My Story & How I became Gluten-free Print Recipe Print Recipe

me at an early age, baking at the cabin.

Have you always been sick?

At an early age, I had a lot of stomach problems. My mom was always taking me to the doctor because I had stomach pains. My first GI doctor was at age 14. They all said I had IBS, plus a few random food allergies, the main one being dairy.

In college I got sick again, and back to the doctors I went. I bounced between naturalpathic and traditional doctors. At age 20, I got a colonoscopy AND endoscopy at the same time. Everyone else in there could have been been grandparent. For months, I went through testing, weight loss and a scary misdiagnosis. Still, no answers.

I was sick a lot. On a positive note, I learned how to listen to my body and know what foods worked for me and what didn’t. I also developed a high pain tolerance. Somedays that’s a positive, still. There were several ups & downs over the years, but most the time I just learned to deal with the pain or discomfort.

 

What were you doing before now, career wise?

About three years ago I was recruited to work at an advertising agency down in San Diego.  That was my background, advertising. My husband and I, both born and raised in Seattle decided to take on the adventure and go. I was on the account side and worked loooooong hours, hardly saw my husband, mostly because we worked opposite hours. At that time, I started a blog, different than what it is now. It was basically pretty pictures I found online, anything from fashion to design to food. It was my distraction and took me to a happy place. I even assisted a wedding coordinator, thinking that’s what I wanted to do. It only took me 2 weddings to realize that it wasn’t. <I moved the blog posts over so if you go back in my archived, it’s all still there.>


San Diego. Taken just before I got sick.

When did everything get worse?

April of 2010 I was at an event when my left arm went numb and then started tingling. After a while I finally told someone, fearful that it could be a heart attack. Complete coldness came over my body and I was starting to shake. That was it, time to go home.

A few days later, my arm was still numb and there was tingling in my fingers. It was late at night when my husband and I decided it was probably best to go to urgent care, just in case. Hours of waiting, I finally got in and immediately was sent over for an MRI. It was 3 am when we were told my heart was just fine, but suggested I call my doctor first thing.

 

What did the Doctors say?

My internal medicine doctor recommended I see a neurologist. The first visit, he determined it was a herniated disk in my neck that is pinching or has damaged the nerves down my left-hand side and prescribed me a few different medications [blog post]. The following week, it spread. My left leg was tingly and then I started getting headaches, but only on the left side. I was misdiagnosed, it was not a herniated disk.

The second visit, I failed one of the physical test, which pointed that there was something going on in my brain. That was really the first time I started to get worried.

For a month, I was in an out of doctors and urgent care. I can’t even begin to count the number of MRI’s I had after that. Then it was EMG’s, EEG’s and countless blood draws – so many I became anemic. Everyone trying to figure out what was going on. At this point, they had me highly medicated for all the pain, mainly in my arm and in my head. We’re talking heavy meds as in morphine and oxycodone, just to name a few.

Throughout everything, I was still optimistic, probably why no one knew just how bad it was. I always trust that everything happens for a reason, always. However, it reached a point for my husband. He made calls to both our parents, asking for help.

I ended up having to go into urgent care late one night and I remember waking up and seeing my mom. It was as if someone wrapped me in a comfort blanket and rocked me like a baby. Mom’s sure have their ways. That night I stayed in her hotel room since it was close to the hospital and I had an appointment for a spinal tap the following day. I almost wish they didn’t tell me what that involved.

Later, Ben’s dad flew down. The plan was for him to take our dog and drive him back to their place in Eastern Washington, that way Ben could care for me.

It had been almost a week, no diagnosis and my mom seconds from taking me back to Seattle to see the doctors back home. She went for it. We were going to fly home, Ben would drive back with his dad & the dog and my sister would fly up from San Francisco.

Then it got worse. I started vomiting 24 hours before we were suppose to leave.

 

How did you end up in the hospital?

We stuck with the plan. Thankfully, I made it to the airport without any accidents. That was a good sign. We arrived and an airport attendant met us at the car with a wheel chair. I could hardly walk. Mom checked us in and within moments I was throwing up. Thankfully mom was prepared and had a bag already in my lap. Only thing was it broke. In my lap. That was just the beginning.

I proceeded to throw up the entire way to the gate. I don’t even remember the security check.

