know that I can help so many people with my story. I have been looking for an avenue to get this story out, and I know I have found it. Melaleuca has changed my life forever, and I am going to shout it from the rooftops!