“This Has Changed My Entire Life, Everything. All of it.”

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Written by: Jessica Zaneis

It seems strange that I am excited to type this story to you about what was a life changing illness for me considering how sick I was. It is even more strange that I am so willing to share such a personal story about what many people think is a taboo subject, the colon. The more I have shared my story, the more sick people I realize are out there suffering and unaware that there is a way to treat their ailments simply by adjusting the fuel they use.

I am a 35 year old very active Woman. I have been active my entire life. Back in the 90s during college I was very into inline skating and competed in several local races. Once I hung up the skates along with my scrunchies I moved on to boxing. I spend every afternoon for the better part of 3 years training and from time to time even got in the ring to spar. I have always loved extreme challenges physically and wanted to take it to the next level. Once I hit 30, I started having some major health problems and these hopes started to slip away. My stomach and digestion have given me issues for as long as I can remember. I envied those who talked about having an iron cast stomach because I seemed to be the complete opposite, everything upset my G.I. tract. I would get what I thought was a stomach bug quite often and always attributed it to the flu going around. I also began to become extremely fatigued, stressed, full of anxiety, and a multitude of other symptoms that related to what seemed to be a slow metabolism. I thought it was just a part of getting older. So often many people say things like ’welcome to your 30s’ and ’it only gets harder as you get older’. Deep down I knew it was more than that. I just had no idea where to begin. I ended up at my family practitioner asking for yet another dose of antibiotics because I thought I had Mono or another bout of an infection. Thankfully my M.D. opted to do a full physical and uncovered that I was suffering from hypothyroidism. My TSH number was 4x what it should be. I had no idea where my thyroid was even located. Come to find out, every female on my Fathers side of the family has the same diagnosis. We began to treat the thyroid issue and while I was feeling a little better, I still knew something bigger was wrong. It took a good 2 years to properly treat my thyroid, and I put on 20lbs during this time. I worked out harder than anyone I knew, yet the results were just not showing. It became seriously depressing and I was in a bad mental state about it all. Those dreams of being the athlete I used to be were slipping away.

I finally got a little energy boost from my TSH leveling out closer to where it should be in late 2011. I began to snowboard again, and had done over 100 summit hikes in 2011. I felt like there was a chance, and I was making some progress. I still would have days that my gut would slow me down. Mentally I have the capacity to set aside the pain and push myself. I did, and finally in February of 2012 it all broke down.

I thought I had yet ANOTHER stomach bug or food poisoning. This time it was worse than it had ever been. I had that horrible toxic feeling but nothing would expel from my body. I am stubborn and again with a high pain tolerance I simply waited too long to go to the ER. Once I finally did, they immediately took me back to put me on fluids. I was ghost white, my lips grey from the pain. I was doubled over and could barely walk. My husband thought they would give me some fluids and I would be home shortly after. Once they did some blood work and my white blood cell count was through the roof those hopes were long gone. I went in for a CT scan immediately and it revealed I had diverticulitis. 60% of my intestines were inflamed and infected. I had an abscess high on my descending colon just below my ribs. It had burst and I had a perforation leaking the infection into my body. They immediately put me on a heavy dose of IV antibiotics and started prepping me for what they thought was an immanent surgery to remove and resection my colon. They gave me the night to see if I made any progress. I fought like the dickens and 5 days later I was released from the hospital barely avoiding the O.R. I had dropped 12 lbs in those 5 days. I was sent home on a heavy cocktail of Cipro and Flagyl for 3 weeks. The recovery was difficult, but I was actually relieved. At least I now knew what I was up against.

Once recovered I began to research everything I could get my hands on regarding inflammation and how to avoid it. It became clear that a Paleo lifestyle was my best chance to avoid having a surgery. The surgeons at Mayo talked to me several times about re-sectioning my colon. I just could not fathom that happening at my young age. I knew there had to be another way. Once the colonoscopy came back showing outside of the pockets in my colon walls I had no signs of cancer. That was a very emotional day. I began to follow the Paleo lifestyle in March of 2012.

