1. What is your name and what’s one fact not many people know about you…
My name is Katie and not many people know that I absolutely love being in the water and swimming was one of my greatest passions in life growing up.
2. How long have you struggled with chronic illness and what have you been “formally diagnosed” with?
I have struggled with chronic illness since 2015 and have formally been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Coeliac Disease.
3. What has life been like with chronic illness, can you describe life to us at your worst point…
This one is truly difficult to encapsulate in words because it impacts on all aspects of your life.
At my worst, I was bed bound or on a “good day” sofa bound. I was too weak to lift my head up or squeeze toothpaste out of the tube. I felt so depressed and I used to wish that I would go to bed and never wake up.
I have also found it so challenging on a social level, physically people think you look fine but it really isn’t the case. I used to push myself to do things because I didn’t want to let friends down or let the illness define me but then I would flare up and crash for weeks on end! People don’t see the behind the scenes part. One great picture on social media doesn’t show the whole story.
But I can honestly say that I have become a better person since becoming chronically ill, life is taking me on a different journey and I am learning to embrace it and love myself for who I am and where I am at.
4. Why did you decide to seek out “alternative health advice” away from mainstream medicine?
I really was not progressing at all in mainstream medicine, I felt like I was viewed as an inconvenience by specialists and was just being passed round different NHS departments, which was demoralizing and frustrating. I kept declining in strength and the medications they prescribed were making me worse. I just kept saying to myself, “this can’t be it, there has to be another way”. I went for some acupuncture in a desperate attempt to help with pain and sleep, and that is when I took it even further by seeing a naturopath and then a naturopathic nutritionist a.k.a you Rebecca! I truly believe that by taking this functional medicine route it has saved me from a life in a bed where my Mum would be caring for me.
5. Have you done any testing and what showed up?
The answer is oh yes! I have embraced functional medicine testing and it has really provided some targeted insight into my health. The biggest ones were testing positive for chronic Lyme disease, heavy metal toxicity and complete adrenal burnout. These tests are not cheap but they really give you personalized tools to work with; this is empowering and positive because from this you can take steps forwards.
6. How have you found changing your diet and lifestyle? What’s been the best and hardest parts?
I really have embraced and experimented with my diet over the years since becoming chronically ill, to the extent that I am now studying naturopathic nutrition at CNM in Manchester. I want to learn more so that I can make more positive nutritional food choices for my health. It isn’t always easy because it can feel overwhelming to make a lot of changes at first, it is not a quick fix, and it is a complete lifestyle change. One of the hardest things for me was cutting out gluten and dairy from my diet, but when I did, I saw some improvement. I only wish it was easier on a social level because the spontaneity for me has gone with the coeliac diagnosis. I have learnt that aiming for perfection is a waste of energy but being mindful and aware of what you are eating gives us the opportunity to take autonomy over our health.
7. What top 3 things has this whole journey taught you, whether through illness or recovery?
- That I have more strength and resolve than I ever had imagined
- To be grateful and happy for a good health day, I call them “golden days”
- It has changed my life but not for worst, I would have been an English teacher but I feel like life has more exciting plans for me now
8. If you could change the face of healthcare in the UK what would you like to see change?
Gosh, this is a hard one because realistically the plans that I would initiate wouldn’t be financially viable! However, I think more awareness, understanding and acceptance for chronic and/or invisible illnesses are greatly needed. Also, more funding into research i.e. Lyme disease, and more of a drive to get to the root cause of problems is needed, for me suppression is not the answer.
9. What are you most thankful for on this journey?
I am thankful for the person it has shaped me to be but I wouldn’t be here without the support of my parents and grandparents who have embraced this alternative health path with me and encouraged and supported me through the darkest of times. I also am thankful for the people that have stuck by me and supported me, and new friends I have met along the way. Our paths would never have crossed if life hadn’t taken me down this route!
10. Do you have any book/resources you would recommend?
Yes, far too many but here are a few that have helped me in the early days of starting to recover/heal:
- Beat Fatigue with Yoga DVD (Fiona Agombar) or YouTube chair/bed yoga
- Madeline Shaw and Deliciously Ella cookbooks
- A resource available to everyone for free… the outdoors! Lying, sitting outside in the sunshine when it is around or a short stroll/walk whatever you can manage do some of it outside because nature is powerful
- Current additions to my ridiculous reading list… the Breathing book; the China study; Dr Myhill it’s mitochondria, not hypochondria; Buhner on Lyme; Bad Pharma.
11. Has recovery been quick and simple?
I am still on my healing path and so far it has not followed a linear route for me, if there was a quick fix I am sure we would all be doing it and feeling great. I think the biggest turning point for me was accepting my health conditions and the limitations that came with it. I didn’t really start to recover properly until I stopped fighting against it.
12. What are your plans for the future?
I feel like reciting the greatest showman here! “Watch out world here I come”! I have big hopes and dreams and why not! My true passion is to heal, to be a naturopathic nutritionist and to help others heal and I believe that it is possible. Nobody is a write off and should never be made to feel that way, there is always hope and where there is hope, there is strength.