Chris’s Story: Crohn’s Disease and Pyoderma Gangrenosum
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in October of 2013. After I was diagnosed I spent the next two years relatively symptom-free, thanks to a Gluten Free diet and the help of some less intense, more maintenance based pharmaceutical medications. I would occasionally deviate from this treatment plan with some beers on weekends and special occasions but for the most part, I stuck to this unofficial game plan and was able to maintain an active lifestyle. In August of 2015, I began seeing signs of a flare up after a busy couple of weeks that included a move to a new apartment, a few nights out, long periods of physical activity out in the sun and finally a wedding five hours from home. On top of all that, I was starting my first year as a full-time teacher in September and was replacing a math teacher who had been teaching for over 30 years and was beloved in the school and town where I was going to be teaching. This certainly did not cause me severe anxiety or anything drastic like that but knowing the situation, as well as all the unknown elements of the job, did still weigh on me a little bit, enough to definitely not help what was already happening to my stomach and my body.
Making matters worse as I attempted to get this flare up under control was the fact that when I was originally diagnosed back in 2013, I was working in the state of Pennsylvania at the time, so the doctors I dealt with were all based out there. Upon returning to New Jersey to change my career and become a teacher I had never reached out and found a new GI doctor to work with, mainly because I had been symptom-free for the past two years and thought I had everything under control.
I ended up going to a GI doctor-practice near where I grew up and they began treating me and trying to help me get my flare up under control. Unfortunately, as is the case with most gastroenterology doctors and practices these days, their solution was to use pharmaceutical medications. Because I was in bad shape and was having 7-10 urgent bowel movements a day, many of which included bad diarrhea and occasional constipation, I just took whatever they told me to take. Again, this was the first flare up I’d had since my original diagnosis, so I truly did not know what to do.
I started the school year and managed to get through each day without having to run out of the classroom in the middle of class to use the bathroom, but often times I would run to go right after my students left the room and would go multiple times between classes. Just getting through the school day was exhausting and was taking a toll on me physically. I’d lost close to 30 pounds in about a month or so, and by the middle of September my symptoms were not improving and I was starting to experience negative side effects from the medicine I was taking.
I had a colonoscopy in early September and shortly after that, I started to feel excruciating pain in my lower back and spine. I was also experiencing bouts of nausea that always seemed to happen as I was having a bowel movement. I would be on the toilet and would have to grab a garbage basket so I didn’t throw up on the floor. This even happened a few times when I was at work! When I called the GI practice to let my GI doctor know what was happening, I would never get to speak with him directly. Instead, I would report my symptoms to one of the nurses, they would speak to the GI doctor and then I would get a call back with two new prescriptions I had to fill. No explanation, no timetable, just a name of a different pharmaceutical drug or drugs that would hopefully “work”.
They also offered no explanation for the pain in my lower back and spine and refused to even consider the possibility that the colonoscopy they made me get might have had at least something to do with the pain I was experiencing.
Finally, after numerous prescriptions and combinations of medications had failed, my GI doctor literally looked me in the eye and told me I had only one option left, and that was to start using (a drug called) Remicade. I was told there was nothing else that could be done to improve my symptoms.
At this point, I was fed up with this particular doctor and practice and refused to believe there were no other options out there I could explore. My parents and I then went to a different GI doctor who came very highly recommended. He was very helpful and put me on a high dose of Prednisone to help put out the “bonfire happening in my stomach”, as he called it. This worked well and his plan was to have me on the high dose of Prednisone for a few weeks before gradually tapering off the medicine as my symptoms improved.
The prednisone worked well at first but as my schedule began to get busier and busier in the wintertime I started noticing some looser stools and other signs of another flare up. At this time I was also following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which was helpful but not enough to overcome the lack of sleep and high stress schedule I was putting my body through. Finally, in the last weekend of February, I began another bout with a full on flare up. At this point I was almost done with the tapering off of the Prednisone but when the flare up happened my GI doctor had me increase my dosage again. I stayed on the Prednisone through all of March.
