My Wellness Journey

Saturday, April 7, 2018

This is a post I have wanted to write since 2012. One that I keep kicking around in my mind. It will be a long read but may shed some insight into why I care so deeply about natural wellness and spreading the message wherever I can.

Two things led to my first steps on this journey.

  1. Terrible experiences with medication/doctors several times.
  2. Watching loved ones slowly fade away and suffer with life ending diseases. 
I will start with #2. My great-grandparents were two of the most intelligent and hard working people I have ever known. They built their home with their own two hands, raised five amazing kids in it, and nurtured many grand-kids and great-grand kids from it. My great-grandfather owned a saw mill and was loved by many in our community. He was a World War Two Veteran that proudly supported his country and the troops. My great-grandmother was the right-hand (wo)man of Congressman Howard Coble for 14 years, secretary of the Davidson County genealogy association, President of the VFW/Women's Auxiliary and recognized in Washington for her work in collecting and compiling stories from over 160 World War Two Veterans on the 50th Anniversary of WW2. I could go on and on. I could list hundreds of things these two accomplished. They continue to inspire me to work towards my dreams through the memories I have of them. If I could have dinner with any person past or present it would be these two. 
Dave and Connie Leonard - My GREAT-grandparents.

My great-grandfather passed away from ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. To watch a hardworking man who always kept busy become confined to a chair or bed for the last years of his life was heart breaking. I was a pre-teen when he passed but I still remember how sharp his mind was long after his body quit functioning. I was 17 when my great-grandmother developed Alzheimer's. At first we could only tell because of small things like her ordering of several of the same magazine subscriptions or how she had paid her water bill so many times she would't need to pay it again for a few years. By the time I met my husband two years later she was well into Alzheimer's. 
Connie Leonard, my Nana

I couldn't comprehend how the most intelligent person I knew was literally loosing her mind and there was nothing I could do to help. Five years into her disease I had an assignment to complete in college. I was to write an investigative research paper on a disease of my choosing. Until this point I figured Alzheimer's was like Cancer; a reverse lottery where no one knew the real cause and if you were the unlucky winner you just had to deal with it. During my research I found peer reviewed articles and very lengthy scholarly research documents. I scoured, searched, and picked at the documents with a fine tooth comb. One of them stated that the link to Alzheimer's was a gene deficiency. There were ten papers to follow that one disproving the credibility of the study though. 

After finding this and feeling like I was at a dead end I decided to change my search strategy. One of the first peer-reviewed articles to appear in the search results listed almost one hundred studies showing that the buildup of heavy metals and the hardening of the brain was the cause of Alzheimer's. From this article I researched every reference and followed up on the studies to see current progress. Sure-enough, heavy metals and brain hardening were the link. Unlike cancer cells, which are present in most of our bodies and waiting to be activated, Alzheimer's is a condition that we create because of what we consume. 

This information led me down another rabbit hole. I thought how in the world did my Nana consume so many heavy metals that her brain hardened to the point of a condition like Alzheimer's? I started researching how heavy metals are consumed by humans. The results were terrifying and included: old water pipes, water filtration, cooking in aluminum pans, eating food from aluminum cans, drinking from aluminum cans, wearing deodorant with aluminum, and brushing teeth with fluoridated tooth paste along with many others.
My Nana and I in 2003.

Wait... I thought... if deodorant and toothpaste contain chemicals that are toxic to our well-being what other health and beauty products are less than healthy for us?

I researched the ingredient list of toxic chemicals found in health and beauty products. I ran every single product I owned through the Skin Deep database and subsequently threw them all away. Had it not been for this one research assignment I would have never considered that our health and beauty products actually cause sickness and potentially death. I would have continued using the cherished brands of makeup that I paid way too much for and commercialized lotions/deodorants that everyone else used. 
One of my first recipes on ApotheKayla

This occurred at the beginning of 2011. I started my wellness journey with a mixture of baking soda and coconut oil. I used this mixture (in different containers of course) for toothpaste and deodorant. I washed my hair with chamomile and peppermint tea and conditioned it with vinegar. I had no idea that essential oils existed or that some companies refuse to put toxic chemicals into their products. I found essential oils during the summer of 2011 when Robert and I got lice from one of his nieces and I was totally against using the poison on my scalp. My mother had a friend who sold essential oils, she called her at 11:00 one night and asked if there were essential oils to get rid of lice. This friend proceeded to create a blend and met up with my mom to sell it to her that night. 

The first time I smelt the aroma of these essential oils I felt like my soul woke up. I knew I had to have these oils in my life and that this was the missing piece I had been searching for. The oils my mother's friend sold were a little pricey and we were college students who didn't think we could afford them or that it mattered which oils we used. So I bought a starter kit from a random brand, with pretty labels off of Amazon. I started using these oils and started blogging about the recipes I was creating. This was the beginning of ApotheKayla. 

Two months into using these oils I began developing a rash and severe sensitivity to them. By this point when I opened the bottle I felt almost agitated or like my whole body was an exposed nerve before I even put them on my skin. I decided to do a little research on the company whose oils I had been using and found out that they were not organic and should not be used on the skin. I was so shocked because my first experience with essential oils led me to believe that all oils were created equally and all oils would do the trick. 

I had been using eucalyptus for kidney stone pain relief and still had a small vial of the original brand we received from my mother's friend. I sat at my desk and opened the small vial and inhaled the aroma. I did not feel agitated and decided to smell both of them for comparison. Sure enough the cheaper non-organic oil made me feel agitated when smelling it and the slightly more expensive organic oil did not. I decided at this point to start investing in the oils I could use. 

Back to my journey... the first example I listed above has to do with the terrible doctor and medicinal experiences I had throughout my life.

