I was a fussy baby, crabby kid and a raging teenager. I started to experience chronic stomach problems when I was a toddler. By the time I was 6 I had already undergone multiple abdominal surgeries to help alleviate the pain. While the surgery helped, it didn’t fix the underlying problem. I jumped from specialist to specialist and typically left without answers and yet another prescription medication – I never felt heard by my doctor. By the time I was in college, I was prescribed 13 different medications. What started out as a GERD diagnosis turned into a laundry list of diagnoses: mast cell activation syndrome, asthma, IBS, allergies, anxiety, insomnia, eosinophilic disease, PCOS, and ADD. I felt like zombie yet I wanted to jump out of my skin. I hated the way that these medications made me feel but they were all that I knew.
During my freshman year of college I hit rock bottom. I was in so much pain and my doctor told me the next step was to take a chemotherapy drug to treat my out of whack immune system. I was 19 and I knew that I couldn’t live my life like this but I didn’t know how to change course. Around this time, I started to babysit for a family that introduced me to the whole new world of functional medicine, which is based on getting to the root cause rather than treating symptoms. I knew that I had to see a functional medicine doctor but I didn’t have the money (most functional medicine doctors are not covered by insurance). I was working as an EMT and a babysitter all while attending college full time. Despite not having the money, I made an appointment to see the doctor and just put it on a credit card. I knew that I had to make this work. My future (and, honestly, my life) was dependent on it.
The first thing that this doctor did was prescribe me an elimination diet and told me to start a food journal. Within weeks I found out that gluten, dairy, and soy made my body very sick (I eventually found out that I have celiac disease, but more on that in another post). I also found out that as I started to eat real food (I eliminated all processed food and alcohol), my need for all of the drugs that I had been taking my whole life went away! I had to slowly eliminate some drugs because my body became chemically addicted to them, but others I totally eliminated.
This didn’t just brighten my future, it changed the whole course of my future. Everything I did focused on feeling better. While I was at Pitt I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to get a certification in health coaching. I enrolled with hopes that it would give me the knowledge on how to better take care of myself. Little did I know it would build the foundation for my career.
When I graduated college, I was working as a paramedic, but my heart was set on seeing people get better with diet and lifestyle changes. But the idea of working for myself as a health coach seemed overwhelming considering that there was no guaranteed paycheck and I was still paying off my credit card from seeing the functional medicine doctor! While working on the ambulance I would daydream about helping people with their diet.
I ultimately quit my job as a paramedic and took the plunge as a health coach. I started with family and friends and then it grew. As I met with more clients, I saw that there was a need for people to learn how to cook in a way that will help heal their bodies. I took on personal chef clients, which eventually led to me teaching clients how to cook in their own home. I wake up every day and love what I do. It is especially gratifying to know that these people are changing their lives!
I never would have guessed that the thing I struggled with most as a child and teen was the thing that set me up for a fulfilling career. What if the thing you are struggling with today is paving the way for you to have a brighter future?