The breaking point. Sitting at our gate and a woman asked my mom “is she a cancer patient?” I remember in the background my mom calling my doctor crying and saying, “okay, we’ll be right there.”

She grabbed my wheel chair and ran like hell, straight to a taxi. I threw up the entire way and continued in the car ride to the hospital.

I was immediately hooked up to an IV [story of my life at that point] to stop me from throwing up and start to hydrate me. I was miserable. I cried as I continued to throw up, water at that point. We waited for hours. Finally, without going through urgent care, I was immediately  submitted into the hospital.

Meanwhile, my mom called the family. Thankfully, Ben and his dad were just outside of San Francisco. He called his sister to look for flights from SF to SD. With an hour before take off, Ben raced through the airport, just barely making the flight. My sister had already arrived in Seattle so her and my dad were on the next flight out the following day. It was all a blessing.

The first few days were rough. They found that fluid was leaking in my brain so they had to put me under to stop it. I don’t really remember much of that.

It was about a week that I spent in the hospital. I remember celebrating Mother’s Day there. Thankfully we were all together, just not in the most ideal place to be celebrating.

 

One night, Ben laid next to me in that tiny hospital bed and said, “so I got a promotion, but it’s in Cupertino.” I just remember looking at him and saying, “I don’t know where Cupertino is, but I’m in.” I decided I would not be returning to advertising and it was time for a fresh new start.

My saint of a husband never left my side unless my mom reassured him that he’ll feel better after a warm shower. He would get up with me every night when the nurses came in. I wasn’t allowed to sleep through night because my blood pressure and heart rate would drop to scary levels, so he’d get me some crackers and gatorade. He made me smile and sometimes I’d even let out a laugh. Then again, I didn’t have to look at me. He didn’t smile much.

So, after all that the doctors come back with… it’s a virus. and… it’s likely that it lives in your body.

First it was MS and now it’s a virus. Alright then…

I didn’t fight it, but my husband did. I just wanted to go home.

 

Then what? How did you become gluten-free?

I continued to go in so my doctor could monitor me. There was something off with my blood cell count and somehow led them to find that my intestines were damaged. They tried to test for celiac, but I had been off gluten for a long time that it came back negative. They told me to eliminate all gluten as if I had celiac, that way I didn’t continue to damage my intestines. I was also down to 89 lb’s and what’s interesting, going gluten-free was how I put my weight back on. I say, that’s interesting because that’s a sign of celiac disease.

Since I was still incredibly sick, my mom found a natural path. I didn’t like her. Then we moved onto an acupuncturist, who I ended up seeing 3 times a week for almost 2 hours <a visit> and it was THE ONLY thing that got me back on my feet. I don’t understand it, but I swear he saved me. That and removing gluten.

It was only a month an a half before I was moved and settling into our new home, Cupertino. While we lived at the hotel where my husband worked, I was determined to figure out what I could do without going back to advertising. That’s when I decided to create a food blog.

 

How was the blog, WITH STYLE & GRACE created?

I have always enjoyed cooking and baking. When I was a kid, I make cake after cake after cake with my easy-bake oven. I was mostly fascinated with baking as a child and it wasn’t until I was older, like college, that I actually got into cooking. I decided my new blog would be about food and it would be all original content. I didn’t want to keep asking permission to use people’s photos or risk getting into trouble. I finally got myself into the kitchen, starting cooking and baking. My mom passed down her old DSLR camera so I could photograph my food. A year and a half ago was the first time I picked up a “big girl” camera. I practiced for months and months. I took workshops. Google became my best friend. I invested in a macro lens and over time I continued to learn, change my style and practice practice practice.

Less than a year ago, I transitioned the blog to be all gluten-free. Originally it wasn’t and was having my husband do all the taste testing. How was I suppose to share recipes without tasting the food? It was’t working for me. Now, it’s all 100% me. If I won’t eat it or serve it to my guests, I wouldn’t post it.

In my photographs, I aim to capture the beauty in gluten-free. There are so many awful photos or recipes without images and when someone is going through a huge lifestyle change, it gets depressing. I speak from experience.

 

Are you better now?

