Elise’s Story: Ulcerative Colitis

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) in 2000 at the age of 15. I had been losing weight, experiencing fainting spells and most disconcerting was the extreme abdominal pain, diarrhea and of course the telltale sign of UC; blood.

The doctors showed me a photo of the inside of my colon that they took during my first colonoscopy. Like most people, teenagers, in particular, I had never given much thought to my insides. And there, just like that, I was looking at a bleeding “road rash” along the lining of my colon. I soon learned that there is no cure for Ulcerative Colitis and I would have this condition for the rest of my life. It felt unfair and also bizarre. I came from a healthy family. I danced ballet, played soccer and grew up in a health-conscious household, my meals always included lots of fruits and vegetables. Why was this happening to me?

The next year was one of the most traumatic years of my life. Being a teenage girl is already an insecure, self-conscious time. Now I had this embarrassing disease? It felt impossible to explain it to my friends and boyfriends. At that time there was a troubling lack of awareness and understanding of digestive diseases.

The treatment I underwent that first year was arguably worse than the disease: the dreaded drug Prednisone. My skin broke out, my cheeks inflated like balloons, I experienced hallucinations and frankly felt like I was going crazy. A bone density scan one year later revealed early onset osteoporosis; another adverse side-effect of the Prednisone.

Over the next 10 years, I was on and off different medications, hoping to avoid steroids and surgery at all costs. Every time I had a flare-up my doctors told me I had two inevitable choices; Prednisone or having my colon removed. When I hit the 10 year anniversary of the disease (a grim milestone indeed) my gastroenterologist informed me that my chances of getting colon cancer had skyrocketed and I would need a colonoscopy every year into the foreseeable future.

Despite living with a chronic illness I persevered, went to college and started a career as a television reporter and later moved into public relations. I was relentless. I never wanted this disease to stop me from doing anything but there were many days when I went to work late after a morning spent running to the bathroom in pain.

But all the determination in the world can only get you so far if you don’t have your health and by 2011 my body as a whole began to fail me. I continued to have UC flare-ups and was constantly exhausted, barely having enough energy to get through the day and I experienced several periods of depression. On top of this I was now diagnosed with arthritis in my knees and wrists; likely an effect of so many years of chronic, systemic inflammation. I remember going for dinner with girlfriends one night and my right knee was so swollen and painful I had to limp back to my car in the parking lot after the meal. Along with all of my prescriptions for UC, I was now being handed a prescription for arthritis medicine. I couldn’t believe I had gotten to this strange place in my life. I felt like I was so old before my time. I was falling apart.

That same fall (2011), I met the fiancé of one of my fiancé’s friends at their engagement party. I learned that she had been suffering from a severe digestive disorder and she told me about Russell and his program. She explained how it had dramatically changed her health and she was living like a normal person again. This chance meeting was absolutely the serendipitous sign that I needed. I connected with Russell a few weeks later. And as they say, the rest is history.

Working with Russell has completely transformed my health. For the first time since being diagnosed (with UC, back in 2000) I feel empowered and in control of my body. Russell showed me that my health does not come down to the choice between a destructive drug or a major life-altering surgery.

Russell and I worked together closely for several months, which is funny to write down because the whole time we worked together I was in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and he was in Massachusetts, USA (we worked via phone and email).

I remember starting to feel better just days into his program and I was symptom-free within a few weeks. While I had always been a careful eater, Russell’s healing principles dramatically altered how I viewed food. Like a lot of women, I regarded “healthy food” as food that was low calorie, low fat and wouldn’t make me gain weight. I’ve overhauled and transformed my diet and I know now the foods that are healing and the foods that are harmful. Not to say that I never have treats (I do), but I know how they impact my body and staying on track is one of the keys to success for me. Russell also taught me about natural remedies and I continue to take high-quality nutritional supplements every day, some of which have felt magical in their ability to heal my body. I’ve also become incredibly aware and in-tune with my body. I’ve also implemented Russell’s suggestions on proper daily hydration. I know this habit alone has been huge in my ability to heal and remain healthy.

Fast forward to today. (I am updating my story in February 2015) I’m drug-free. This is incredible for someone with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). I should say that like all things I believe in balance and so I don’t discount modern medicine but I know now that there is a time and a place and most importantly a choice about everything. Today I’m not experiencing any UC symptoms and my arthritis is completely gone. I now spend my days full of energy and recently I shared with Russell another victory (trust me, there have been many since meeting him). My new victory is that I’m able to exercise again! I take dance classes, run and I can even do high-intensity activities like spin class! I would never have been able to do this kind of physical activity before. Not even close!

Ulcerative Colitis is considered an autoimmune disease, and in the past, my poor, confused immune system would fail me and I would get colds and the flu all the time; like every month. Since starting Russell’s program I have been sick one time. Seriously, once. And, it should be noted that this occurred during a pretty intense liver cleanse which was likely the cause. It should also be noted that I work in a hospital! This has been one of the most unbelievable things for me, not getting sick all the time like I used to. I don’t even remember what it feels like to have a sore throat!

This healing journey has had some ups and downs, and I can’t say that I will never have issues with my IBD again. Time and my choices will tell. The difference now is that I have the tools and the knowledge to heal myself.

I’ve often explained it to people like this: I used to think that the absence of disease symptoms meant I was well. No blood today must mean I’m healthy, right? I realize now that this is only one part of the equation. It is indeed the presence of true vitality that defines real health.

Although our time working together is formally over, Russell and I stay in touch and he has always offered advice, support, and guidance whenever I have asked. Even though we have still never met in person, hearing his voice on the phone is always so reassuring and I’m reminded that I’m not alone with my health challenges anymore.

Russell gave me back my health and equally as significant, he gave me hope.

With deep gratitude,

Elise