Chapter 5: Take that, Candida!

After my visit, I was committed. No more denial. I got home and had to do some serious reframing and organizing over the next few days. I was so empowered to shift into my new lifestyle. The one thing nobody told me was to shift slowly. Dr. “Get it done now, impatient patient, I’m-so-motivated-I’ll-get-a-100-percent-A+” was ready to rock it. I made a hand written/drawn schedule for all my meds and supplements, visited Whole Foods to explore all these wonderful Candida-friendly options (who needs fruit even though it’s now May and fruit is the way to go?), carved out a few days of diet and meal planning, and I was ready.

You know how this goes.

Three days into the diet: it hit me. Crying. Lots of crying. I failed miserably at making a batch of “foolproof” coconut flour pancakes whose recipe was in one of the several Candida diet e-cookbooks I had purchased. I followed the recipe to a T and I ended up with coconut mush. It doesn’t help to cook your Sunday breakfast when your blood sugar is -27, there is no other food in the house that’s legal with your new diet, and it takes nearly an hour and probably $50 of rare/expensive ingredients to pull off this recipe.

So I was breakfastless, starving, broke, and exhausted.

Yep, I cried a little a lot. Then I lost it about every other thing in life that was stressing me out. My poor husband was very compassionate but secretly wondered who this was and what she did with his wife. This is Candida Julie.

I think I finally ate some celery and some almonds and went to Target to stock up on $100’s of dollars worth of kitchen gadgets and household items to make this diet more seamless for me. I remember wandering fairly aimlessly around The Disney World of Adult Shopping, feeling an overwhelming sense of anything but what you’d feel when you’re in the almost-happiest-place-on-Earth. I can’t even explain it, but there was just a dark cloud over me. In all my anxiety trials and tribulations, I have not truly felt depression. But there it was—clear as day (or maybe dark as night?), slapping me in the face.

I attributed it to the frustrating morning and lack of blood sugar. I got home and quickly proceeded to eat 3 frozen strawberry, banana, and almond milk popsicles I’d made myself back when I thought fruit was ok on the Candida diet. I felt much better (hello, sugar!) and also felt a little compassion for myself. It was in that moment that I realized that I just couldn’t college athlete and straight A student my way through this one. “Go big or go home” was going to be redefined as “go big but don’t forget who you are, what you’re worth, and that YOU matter and are enough, regardless of what the diet says you HAVE to be and how society says you HAVE to cope with it.” Those picture perfect coconut pancakes had nothing on me and were not allowed to steal any more of my tears!

But I acknowledged that crying was ok during this transition time. Many others who had also been through the Candida journey would later tell me “Please be sure to cry when you need to. It’s one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever been through, too.” It was good to know I was not alone in my raging, crazy thoughts.

Meanwhile, I started to experience lots of other interesting adventures. My short term memory started to fizzle. So did my weight. Within 2 days of finally nailing down a good diet plan with absolutely no added sugars, I started to run late afternoon and evening fevers with night sweats. I felt bouts of depression and anxiety-different than the bouts I’d had in the past. I was spacey, foggy, and really, really exhausted.

WHAT was this!?! I felt like I had a bad case of mono. During my swims, I just couldn’t go forward. It’s not that I was winded—my muscles felt like lead bars and I just had no energy to propel myself through the water. Daniel and I regularly go on walks together and I was having to take rest breaks up the hills. I felt like I needed naps by the time I got to work at 7 AM. The fevers persisted.

I read a ton of books and blogs and found out about a little something called Candida Die Off. Sounds like some type of insect repellent or exterminator technique. Well, it kind of is. So, the way candida albicans works, in a nutshell, is that it gives off 79 different toxins while it’s feasting away on your sugars and impurities in your body, slowly taking over your entire system. Those toxins can lead to all sorts of unwanted chronic symptoms. Some people attribute their problems to Candida when they don’t really have it and need more extensive medical testing. But sometimes, it can be a great explanation for other chronic issues, and I had a biopsy to prove it for me.

So let’s get from the “living Candida” to the “dying Candida” part. Oh wait, it’s the same, if not worse. Usually as the Candida lives, it wreaks havoc on your body systems. As it dies, it wreaks havoc on your liver because the liver has to filter out all the toxins. When poor liver gets overload, there’s a backup in the body’s plumbing system and you get WORSE symptoms before you get better. This could be anything from feeling like you have mono, the flu, night sweats, aches, fever, brain fog, memory issues, appetite changes, and weight loss. Check, check, checkcheckcheckcheckcheckcheckcheckcheckchecl.

I found this to be very inconvenient, but let my body fight it out and take its course. I was armed with multiple awesome foods and supplements to fight off the die off and noticed gradual improvement with a strict regimen of no sugar diet, a very strong probiotic, anti-fungal herbal supplements, and liver support.

In the meantime, I had that CT scan done. It showed that the mass had grown several centimeters (9X 7 X7) since my last scan in 2006. Whammy. That’s like a softball in my upper ribcage for those keeping score. So I was referred to a thoracic surgeon. Yowza.

Dr. G referred me to a surgeon at Emory who seemed to look great on paper. I left a message for his secretary who evidently leaves the office at 1 PM every day (not convenient). In fact I didn’t hear back for 2 weeks. Not impressive!

At the same time, my asthma doctor also recommended Dr. John Moore at Northside. I called Dr. Moore’s office on a Friday and got in to see him the following Monday. Impressive! And this time I did my homework on him ahead of time. He looked good on paper AND online!

Read on to Chapter 6: New medical adventures for more on this story!