The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30 to 50 years. — Deepak Chopra
I thought the return to writing on this blog was going to be about my weight loss journey. As the journey unfolded, it became about so much more. After my doctor visit last week, it changed course, yet again.
So here are the main possibilities of what may have been ailing me for the past year—and maybe even longer: Sarcoidosis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Tolosa Hunt Syndrome. All are some sort of autoimmune disease.
I have an orbital protrusion of the left eye. This was addressed in July when I visited first, an optometrist, then my family practitioner, and finally, an ophthalmologist, all of whom said I had suffered some sort of palsy, but no one could determine what exactly caused the palsy. Initially, an MRI was ordered to ensure I didn’t have a brain tumor (that was a scary few days). I was told the MRI was normal. When I finally viewed the MRI scan myself last week, the brain was normal (to my dearest friends: insert snide remarks here), but the eye was clearly protruding about a half an inch! Normal. Right.
I asked if other strange symptoms might be related. My GP negated any correlation. Ahem.
Initially, I was very sick for about six weeks. I slept about 16 hours per day, barely got myself out of bed to use the bathroom, and managed to slap peanut butter on a slice of bread once a day for sustenance. It was 90 degrees outside and I had the air conditioning off and was shivering under layers of blankets. I could not work since the pain in my eye and along the side of my head was relieved by dark rooms and sleeping my life away. My left foot had swollen about three times its size and I had pain all over the left side of my body. I could not get comfortable in my own skin. Fun times.
Along with all of this, my vision was/is very distorted. When I look down, the left eye stays open (very freaky). It often felt as if there was grit in my eye and, on the worst days, ground glass. In addition to the orbital swelling pushing the eye out of my skull, I had numerous swollen “pockets” all around the eye, as if I had multiple bee stings. My vanity took a serious hit along with my well-being. There was no way to disguise this, and, once I started working again, it worsened whenever I worked too many successive hours, or allowed myself to get too tired. Some days the effects would be less noticeable. Then I would feel tired and flu-like for a few days, and the whole thing would rage again. I have also dealt with skin rashes, swollen lymph glands, painful joints, and problems swallowing. Although I managed to resume working, driving became treacherous when the eyesight was compromised, so I would sometimes go weeks without venturing out to prevent myself from being a menace to myself or others.
A few months ago, although feeling “better” overall, my general vision started worsening and I also developed severe double vision when I looked down. There were a couple of late-night work sessions where I was literally working with one eye closed because I couldn’t see if both eyes were open. Balance became an issue. I took a bad fall on New Year’s Day.
By mid-January, I felt like hell because I have been through hell. Even as the vision problems worsened, I decided to lose weight and try to regain some of my health, and at least relieve the joint pain, sinus drainage, and other seemingly disparate symptoms.
What I didn’t know at the time was that I was fighting a lot more than I realized and that those disparate symptoms were all clues that the neurologist saw as a good thing—sending her on a path to a firm diagnosis (we have a ways to go on that one).
She told me it is likely that the orbital protrusion is permanent because she believes it has been going on too long and that I have developed scar tissue that will prevent my eye from ever becoming “normal” again. She also said the double vision is likely permanent, and that once my vision stabilizes, we can order prism glasses.
Don’t get me wrong: the doctor is brilliant and I am grateful that we are honing in on an actual diagnosis after all this time and misery, but… I have had other doctors tell me some pretty emphatic things through the years.
My OB/GYN told me for FOUR YEARS that I couldn’t get pregnant because of the damage done by a ruptured appendix and the six months I had open incisions (too much scar tissue). My daughter will be 24 this summer.
When I required a C-section for my full-breech daughter, they said they couldn’t do a “bikini-cut” along my appendectomy scar because of the scar tissue. Afterward, they told me they could have cut along my appendectomy incision, because I had minimal scarring. At the time, I was annoyed that they admitted this, but now I feel armed with the knowledge that maybe I don’t scar that easily—internally anyway.
I started the drug regimen last Thursday morning. By Saturday, once I had been up for about an hour, I looked down, AND FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MONTHS—NO DOUBLE VISION. It has been back every morning, but then dissipates within an hour of taking the medication. I know it is too early to get too excited, but I am an optimist at heart and believe in the POWER of our minds and spirits. I am “visualizing” a full recovery.
I know that when our bodies are dealing with a disease, we can benefit from medical intervention. But I also believe that we have the most impact over our general well-being and I firmly believe that food is the most potent medicine.
I have now researched and processed both the diseases and the effects of Prednisone. At first, I was terrified, but eventually calmed. Once I read through all the dire warnings of Prednisone, including weight gain, I researched diets. Guess what? Everything I’d been doing in the previous seven weeks (with a few modifications), is basically how I should be eating while taking the drug. Once I realized that I had “primed” my body already, I decided I was in the best shape internally to handle the drug and mitigate some of the side effects.
I have not felt jittery, but have had more energy. I lost three pounds the first three days, gained back two of them when I DID NOT EAT dinner on Saturday, and lost a half pound once I properly nourished myself again on Sunday. It could just be the exhaustion I’ve felt for the past two years, but I am also sleeping like a rock. I am aware that I have only been on the drug protocol for five days, and that things may change as the drug builds up in my system, but I am proceeding with the belief, that food-wise, I am a healthy host already treating myself with TLC.
It has now been nearly EIGHT WEEKS since I took wheat, sugar, dairy, corn, and artificial sweeteners out of my life (save for a one-meal detour last Wednesday when I had a hamburger on a bun and drank a diet Coke). After following Dr. Oz’s detox plan for three weeks and losing 15 pounds (11 the first week), I hit a firm plateau and started following the Fast Metabolism Diet (FMD).
Interestingly, on the FMD diet, Phase 1 is about relaxing the adrenals. One of the dire warnings of Prednisone is that it can cause adrenal fatigue. To that end, I am still following the basic timing of the meals of the FMD diet (eat every three hours—three meals, two snacks), but have modified what I am eating to include more adrenal supporting foods and healthy fats every day, instead of adhering to the limiting food phases. It is more important to me to eat for health right now, than worry about how quickly the weight comes off. I am drinking half of my body weight in water each day. I am ensuring that I am keeping my body in an optimum alkaline state (surprise: acidic lemon juice creates an alkaline affect in the body) which reduces inflammation in the body.
Here is the bottom line: there is no certain predictor how this is all going to end. But I can help myself be well by continuing to make nourishing food choices, keeping my head on straight, getting enough rest, staying positive, and not taking any medical pronouncement as the last word. Illness is sometimes a gift: it tells us that there is something out of whack in our behaviors and the way we are conducting our lives. I have gotten the message. Alas, I have received this message before, but have a thick skull and sometimes need to be whacked a little harder. Consider me significantly whacked. Now watch me get better than ever.