I’m a whole new person. I occasionally get pains in my left arm, but I take that as a reminder to slow down. Oh and I’m definitely at a healthy weight now. On a serious note, gaining my healthy weight and not being able to fit into my “regular” clothes was challenging. I got help from a professional, and still today I have to work at self love.

 

What’s your dream?

I want to reach and inspire millions of people. Whether their miserable in their job and need support to leave and follow their passion, those newly diagnosed celiac or someone who’s purely just looking to make changes in their life and food is one of them.

I dream of writing a cookbook and start to bring beauty to that small “specialty diets” section of the bookstore. I want to get people excited to eat gluten-free during that time when they feel like that can’t eat anything. To help support parents with kids who are celiac. Help people throw beautiful parties without their guests knowing the food is gluten-free.

I’ve offered to go into people’s homes, prepare food for <or with> them and help them transition into living a gluten-free life. It’s expensive, but it’s absolutely worth it.

Healthy me. Photographed by Meg Perotti

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who’s prayed and supported me through those tough times. Neither Ben or I couldn’t have managed it all without you. Thank you.

Life is too short.  Stop waiting, go after your passion and live it up!

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  • http://thefauxmartha.com/ Melissa // thefauxmartha

    I remember reading bits of pieces of your story when I first fell in love with your blog (and read every last post!). You are one courageous lady in so many different respects. So thankful you are well and here to tell your story.

  • http://twitter.com/arecipejunkie Michelle

    Thank you for sharing your story.  I can only imagine the roller coaster of emotions as you wrote this.  All those misdiagnoses & unknowns….your strength & support from your loved ones. You are an inspiration! I’m happy you are better and were able to find out what was happening. Your blog is beautiful in more ways than one 🙂

  • moljeano

    You already are inspiring and an incredible woman.  Wow, thank you for sharing this.  You are wonderful.

  • Erika Nolan

    Wow…crazy story and so thankful for the happy ending.  Sounds too familiar as with my second son, I was days from death as my lungs were filled with blood at 6 weeks pregnant.  Our bodies know how to bounce back but it is a scary place.  LOVE that photo of you…gorgeous healthy girl.
    Thanks for sharing.
    xo
    E

  • http://www.archerfriendly.com/ archer

    Thanks for sharing your story and being so vulnerable with us.  Beautiful, you are.

  • Sara Grace Lewis

    I have been a site visitor for a while, but just now (thanks to Meg) read your story. I’ve tried being gf (& cf) for ADHD, but I love baking so so so much, it’s hard. As I see here, it’s POSSIBLE. Thanks for re-inspiring me!
    xo

  • http://twitter.com/nina_henz Nina Henz

    I am at a loss for words.. and really impressed by how incredibly strong and positive you are. I am going to be tested for celiac soon because I often have stomach aches even if I eat slowly and healthy. But this just seems like nothing compared to what you had to go through. Thank you for your story and for showing me how blessed I really am. I am glad you are happy and healthy again and would love to get my hands on your cookbook! 🙂

  • Joann

    That is an empowering story. Thank you for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Loved! every! word! So grateful that you walked into the yoga studio all that time ago!  So grateful to be a part of each others health story!

  • Shella Angelia

    I just found your blog and this is the first post i read (then i know i definitely have to bookmark this blog)Thank youuu! You will never know how this post have an impact in my heart! All i can say is you have inspired me and give me courage! You’re such a blessing! 🙂

  • Natalie

    Hi there, friend of Lisa Reeder’s. She introduced me to your blog. I love photography as well and wanted to know more about the piece of wood you use as a table when you shoot. Mind me asking where you got it?

    natalie (at)  hmgseattle.com 

    Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Hi! Yes, I think we actually met you several years ago – can’t remember the where exactly… My husband actually made the board. It’s pine board, about 2’x2′ from Lowes. We bought 14 pieces and glued them together – 7 on top, horizontal, 7 on bottom, vertical. Then painted with an exterior stain. Hope this helps!

  • Rocquelj

    I’m almost in tears because I have been telling myself to follow your passion, and I keep resisting.  Thank you for being an angel to remind me of my purpose.

  • Andrea

    Thank you for sharing your story. I was diagnosed with Celiac in Feb 2012 after years of bad belly aches. It’s been a change (I LOVE pasta)! But am so glad to find out what was wrong all this time. So happy I found a cool blog to come to!