On numerous occasions I would go to the doctor complaining of severe stomach aches in my upper ribs or extreme cramping even when I was not on my cycle. For the severe stomach aches I was prescribed an anti-depressant because after several inconclusive tests the doctor told my mother I was faking it and just didn't want to go to school. Read more about that here. A few month's into the anti-depressants and one ultrasound later it was determined that I needed emergency surgery to remove a gal-bladder so full of stones it was likely to rupture. 
Me at 13, helping repaint my great-grandparents home. A year prior to my gallbladder surgery.

For the extreme stomach cramps I had several tests done including an MRI of the abdomen and all results were inconclusive. An investigative surgery revealed that I had endometriosis and a golf ball sized cyst on the outside of a Fallopian tube. The cyst was removed and I immediately started an experimental medication called Lupron. The doctor assured me that the Lupron, even though it would put me into early menopause with hot flashes and mood swings, would lessen the severity of the endometriosis. I was only supposed to receive six months worth of this medication but after it did not help was prescribed to two years of it. 

As an adult, when researching the medication that I was prescribed at sixteen, I discovered that it was originally created to chemically castrate pedophiles and during testing on lab rats showed positive results with pre-endometrium cell reduction in female rats and prostate cancer in male rats. This medication began being used for prostate cancer and experimentally for endometriosis. I was never told that this medication would lessen my bone density or make my teeth fragile. I never knew that I needed to take another medication to increase calcium and other essential vitamins that this drug prevented my body from absorbing. Several lawsuits have been filled on doctors for prescribing it and on the company that created it (click here for a more detailed article). Some women who have had this medication never recover, many have even passed away due to complications from this medicine. I still have unexplained pain in my ribs, bouts of unexplained dizziness, random hot flashes, and trouble producing estrogen. 
As of February 11, 2009, the total tally of reported adverse events to lupron/leuprolide since November 1, 1997, according to the FDA is as follows: 22,667 reported adverse events, with 651 reported deaths from lupron/leuprolide (read more).

Fast forward to 2016 when I was diagnosed with Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. An extremely large percentage of women who have endometriosis also have PCOS. I had most of the same symptoms at the time that I was diagnosed with endometriosis and I should have been tested for PCOS then. Apparently many doctors miss this in women.

A few months before my PCOS diagnosis. At my heaviest weight.

I have a very high pain tolerance but the doctors thought that I was like any other teenager complaining about period cramps when in fact my cramps were debilitating. If I was driving I had to pull over and turn off the car, curl up in the front seat and rock back and forth until the pain stopped. In school I would become clammy, experience a cold sweat, and was unable to even utter out call my mom because of my pain levels. I have dealt with a condition for twelve years without treatment because doctors did not believe me when I told them about my pain levels or that I really was only eating 1200 calories but could not loose weight.

Holistic solutions are simple. I knew I had PCOS before ever being diagnosed. When you experience this much pain over a span of this many years you turn to Google often and end up with the same results. I did have to see a doctor to move forward with my diagnosis and treatment options. Once diagnosed I decided to refuse a life-long prescription, under my doctor's supervision, and try a holistic remedy first. This happened in October of 2016 and since then my blood levels have been great, my symptoms have decreased more than the doctors thought they would even on the prescription, and I am able to look forward with hope. I rely on doctors for ordering blood tests, scans, and treating illness I cannot remedy on my own.
1.5 years after PCOS diagnosis. 100 lbs lost.
If I have a common cold, stomach ache, cramps, etc I can turn to my holistic first aid kit saving time, money, and hassle. I would never tell you to go against doctors orders or to forgo seeing a doctor altogether. I will tell you that doctors are humans too. For a plus-sized woman a doctor will blame all conditions on weight and offer bariatric surgery. This my friends is not a solution I am willing to accept. I have to continuously push doctors to listen to me. I am incredibly in tune with my body and after they have run all the tests they can think of I will ask them yet again to run the one test that will find the issue I have been asking them to test for. If they refuse I will get a second opinion. This can be incredibly frustrating, heart-breaking, and ultimately a huge waste of time.

If the doctor in 2004 had listened to my mom when she said, on my first visit, it seems to me that she is having gallbladder attacks and had given me an ultrasound I wouldn't have missed six months of school or been prescribed a seriously toxic anti-depressant. If the doctor who diagnosed me with endometriosis had run one more blood test to determine whether or not I had PCOS I may not have gained 200 pounds while eating 1200 calories a day. If the world was a better place where heavy metals were kept in building materials and out of health/wellness/and food storage my great-grandmother may not have passed away from Alzheimer's.

There are a lot of ifs that I could live by each day. Many people I could be angry at and blame everything on. Instead I focus on the solutions. When I wake up each morning I am thankful for my ability to become better today than I was yesterday. I look to the example my great-grandparents set of a good hardworking life and I push forward towards my goals. I have pain to deal with and I have doctors to argue with but I never let that get the best of me. I take my essential oils with me wherever I go so I am always armed with solutions. I share my story with others who are also frustrated and help them feel empowered. I love that my experiences and years of research can help others to live a better life as well.
A few weeks ago. Me feeling empowered and enjoying the journey.
This was a really long blog post. I told you from the start it would be. I guess you can see now why it has taken me this long to write it. I want you to know that modern medicine should be relied upon but that you have the power to ask for a second opinion. You also have access to essential oils and holistic remedies that I wish I had known about years ago. If you want to schedule a wellness chat with me I would love to discuss your concerns and help you plan your first step into holistic wellness. I am severely passionate about empowering others with the knowledge I have.

Please let me know what you think in the comments. You can also connect with me on social media, using the pink buttons below to find my pages. If you would like to schedule that wellness chat visit my events page.

Thank you for reading and for being a part of my wellness journey.

:) Be well! -Kayla

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