At first, it did not help much and again my daily dosage had to be increased. I spent all of March Madness, my absolute favorite time of the year, rotating between the couch in my apartment and the couch in the living room of my parent’s house, watching games and running back and forth to the bathroom. I was hesitant to go out anywhere or visit anyone, so I just stuck to the two places where I felt most comfortable. All in all, I ended up taking Prednisone for seven months straight.
As March 2016 came to an end and my symptoms began to improve, the plan with my GI doctor was to finish the Prednisone and begin taking Apriso, a less intense and maintenance based pharmaceutical drug. However, after seeing what all the different medications had done to my body and the highs and lows I had experienced throughout the school year already, I wanted to try and treat my symptoms without using any pharmaceutical medications. I was tired of how the different medications had made my body feel. Because of the numerous side effects associated with each medication, I felt like my body was always trying to fight off those side effects while also somewhat benefiting from the medication. I felt like I was only going to make and feel minimal progress with this approach.
Some of the side effects I experienced on the pharmaceutical medications included night sweating, trouble sleeping and acne on my face. I also just felt general body soreness and fatigue, which offset some of the small improvements I was seeing with my stomach. What made this whole process more frustrating was that, in speaking with my GI doctor about what I was experiencing, he would always say and admit that I was feeling was because of the medication. This was what ultimately made me want to abandon the pharmaceutical route. Not only were there always going to be side effects to deal with, the medical professionals knew this and there wasn’t anything they could do to help. I had also seen the benefits of eating better and following a healthier diet, so I was intrigued as to how far that could go in helping me feel better.
I was tired of relying on pills to help me have a somewhat normal life. More than that, though, I was tired of always having the worry in the back of mind that one mistake would send me into another flare up, despite how I had been feeling and what medication I was taking. Simply put, I was fed up with dealing with this disease and I wanted to live the healthy and active lifestyle I was accustomed to before I got diagnosed. I was not going to let this disease prevent me from living my life any longer.
In the last week of March, 2016, my Mom had begun reading Russell’s book and reached out to him to explain my situation. My mom had been given Russell’s book by his sister who happens to live down the street from my parents in Neshanic Station, NJ. After their first conversation, Russell and I spoke for the first time a few days later and I immediately knew I wanted to begin his program.
At the time I was still taking a small amount of Prednisone along with Apriso, and I expressed my desire to treat my symptoms without taking any pharmaceutical medications. I also expressed to Russell my desire to remove the constant doubt in the back of my mind as to whether or not I was going to flare up again.
Russell not only assured me he could help me permanently remove that doubt, but he also told me he could help me get rid of my Crohn’s disease altogether. That was all I needed to hear and at that point I did not care what his program entailed, I was going to follow it to a tee and reap all the benefits.
I started to see positive results right away under Russell’s program, which I officially started during the first week of April, 2016. My symptoms had been relatively under control but under Russell’s guidance I started noticing a big difference in how I felt overall, while my symptoms continued to improve. I had more energy throughout the day and I just felt healthier overall. It was fun to learn about and see how everything I was doing and eating under Russell’s program was beneficial for my entire my body, not just my intestines.
However, it turned out there was one final hurdle I was going to have to jump over!
Right before starting my program with Russell I had noticed some swelling in my right ankle. As I started Russell’s program, the swelling began to spread and I started experiencing severe pain in both of my legs and back. I walked with a severe limp for about three weeks to a month, and was trying anything and everything to get the swelling down. I would come home from work and put my right ankle in an Epson salt bath or bury it in ice. I did these things on my own and not from any consultation with Russell.
Nothing seemed to be working and there were times I was afraid to put both feet on the ground when getting out of bed, for fear they would both give out and I would fall down. What made this all the more confusing and frustrating was that my stomach-intestines had never felt better. In talking with Russell we thought it might have been just my body’s way of getting rid of the inflammation that had been present for so long and that it would eventually pass.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and after a few weeks, I started getting red marks on my right leg from the knee down. I had to take Tylenol every four hours just to get through the day and if I did not take the Tylenol just walking and getting out of my seat was extremely difficult. Eventually, the red marks on my leg began to grow bigger and after soaking them in Epson salt the marks began to rise and looked like they were about to pop.