Since then my hiking became everything I always hoped for, and much more. I have covered 810 miles and climbed 264,450 feet (that’s approx 50 miles climbed) in the last 6 months. I participated in the 7 summit challenge in Phoenix Arizona on November 9th 2012 climbing 7 summits, 23 miles and 5,409 feet of climbing in one day. I was one of the first females to complete the course. I have been doing things that shock not only me, but just about everyone that knows me. This has changed my entire life, everything. All of it. There was no going back. The rewards were simply to great to part with. I am in the best shape of my entire life. I am full of lean muscle. People see me and say the most incredible things about how healthy and stunning I look. The reaction on their face alone makes me realize just how ill I really was. It has prompted me to start a blog to share my journey in hopes that it helps others find this new way of living. I am so incredibly passionate about my story I find myself often talking about the taboo any chance I get. I am incredibly thankful for this resource, and for Robb Wolf creating this community.
If you want to learn more about me, visit my blog: www.chronicclimberchick.com
Thank you for listening!
Jessica

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  1. Tuck
    February 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Lucky you. I got the resection prior to discovering Paleo. Happily I’m feeling great now.

    • Jes the CCC
      February 5, 2013 at 9:23 am

      Thank you Tuck, Lucky indeed that I responded well to the IV antibiotics. I am sorry to hear your outcome was not as simple. I am however thrilled that you are feeling so much better! Cheers to good health and happy digestion :)

  2. Marg
    February 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Wow!! what an amazing health recovery. You deserve all the accolades for your persistence in searching for reasons for your body’s malfunction. And then taking the steps to heal yourself. It is incredibly frustrating that doctors just DO NOT GET IT and are so often not prepared to look outside the box. Good luck for your future.

    • Jes the CCC
      February 5, 2013 at 9:24 am

      Thank you Marg! It has been so very rewarding. I am fortunate to work in the healthcare industry so I certainly know to poke around a little bit before accepting a diagnosis. I am so grateful for this resource that Robb has created. Best of health and learning to you!

  3. bjjcaveman
    February 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    What an amazing story! It is so great that you were able to avoid surgery. Your recent accomplishments are inhuman btw. Are you sure they didn’t give you performance enhancing drugs in the guise of “flagyl?” j/k of course

    • Jes the CCC
      February 5, 2013 at 9:28 am

      Bjj… I have been asked that one before haha! Thank you for the compliment. I have been shocked by my performance. I really do believe my fuel is the answer along with feeling like I missed out on several years of my life. I suppose I am making up for lost time in a big way. All the best to you and your cavelife!

  4. Ann-Maree
    February 5, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Very inspiring story, just wondering if you follow the autoimmune proticol eg. no eggs, nuts, nightshades, dairy? I too have similar issues and have been on the autoimmune protical and avoid all of the above but finding it very limiting/boring. Also are you on Thyroid meds? Well done on you success :)

    • Jes the CCC
      February 5, 2013 at 9:35 am

      Hi Ann-Maree,
      Thank you, it has been crazy to live it and am so thankful to be on the other side. I do still consume eggs and a few select nuts. I tinker a bit with them, trying to stay with the cashews,almonds,walnuts and chestnuts exclusively. I do consume tomatoes and love salsa but really keep it to a minimum. Funny, my grandmother has diverticulosis also and she gets a horrible response from tomatoes. Eggs… well I love those stinkers!! I have kept them heavily in my diet and outside of some awkward emissions from time to time ;) they seem to be just fine. I am still taking Synthroid. That is my next level of research – it is a difficult one to understand specifically because it seems to be hereditary in my family. For now I am staying on my 100mg dose with my normal bloodwork appointments. I truly hope that all this helps my thyroid begin to function on it’s own again.
      I wish you much success in your own journey, and so happy we all have this place to come to and share our stories.

  5. Heather E.
    May 23, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Jes – Thank you so much for sharing. I’m 29 and my battle with diverticulosis started with my first attack 3 years ago. With that first attack I was hospitalized, and my 2nd hospitalization came a year later. The doctors and specialists I’ve seen only say to eat more fiber, exercise, and drink more water. I’m a very active person, always ate a lot of fruit and vegetables. I increased my fiber intake and it just seemed to make things worse. Yesterday, I went to the doctor since I have been having bad cramps. I had a yeast infection and a UTI – and the doctor thinks it is all related back to the diverticulosis. I feel very overwhelmed and confused by everything. Again, thanks for sharing. I’m going to try to make the transition to Paleo now.

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