Written byBarbara Ocampo-Victorio
December 3, 2017
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when your doctor tells you that you’re suffering from an incurable disease? In my mind, I heard, "You’re dying." And literally, that’s how I had been feeling. A year ago, I was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis. For those who don’t know what it is, endometriosis is a female disorder that affects approximately 176 million girls and women (ages 12 to 60) worldwide during reproductive years. The staggering number of women clearly tells me that this is no longer just a "condition"; it’s an epidemic.
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that forms the lining of your uterus grows outside of your uterine cavity. It spreads to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and tissue lining of the pelvic area causing adhesions and scarring. Common symptoms include debilitating pelvic pain, excessive bleeding, long periods (more than seven days), nausea and vomiting, painful intercourse, and infertility. There is no cure, and there are no clear causes for the disorder.
Endometriosis quickly took over my life.
There are other adverse health conditions that can also be caused by endometriosis, one of which is anemia. When I was diagnosed, my doctor found that I was extremely anemic due to my excessive bleeding. I had to increase my iron levels immediately as I was on the verge of getting a blood transfusion. I was completely overwhelmed by my diagnosis. I had no idea what endometriosis was. This explained the excruciating cramps and excessive, heavy bleeding during my period, which only continued to increase in severity each month. The cramps were so severe that Motrin and Tylenol taken in conjunction didn’t even alleviate the pain.
My doctor recommended a treatment plan that included pain medication, hormone therapy, and other drugs to get my iron levels up and relieve some of the symptoms I was experiencing. At first, I decided to move forward with the conventional treatment plan. I started with the iron pills, which made me extremely nauseous. When I started having a negative reaction to the iron pills and learning about all of the various side effects of the other drugs, I had to think twice. I don’t even get the flu shot, and I was about to immerse myself in a myriad of drugs that may or may not make me feel better. If I’m going to be an "experiment," I’d rather take things into my own hands. I know my body well, and I’m very in tune with how I am feeling. So I decided to take my health into my own hands.
First, I looked at what I was putting in my body.
My first task was to increase my iron levels to help eliminate my anemia. I researched remedies for increasing iron levels and I learned about blackstrap molasses, a natural alternative to help increase my iron levels. I began taking a tablespoon daily and increased my intake of foods high in iron. I also decided to change my eating habits and went completely vegan and organic. I decided that food would be my medicine. I also increased my intake of probiotic foods and added a natural probiotic supplement to rid my body of toxins and heal my gut, which could also help to alleviate my symptoms. There were so many new things that I was learning, and although I make it sound simple, it wasn't easy, and these new, clean habits definitely took some getting used to.
Then, I examined what I was putting ON my body.
My disease was focused in my pelvic area, so it had to also stem from something I was habitually using in and around the area. I decided to change my feminine care products to organic, unbleached cotton. I read somewhere that traditional feminine care is laden with harmful chemicals that could be entering the body. And if you think about it, it's pretty scary: Women are using feminine care products 24/7 during their menstrual cycle.
A Newsweek article claims that the average woman wears a tampon for more than 100,000 hours in her lifetime, and the same applies if you are wearing pads or liners. What many people don't know is that the FDA does not regulate feminine hygiene products. Toxins can come from the chlorine used to bleach cotton, which contains a by-product called dioxin, a known carcinogen. Nonorganic cotton can also harbor some residue from chemical herbicides and pesticides. I also cleaned up my beauty, bath, and home products to more natural, "greener" formulas.
Adopting this holistic approach to healing really paid off.
After a month, my iron levels were above normal. The severity of my cramps also lessened, so instead of experiencing debilitating cramps that confined me to bed for a few days, I only felt pain a couple of days before my menstrual cycle. My bleeding also lessened, although I was still lightly spotting throughout the month.
After about six months, the symptoms were still persistent but not as severe as they had been before I began my holistic lifestyle. I continued seeing my doctor, and she supported my use of natural remedies, but she eventually recommended a hysterectomy to completely alleviate my condition. It was understandable: I was suffering from stage 4 endometriosis, the most severe stage of the disease, which means that it had spread all over my pelvic organs.
A few women I know have had hysterectomies, so I decided to consider it. But after doing the research, I was having reservations, and it felt too drastic. I still wanted to try alternative ways to deal with my symptoms. It was at this time that I met a woman who referred me to her acupuncturist, which turned out to be some form of divine intervention. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and acupuncture have been shown to be beneficial for managing and treating endometriosis and its debilitating symptoms, so I started getting acupuncture and trying out some herbs.
Acupuncture was the next step in my healing journey.
According to the acupuncturist I saw, "Endometriosis is caused by uterine blood stagnation. The stagnation creates the ideal environment for illness. Acupuncture helps to break up the stagnation to promote better circulation for the blood to move freely. When illness develops, the body creates a new equilibrium to accommodate the new health condition. Acupuncture helps to bring the body back to its normal, healthy equilibrium, moving more blood and energy throughout the body."
In addition to weekly acupuncture sessions, he also recommended Chinese herbal medicine to help with my excessive bleeding and painful cramps. The results with acupuncture and TCM in just two months have been miraculous for me. I have no pain. None whatsoever—even prior to or during my menstrual cycle. My bleeding between periods has completely stopped, and I have so much more energy than I did before.
When I think about my illness and what I have been through the past year, it’s so amazing that I managed my disease completely naturally with no drugs and no side effects. That being said, it's an ongoing journey. Especially coming from the United States, I was so accustomed to getting a pill or prescription to instantly heal my pain and illness. Taking time for myself, practicing natural healing, and taking my health into my own hands was the best thing I've ever done.
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