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 from Zumba to kickboxing and believed that she was in the best shape that she had ever been in years. “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,” she recalled.
When her symptoms worsened, Woolley made a doctor’s appointment, followed by extensive blood work and tests. At age 32, after her rheumatoid arthritis disease diagnosis, this fast tracker felt control over her life slipping away.
But, now she is on a mission to help transform other women’s lives like she did her own.
Rheumatoid arthritis is 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 can severely limit mobility and physical fitness as the disease progresses.
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. Just 24 hours earlier she was scaling mountain peaks. The next day brought to her knees. “This was a real wake-up call for me,” recalled Woolley.
It’s hard to diagnose. 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 rheumatologist 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.
Woolley began planning her life around taking her medication. Although this relieved some of her symptoms, she had to remain home on the days she was taking these potent drugs because she couldn’t drive, felt sluggish, dizzy, and nauseous for the first couple of days at the beginning of each treatment cycle. Woolley desperately wanted to get off her medication.
Her life was spiraled out of control until she began to fight back.
Her research led her to discover the balance between nutrition and health. She read how people have been able to heal themselves with good nutrition and relieving stress. She learned which foods could trigger rheumatoid arthritis attacks.
Some things worked immediately. To relieve some of the stress, she took up restorative yoga which was 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 a 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-shot 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. 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 a Facebook group for people who have rheumatoid arthritis and learned how to manage it 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 online 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. I woke up in the mornings before my alarm clock rang, and I was able to get off my medication,” exclaimed Woolley.
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. “Whoa! Just keep doing everything that you are doing,” he told her, “but here is a script just in case you need it.”
Woolley still hasn’t needed that prescription. She feels great because she is following her passions, running, meditation, and yoga.
She is now changing the trajectory of other women’s lives.
“When people reach out to me, it makes me feel great!” said Woolley. “If I had not pressed on for answers, I’d still be taking the medication, laying on the couch, and having a ‘pity-party’ for myself. My goal is to help other women feel as good as I do right now.”
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