Updated: Mar 9, 2020
"Why is this so painful?" I was looking in the mirror at my left eye- red with blurry vision. Something in my gut told me that it wasn't pink eye and I found myself at the ophthalmologist office that afternoon. Apparently when they heard my symptoms over the phone, appointments were moved around and I was told to come in immediately.
I was diagnosed with iritis-inflammation of the iris and was told to administer steroid drops every hour as well as drops to keep my eye dilated so the pressure wouldn't cause permanent damage.
It didn't help. I returned to the office two painful days later and received stronger steroids as well as a blood panel to determine why my iritis was stronger than the norm.
I was working night shift as an oncology nurse when my results came through. HLA-B27 positive. This gene showed that my iritis was autoimmune and predisposed me to an autoimmune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS).
Fast forward two years later, I'm married, living in Chattanooga, and now working day shift in trauma. I don't even know how I made it out of bed that morning. I felt like I had been hit by a truck and had a flu-like body ache. Every joint was screaming and my lower back screamed the loudest. Moving around and working helped but the location of the pain was alarming. It wasn't my back muscles, it was inside my spine and the intensity was sickening. I remembered reading about AS years ago so I googled it and I had every symptom listed.
After another flare up, several doctor visits, and an MRI, my rheumatologist gave me the diagnosis of AS. I looked at my husband and smiled, with tears in my eyes. I was relieved and heart broken at the same time. My suspicions were confirmed and it was time to start feeling better. I gave myself a biologic injection once a week for a year. Three days after the first injection, my brain fog cleared and I will never forget that moment. I was hiking in the woods with my husband and I could see how beautiful it was outside. It felt good to breathe, I could think without straining, and I felt happy and well. It was like a veil had been lifted and I could finally see the world again.
I knew taking the biologic made me feel better but I also knew what it was doing to my immune system. It was decreasing the attack against myself but also decreasing my ability to attack illnesses. As a nurse, I get exposed to infections like TB and flu on a regular basis and this scared me.
After one year, I made the decision to get off my biologic medication. It was hard because I wanted to take care of my immune system, I wanted to take care of my disease, but I also wanted to be healthy enough to become a mother.
Three weeks later... another flare up. I had heard that chiropractors could help with autoimmune conditions but I figured that when you are in that much pain, you need strong medications, not natural supplements. Out of options, I went to the chiropractor and told him my story. I was put on supplements that helped my liver filter out antibodies so that they don't hang around and attack me. He also started me on the AIP diet. After 1 month, I felt better than I ever had before. I was pain free, I had a lot of energy, and I lost five pounds of water weight/swelling.
Fast forward two years later, and I still can't get pregnant. After many tests and appointments with a reproductive specialist they determined that I had endometriosis. Even changing my lifestyle didn't get rid of all the inflammation! I went ahead and had the endometriosis surgery. Two months later, and I was pregnant with our son, Vance.
My autoimmune story will continue on but what I've learned is to attack the ROOT of the problem, there is a time for natural therapies like diet and supplements, and a time for aggressive therapy like biologics and surgery.
Every story is different. I hope you learn something from my story and I look forward to being apart of your story!