Grace’s Story: Overcoming Autoimmunity

After suffering for nine years with rheumatoid arthritis — hiding my swollen feet, trigger fingers, and staggering chest pain — the smiling faces around the Suppers table gave me the hope I needed to turn this thing around.

I grew up under prairie skies, making mud pies, and weaving willow branches into my sisters’ hair. Outside was my haven. But home was surrounded by fields of Roundup Ready corn, and inside, a cycle of chronic pain trapped my parents, who suffered from debilitating arthritis, depression, and anxiety. At school, I was a “free-and-reduced-price-lunch kid,” eating mainly processed foods, and by 16, I was highly stressed, overachieving, sleep deprived, and ingesting systemic antibiotics and hormonal medications for acne. It was a bad time to be a bug in my gut microbiome (though I didn’t know it), and the environment only became more hostile as I experienced my first RA symptoms. Then came the onslaught of immunosuppressant medications, hair-thinning, infections, and no prospect of having my own children due to the complications.

In my twenties, I worked as a nurse, but only found myself and my patients broken by a diseased healthcare system. By God’s grace, I made my way to a functional medicine practitioner and began the work of making connections; perhaps the health of bodies, gardens, and kitchens weren’t so separate after all. At that time, I tried to follow an autoimmune diet, but without social support, I felt increasingly isolated and inflammation continued.

Making my way to New Jersey for my husband to attend Princeton Theological Seminary, everything seemed to come together. I met the most energetic and hope-filled women — Dor Mullen — and embarked on a journey of experiments to try to quell my inflammation via lifestyle changes. With newfound hope from the Suppers Immune Support Meeting, I studied the Autoimmune Protocol, researched the microbiome, and learned to heal a leaky gut. I set a date, and said I wasn’t looking back. One change led to another, reforming everything: circadian rhythms, screen time, household products, medications, food, stress, and I documented it all. I had to stick to an elimination diet 100%, but when I wanted to quit, I just kept showing up to Dor’s house. She was always smiling, ready to pass another ball jar of kraut or bone broth into these arthritic hands — hands I found to be hurting less and less. Within two months, I weaned off my medications; eight months later, I still have virtually no pain. Praise the Lord!

Suppers showed me that my love for cultivating gardens and communities wasn’t misplaced, two things that were completely necessary for my healing. While the changes I needed to make were many and complicated, they were all possible with the right social support.  

My message is this: You too can find healing! It will be quite a journey. It may take many experiments and lots of journaling. It may even require  more contact with dirt or vegetables than you were anticipating, but you don’t have to do it alone. Come to Suppers! Share your story with us! As for mine: These days I carry emergency sardines in my purse, wear more muddy garden boots than scrub tops, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

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