Monday, February 16, 2009
Geoff Slater-Amazing Crohn's Disease recovery story!!!
I have just recently started talking to Geoff within the last few weeks and I was very inspired by his story and the stuff he has went through. I actually had the honor of speaking with him on the telephone for about an hour last friday and must admit this is a cool dude. I was speaking with him while he was on his yearly vacation in Florida with his family I was actually pretty jealous he was talking to me and could see the ocean at the same time...lucky guy. I asked Geoff if he could write his story down so that people could read it as I believe it would really be quite inspiring so please take the time to read this dudes awesome story!
I am a Canadian artist who created a style of painting never before seen in the world. It is called Line Painting, and if art is your thing, give it a Google. In the ‘art scene’, it is what I am known for. I also paint public murals in my hometown of St Andrews, and along with my wife, Canadian artist Andrea Mulder-Slater, have a successful studio and gallery on the Bay of Fundy called Jarea Art Studio. We now have a 4-month-old daughter named Jannique.
For balance, I love sports, and am super-active at many levels within my community. My favorite personal pastime these days is mountain biking. I am now riding at the expert-class level, and train about 15 hrs a week to maintain that level of fitness.
If I sound like I’m bragging a bit, I am. I’m proud of my accomplishments, and love my family, and the lifestyle we have created for ourselves.
That is why when I found out I had Crohn’s, I thought my life was over.
I am 39 years old and was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2004. I became very sick very suddenly, although, looking back, for years prior to my diagnosis, I was “not quite right”.My first Crohn's symptoms began with a tooth problem. An abscess tooth led to large doses of antibiotics. I had no idea how harmful this was to my intestinal flora. It wasn't long before I had a food poisoning, and my imbalance was complete; I was in the vicious cycle. It came and went mildly, at first, but after half a year of on again, off again symptoms, I went for a colonoscopy. I was told I had Crohn's. I am an active, athletic guy, so when I was diagnosed, and told there was no cure, I really felt it was a death sentence.
In the beginning, I followed the advice of my doctors. I ended up on heavier and heavier doses of medication, including immunosuppressants, and became sicker and sicker. My wife searched frantically for any information she could find about the disease. She heard an interview with Lucy Rossett who claimed to have cured herself by following a diet called the specific carbohydrate diet.
My wife tracked down Lucy online and called her to speak with her. She also tracked down Elaine Gottschall and phoned her. Both women told my wife that I could be cured. Although the doctors told me (over and over again) that my illness had nothing to do with diet, these two women insisted that it did. The premise is that Crohn’s sufferers have an imbalance of intestinal flora and by removing foods that feed “bad” bacteria; you can heal your gut.
All of this convinced me to try the diet and it literally saved my life. I haven’t had a flare since August 2006. I consider myself cured – which is amazing considering how sick I was. When I was sick I experienced extreme weight loss (20 –40 pounds each flare), extreme arthritic pain, anal fissures, an anal fistula, cramping and diarrhea (up to 20 times a day). I experienced 4 bad flares after finding out I had Crohn's, and all of them happened after having my teeth cleaned at the dentist. Considering how things began for me ( with an abscess tooth ), this was no coincidence. I cut out all dental visits.
However, today I am the healthiest I have ever been ( and my teeth have never been better!)
The diet does take time and there were definitely set-backs along the way. For me, sometimes it was very difficult to continue on the diet. I had to be rushed to the hospital twice within the first year of being on the SCD—once for an anal fistula ( with life-threatening infection), and again for arthritic pain throughout my body so severe, I could not breath. Through both hospital visits, Andrea brought SCD food from home, so I could maintain the diet. Her love and support made a huge difference.
I also had to slowly reduce all the medication the doctors had me on; you can’t just stop that sort of thing.
Doctors had me on:
4000 mg of Salofalk per day
40-60mg of prednisone per day
Imuran (various doses at different times)
Flagyl (various doses at different times)
Keflex (various doses at different times)
Cipro (various doses at different times)
Antispasmodic meds (various doses at different times)
9mg Entocort per day
Morphine (various doses at different times)
Today, I’m medication free. Also, my fistula has healed—completely. Even the surgeon is amazed.
Many people were very encouraging to me when we started out on this. One of those people was Elaine herself. She told me that if I had some sort of relief within the first month of starting the diet, then the diet would work for me .She said that if the diarrhea and cramping became less, those were the small signs to look for. It is not uncommon for there to be some complications during the initial die off of bacteria. Also, many people experience a nasty set-back (another bacteria die off) at the 3 to 4 month stage. I did. This often discourages people but if they stick with the diet things will improve.
This is the advice Elaine gave me before she passed away:
1.If you do the SCD, do it completely. Do not stray, no matter what.
2.If you experience success on the SCD during the first few weeks, then it will work for you. Be patient.
3.Expect setbacks during the healing process. Healing takes time. Do not be discouraged.
4.If you eat foods that aggravate – then do not eat them, even if they are “legal”.
5.If you require medical intervention, then take it. (my anal fistula, for instance).
6.Sometimes you will require heavier forms of medication to pull you out of a flare.
7.Don’t throw away your medication until you are well on the way to healing.
8.Have patience, it will get better.
I have been symptom free for 2 years now, and considered myself cured. Many great things have happened since finding the SCD. The greatest, of course, is the new addition to my family, Jannique. Andrea and I have been married for 11 years and have always wanted a child. Despite our “best efforts”, we just didn’t think it was something that would happen for us. Turns out, as soon I got well, Andrea was pregnant! This I attribute solely to the SCD.
I have never been more productive artistically. The clarity with which by mind and body are functioning is nothing short of amazing. In the last couple of years I have created many world-class murals in St Andrews NB, including a historic representation of our town’s waterfront 100 years ago that is the centerpiece of the town. Also, I created a large Line Painting exhibition called Coast Lines, shown at the Saint John Arts Centre. On top of that, I create work every year for our gallery, Jarea Art Gallery and Studio. I also am an art instructor at Sunbury Shores Art And Nature Centre.
Athletically, I have never been stronger. The anti-inflammatory nature of the SCD allows me to recover from hard efforts quicker that ever before, and the nutrition the body receives from a well-balanced SCD diet is second-to-none. Many athletes, seeing the results I’ve had, have taken up SCD for its recuperative health benefits; athletes that think I have an edge over them being on the diet.( how about that!!) A bike shop in Florida is even looking into starting a SCD friendly restaurant attached to the shop, so riders can get healthy, anti-inflammatory meals.
My goals at this point are simple. I want to live a long, productive, and healthy life. I want to exist at as high a level athletically as I can, for as long as I can. Thanks to the SCD, I’m on that path. Had I not got sick when I did, who knows what illness may have fallen on my lap, eating a diet high in refined wheat, sugar and processed crap. Both my father, and my father’s brother died of renal cancer (at 39 and 45 years of age respectively), as a direct result of what they exposed themselves to, both internally and externally. Could this have been my fate as well? You bet it could have. I was on that path. Getting Crohn’s forced me to take my health into my own hands. It went from the abstract to reality. I know more about my body, and what I put in it than I ever would have had I not been sick, and in a strange but very real way, I’m thankful for it.
I am also now a fantastic cook!
I plan on introducing more complex carbs in a few months, like whole grain rice, and potatoes. I’ll see how that goes. I’ll never return to a diet high in refined grains and sugars and processed foods. My reasons are simple: since my little brush with mortality, I now realize how precious life is, that I only have this 1 body; one kick at the can – so to speak! I think my daughter and wife deserve to have me around awhile longer yet!
**Please take the time to check out Geoff's BLOG if you get a chance as he has some really great info on there.