    P.S I have family in Portland! There are tons of gluten-free places there.

  • Anonymous

    I’m so happy they figured out the problem and now you can eat the foods that feel good to you! Welcome to the blog 🙂 Yes, it’s been a month since we’ve been in Portland and cannot believe how gluten-free friendly this city is! Needless to say, I’m in heaven here.

  • Rahul

    Lisa, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and diagnosis story. Its helped and will continue to help thousands of people like me. I got diagnosed about 5 years back. I was not gaining any weight, in fact losing weight at a scary rate. I attributed it to stress at the time, but also asked my doctor (at Kaiser Permanente) that I needed to get a solution to this problem. He did a bunch of stool tests and bacteria tests – all negative. I don’t know what dawned upon him, but he immediately tested me for celiac and sure enough I was tested positive. It was followed up by an endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis (and eliminate false positives). Since Nov 2007 I’ve been on a gluten free diet.

    Cassie – to your specific question, it took me a good 2 years to arrest my weight decline and start seeing a rise. It was a combination of a few things:
    – Gluten free diet
    – Stress reduction methods (meditation, yoga, regular exercise, etc.)
    – Constantly eating – not skipping any meals (I was eating every 2 hours, little portion sizes)

    All of the above helped. Frankly I did not see an immediate improvement in my health and had to just trust that it will get better. Around 2 years later, the weight gain started giving me the confidence that I can come back in good health.

  • Lee

    You kinda left off there mid-story. So you do have celiac disease? You went “huh.. that’s a symptom of celiac disease” and then didn’t really say anything else much about it. Did they diagnose you with it? Hon, you’ve been through nine kinds of hell, and I am so, so glad you’re feeling better! (Wow, you must have been having tubes and tubes of blood drawn 10 times a day every day for weeks to become anemic. I can’t begin to imagine how many blood draws would cause something like that. And 89 pounds! Oh my God! Bless your heart!)

  • WithStyleGrace

    It’s a little bit of a mystery. At the time, I couldn’t keep food down for them to get a proper result (you have to have gluten in the system to test). Once I eliminated gluten, I was able to keep food down and start to put weight back on. My blood count started to improve, but weren’t comfortable with me going on gluten just to retest for celiac, especially when they said the test isn’t always accurate. Whether I have it or not, my body does not tolerate gluten so therefore it’s not in my diet and probably never will be. Good news, I feel great now and thankful for the live I’m able to live!

  • http://twitter.com/seededtable Nikki G

    I can’t believe it has taken me this long to read your story. What a beautiful and inspiring woman you are! And, look, now you have that cookbook out there to further inspire. Congratulations on a successful blog, gorgeous cookbook, beautiful baby and beating the life out of your sickness. Go Lisa!

  • WithStyleGrace

    Thank you so much Nikki! Just a little detour to get to where I am now 😉

  • Alex

    Thank you for sharing your story. I absolutely love your blog and your mission! I also have suffered from debilitating symptoms for many years due to gluten, inflammation, etc and your post really resonated with me (lots of tears shed!) I was told it was possible Crohn’s and/or Celiac, but ultimately lifestyle changes such as cutting out gluten and dairy, managing my stress, exercising, reducing exposure to toxic chemicals, and getting regular, restorative sleep has helped the most. I am starting a blog, Made to Glow, to help others learn self-care tips to help them feel their best and be able to live life to the fullest. You are a huge inspiration! Thank you.

  • Saroum

    Your blog is one of the most exciting gluten free style blog that I have come across. Thank you for sharing and for being so genuine.

  • WithStyleGrace

    beautiful blog mission!

  • WithStyleGrace

    that means a lot, thank you so much for the sweet comment!

  • Melissa

    Wow, thanks for sharing your story!! I recently wrote about my own story here: http://citymomsblog.com/madison/gluten-whats-that-part-1/ It all sounds so similar. I had the horrible tingling, numbness, and brain fog… I saw a handful of doctors and eventually a neurologist who told me that I may have MS or some other neurological disorder.. I ended up hearing about gluten from a friend. After a month of suffering through my horrible symptoms.. I tried gluten free and within 2-3 days, my symptoms were GONE!