Hi, I’m Helen
I live in the French Alps with my husband Duncan and our 2 dogs, Snoop and Mythos.
I like climbing, cycling, skiing, playing football and martial arts, oh wait that was my old life! Now I like laying on the sofa, cuddling my 2 dogs, reading my book and on a really energetic day I might manage a short dog walk!!
I feel like my life is in 2 halves, before chronic illness and after.
Before I was sporty, loved travelling, loved partying with friends. I went to university to study Biomedical Chemistry so was fairly intelligent (not that I would have ever said that at the time). I was sociable and had a fairly decent sense of humour even if it was a little dry and relied heavily on sarcasm.
Then came After!
My struggle with chronic illness began shortly after I turned 20. I was vaccinated for Hepatitis B for my upcoming university laboratory placement around the same time I came down with a virus that presented as Glandular fever but all tests came back negative, it took months to shake. After that I was never quite the same, I had frequent stomach upsets with horrendous cramps and fevers that occurred more and more often. I was diagnosed with coeliac disease 8 years later! Great, all I needed to do was avoid gluten and I’d be back to normal! No such luck!! I never fully returned to full health, I still had random stomach problems, increasing fatigue with spells of mania and numerous other unexplained symptoms.
Eight years later came another diagnosis, hashimotos thyroiditis. Which it turns out had shown up in my test results prior to my coeliac diagnosis but was never diagnosed! Again, I thought great, take the medication and I’ll be back to my old self again. Initially I noticed an improvement but that quickly disappeared and I rapidly became sicker and sicker, I started to lose my memory, had random nerve pain in my limbs which then became constant, a permanent upset stomach and agonising cramps, incontinence, debilitating fatigue coupled with horrendous insomnia, slurred speech, difficulty walking, alternating anxiety and depressive episodes and these are just a handful of my symptoms at the time. It really felt like I was slowly dying. It took another 2 years to be diagnosed with pernicious anaemia/vitamin B12 deficiency. This time I had to fight for the correct treatment but I finally got it and noticed a marked improvement. After 2 months the frequency of my treatment was cut right back and all my symptoms returned in full force. With the correct treatment back in place things improved once again but the debilitating fatigue remained along with the brain fog, muscle and joint pain and insomnia not to mention the stomach upsets (not as frequent but still there none the less). I started to feel that this was as good as it was going to get.
Then 2 years later as I turned 40 a friend bought me an online consultation with a nutritionist. Probably the best gift I’ve ever received. I agreed to try the AIP protocol (Autoimmune paleo protocol) for a month. The first 2 weeks were bloody hard and I didn’t think I’d stick it out, but by the end of week 3 I’d started to notice a big difference. One of the first things I noticed was that after 20 years I no longer suffered with insomnia, I could sleep 8 hours straight without waking up!! You’ve no idea how much better you can feel just by sleeping properly! One by one my symptoms improved, better than they’d been in a long time. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t back to normal I still had to manage my fatigue levels but it was now actually possible. My bad days were now much better than what even my good days used to be!
I finally felt that I’d got some semblance of my old self back. I had the best 18 months in a long time.
Then this winter it all came crashing back down when the formulation of my thyroid medication was changed. I rapidly degenerated and it’s taken a complete change in thyroid medication and 9 months later, I’m still not at the same level I was previously. In the middle of this relapse in health my doctor threw in the possible diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.
So what next? Well loads of research and reading into other treatments which is not so easy with brain fog! It was pointed out to me a few months ago in the midst of my relapse that I might benefit from counselling to help me deal with the mental side of all of the above and the grief from losing my old self. That, however is not so easy in French, especially with the brain fog, most days English is a challenge for me! So I thought I’d pour it all out in a blog instead!!
Don’t get me wrong the last twenty years have not been all illness and doom and gloom. I have had some awesome adventures and have lived and worked in some stunning places and met some amazing people! I’ve worked as a chef, hostess, concierge, villa/chalet manager and even a children’s club leader in places such as the Algarve, Mallorca, the Hamptons, the Greek isles, the French & Swiss Alps and the Italian lakes. I now run my own catering business when I’m well enough.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t say the last 8 years especially hadn’t been life altering.