Sometimes an apple a day does keep the doctor away--even for Danielle Wooley who suffered for years-- until she rediscovered the secret of to be and stay healthy.

Before Danielle Woolley’s illness, this high-achieving workaholic, who traveled extensively teaching clients how to use software and technology to run their businesses, was driven by deadlines and to-do lists. When she finally carved out time for herself to get in shape, exercising became her passion.

She took up everything--Zumba, kick-boxing, spinning, and even trained for triathlons. She believed that she was in the best shape that she had ever been in years, and her weight was right on target. “I finally got my life where I wanted it to be,” Woolley said.

So why was she starting to feel run down all the time?

“I literally woke up one day and I couldn’t open my hands. My hands were really stiff. Some days, I couldn’t even get out of bed,” Woolley recollected. Then I started calling in sick from work because I was exhausted all the time.”

When her symptoms worsened, Woolley made a doctor’s appointment which was followed up by extensive blood work and tests. This 32-year-old fast-tracker was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease.

After her diagnosis, she believed that her control over her life began slipping through her fingers. Now, she is on a mission to help other women to transform their lives—like she did.

She was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease, an auto-immune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the small joints causing painful swelling of the feet and hands—which often spreads to other joints. As the disease progresses it erodes bones and deforms joints which severely limits mobility and physical fitness.

Two days before the diagnosis, Woolley remembers sitting on the plane crying out in agony from a confined airplane seat on a long flight returning from a business trip. She couldn’t believe that 24 hours earlier she was hiking in the Australian mountains.  

It is unfathomable, how one day Woolley could be overcome with joy scaling mountain peaks—and the next brought to her knees. But that is how deceptive Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease  can be. “This was a real wake-up call for me,” recalled Woolley.

It’s also hard to diagnose, too.  Flare ups can occur at any time even while taking the medication, followed by periods of being symptom-free. Approximately 1.5 million people have this disorder--three times as many women than men.

 Her rheumatologists said that only medication would relieve her symptoms. He was mainly concerned about slowing the progression of this debilitating disease. Like most traditional doctors, he was anxious to counter the body’s crippling immune response with potent drugs.

“What natural alternatives are available?” Woolley asked almost immediately. 

While determining which combination of drugs would work best for his patient, her physician asked, “Are you planning to have children anytime soon?” She thought, ‘Oh, gosh do I have to decide now?’

“I finally got myself healthy and fit, at the weight that I want to be, then crashed. All the time that I put into working out to be healthy was completely undone--just like that.”

Woolley began planning her life around taking her medication. Although this relieved some of her symptoms, she had to remain home on the days that she was taking these potent drugs because she couldn’t drive, felt sluggish, dizzy and nauseous for the first couple of days. By the time her side effects subsided it was time to repeat this vicious cycle again. Not to mention she had to have frequent blood work done to monitor any serious long-term side effects.

Woolley desperately wanted to get off her medication. Her life was spiraling out of control—until she began to fight back.

Her research led her to discover the balance between nutrition and health. She began reading how people have been able to heal themselves just from good nutrition and relieving stress. She learned which foods could trigger Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease attacks.  

Some things worked immediately. To relieve some of the stress, she took up a restorative yoga taught by a friend who made house calls.

 “This more gentle approach to yoga supports your joints so that you are not doing anything to aggravate your body--with alternative moves so I could push myself on my good days.”

After she began seeing her nutritionist, Woolley realized that her eating habits were self-sabotaging.

 “I really thought I was being healthy. I was eating wheat all the time with everything. Then because I was tired I was getting triple lattes with soy milk. I was wreaking havoc on my body by pumping it with caffeine and things that weren’t really healthy for me,” explained Woolley.

The nutritionist taught Woolley about consuming nutrient dense whole foods and avoiding packaged items. Once she eliminated corn, soy, wheat, gluten, dairy, and caffeine, she felt a bit better. However, this restrictive diet proved challenging to continue. Without motivation and support, she reverted back to old habits.

After going to her nutritionist for a while, Woolley’s blood work was still coming back as deficient in some things. “So I started reading about people doing cleanses or detoxes, and thought I could work with my rheumatologist to get off my medications.”

Woolley also discovered an on-line Facebook group for people who have Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease managed naturally, a supportive community focused on not having to use medication. They help resolve each other’s problems and celebrate successes. That’s when all of the pieces started to fall into place.

It wasn’t until she began following the nutritional cleansing program and sharing information with the Facebook support group that she found people who supported her goals.

Woolley says that a combination of all these things reset her body.

 “In the first few days of detoxing, I actually started sleeping through the night without waking up with night sweats, woke up in the morning before my alarm clock rang, and I was able to get off my medication.

Recently, the results of her routine blood work indicated that all the inflammation was down, and her rheumatologist said that her Arthritis had gone into remission. He thought it was because she had gone back on her medication.

“I’m still not taking the medication,” Woolley informed him.

“Woah! Just keep doing everything that you are doing,” said her rheumatologist, “but here is a script just in case you need it. “

Woolley still hasn’t needed that prescription. She feels really good now because she is able to follow her passions—running, meditating, doing yoga.

Now she is changing the trajectory of other women’s lives.

“I have been working with a woman whom I met through my Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease Facebook group. She sent me a message the other day thanking me: I’m starting to feel better; I am actually wearing heels today!” she said.

For three months, Woolley has been helping a co-worker who felt tired and achy, and needed to lose weight. She Instant Messaged Woolley: ‘Nagging aches and pain gone. Energy level up. Twenty five pounds gone so far. Best decision that I have made for my health,’ she said.

“When people reach out to me, it makes me feel really good about pursuing my passion!” said Woolley. If I had not pressed on for answers, I’d still be taking the medication, on the couch, having a ‘pitty-party’ for myself. This whole process has really opened my eyes and allowed me explore things more comprehensively. My goal is to help other women feel as good as I do right now.”

Originally published in About Her Magazine

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Published by Lynda Art