At this point, now at the end of April, the pain was so bad I could not stand up and stay standing under my own power and without experiencing sharp, shooting pains down my legs. I went to the hospital and was originally diagnosed with cellulitis, given antibiotics and sent home. Two days later my condition worsened and we went back to the ER. I was then told I had an infection and the doctors thought it was MRSA. Doctors began taking samples from the marks on my leg and testing them for MRSA while also preparing me for surgery, which I would need to clean out three spots on my legs where the spots were the biggest and darkest.
In asking the doctors why I got this infection, they indicated I got the infection because of how much my immune system had been weakened due to the medications I was taking to treat my Crohn’s Disease for the past two years.
This made sense since I had been on Prednisone and other immune suppressing drugs for the last seven months. In the end, the samples taken by the doctors turned out to be negative for MRSA, so doctors gave it an official diagnosis of Pyoderma Gangrenosum, which is a condition that causes tissue to become necrotic and causes deep ulcers to form, usually on the legs. They said this condition was common with Crohn’s disease patients and could happen at any time but especially when a patient’s immune system has been compromised and suppressed as much as mine had been.
(You can google Pyoderma Gangrenosum images but be forewarned that the images are ugly, shocking, disgusting and gross.)
Despite being given all types of antibiotics to treat the infection in my legs as well as pain medications, my stomach-intestines held up very well, which was a huge relief and was definitely because of Russell’s program. The surgery left me with three wounds on my leg. Two of the wounds were about the size of a golf ball, one on my upper calf and one down by my ankle. The third and biggest wound, right in the middle of my shin, was much bigger and was roughly the size of a baseball.
After a few days of excruciating pain and needing to use a walker just to move around, the pain went away and I had to wrap my leg and cover the wounds for just over two months.
In caring for and treating the wounds on my leg, doctors gave me some prescribed wound gel but I also benefited greatly from spraying ASEA and applying RENU 28 on my wounds numerous times throughout the day. A very generous friend also gave me some free ASEA to use to help my wounds heal faster. This combination worked great and every time I saw my surgeon for a follow-up appointment, he said my wounds were healing ahead of schedule!
My stomach continued to improve throughout this whole process, and as of June 23, 2016, I officially stopped taking all pharmaceutical medications. The only reason I had had to go back on them was to ensure the infection did not come back after the surgery and again because of Russell’s program my GI symptoms stayed in remission throughout this whole horrendous infection ordeal.
As of this testimonial (late August 2016) I am still off all pharmaceutical medications and have absolutely no plans of ever being on them again. I have learned so much from Russell about things like nutrition and hydration and how important they are to achieve and maintain good health. I have established a great routine in terms of what diet to follow, what supplements to take and when to take them, and that day-to-day routine has greatly helped me live the life I want to live.
It has been very gratifying to hear and see people’s reactions when they see me now, after seeing and hearing how I looked and felt just a few months ago. I’ve also enjoyed seeing people’s reactions when I tell them I have Crohn’s Disease because they are shocked at how healthy I look and happy I seem…because I no longer have ANY of the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease!
Almost everyone I’ve talked to about it, knows someone else who has the disease or something close to it and almost everyone comments on how their friend or family member is struggling or struggled for years with the disease.
The part that always amuses me is when I tell people about my relationship with Russell and how we are working together to get rid of the disease completely. Without fail people will always respond with amazement and say they had no idea that was even possible. Seeing their reaction makes me want to sustain my achievement of complete remission even more and I am extremely happy as to how far I have come and how close I feel to reaching my ultimate health goals.
For anyone struggling with Crohn’s or any other digestive issues, I cannot recommend Russell and his program enough. It is more than worth your time and effort to investigate his program further. You will not only gain the best health of your life but you’ll gain a lifelong resource, mentor, and friend in the process.