by guest blogger Mary Ann Naples, vice-president/publisher, Rodale Books
I remember the moment, about a year after my daughter was born, when I knew things had to change.
I was only 38 years old, but my body felt 100. Every morning, I dreaded putting my feet on the floor because they were so stiff and painful. My fingers were swollen; three of them wouldn’t even bend.
We live in a brownstone in Brooklyn, and I could barely get around our house with Jojo, let alone walk around our neighborhood with her in the baby carrier the way all the other new parents around me were able to do. My poor health put a strain on my family life. I felt like a burden, frustrated at not being able to meet the demands of motherhood.
The revelation? If things kept going this way, I would be unhappy, fat, and in pain. My family would suffer, and my daughter would never know that her mama is really a person who embraces life, loves to have fun, and is a great companion.
At the time, I was a literary agent who specialized in wellness books, working with some of the world’s foremost experts in health and healing. I knew I could figure this out. I resolved to use my resources to prioritize my health and try everything to figure out what would heal me. I saw, finally, that without my health, nothing else would work.
I tried a lot of things along my journey: a trainer who helped me learn how to exercise (not easy to swing financially), acupuncture, food elimination, steroid shots, talking to every doctor and expert who would see me, reading everything and anything, chasing down every sliver of insight or hope I could find. Change was hard. There were high points and definitely some low points.
Probably the lowest was when I went to see a top New York City rheumatologist. I remember walking in a snowstorm to my appointment. Every step was painful, and I cried on the way there. He diagnosed me with sero-negative autoimmune arthritis. I didn’t have rheumatoid arthritis, which was good news. However, he told me if I didn’t treat this degenerative disease with methotrexate or Enbrel for the rest of my life, getting my liver checked in a clinic every six weeks for damage, the pain would worsen, and my joints would eventually deform.
When I asked him what alternative treatments there might be, he said, matter-of-factly, “There are none.” He offered nothing more.
Those turned out to be the fighting words for me. Because of my job, I had read about so many different approaches to health. Even if it were true that there were no other ways to treat this problem, I knew that at the very least there were things I could do to support my immune system and alleviate the harsh effects of the medication. I thanked the doctor and went home. But I had trouble accepting the finality of the diagnosis. I thought it couldn’t hurt to investigate a bit further before I took the drastic step of taking the medication.
The hero of this story is Joel Fuhrman, MD, a doctor as well as an author who was my client. He saw me in his office in Flemington, New Jersey. After some tests, he explained that I was low in certain nutrients and that I could help my body reverse the autoimmune reaction through diet (you can read how to do it in Eat to Live, which is a book I am so proud to have helped bring into the world). He also said, “It is going to take your body some time to heal, but keep going.” He was quietly confident that I could do this.
It turned out I could. I took his advice, followed the diet, took supplements, starting walking, then running, and kept up a healthy diet. The unbelievable thing was that while my insurance company would have been willing to pay for a lifetime of Enbrel or methotrexate, it would not reimburse me for omega-3 or vitamin D supplements, nor for green juice. But those things were part of how I healed.
Today, I am in excellent health. No pain, no depression, no stiffness. It is nine years later. I am strong and healthy, and life is wonderful.
Why do I tell this story? Because in my job today as publisher of Rodale Books, things have come full circle. I think about the doctor who told me there were no options, and I am angry. So when I heard we had the opportunity to publish Total Recovery: Solving the Mystery of Chronic Pain and Depression by top integrative doctor Gary Kaplan, DO, I knew we had to bring his transformative insights to the millions of people who suffer from chronic pain or depression and have been told the problem can’t be solved.
In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Kaplan shows how pain and depression can be healed by understanding what is at the root of both afflictions. Chronic pain, he theorizes, starts as a result of an accumulation of trauma. Every injury, infection, toxin, or emotional blow leads to inflammation of tiny cells in the brain called microglia, which remain “upregulated,” causing pain that doesn’t end. Healing is the process of unraveling this inflammation and he provides the framework and methods for doing that in his book.
If I’d only had Dr. Kaplan’s book when I went through my own health problem, I wouldn’t have suffered so long, nor have gone down so many wrong paths, before I figured out the answers through Dr. Fuhrman. To me, it feels like an accident of fate that I happened to have the health knowledge and resources that enabled me to battle my way through the confounding mess. But I know that most people don’t have these advantages, and our health system is not set up to help them succeed.
Too many people are suffering, but that ends now.
I believe that the publication of this book is a landmark in health, and we at Rodale are committed to getting the word out about it. I hope that, if you have read this far, you might consider ordering the book at your favorite retailer for yourself or to give to a loved one. Please also consider passing the word along. It makes a difference in the impact the book can have.
Mary Ann Naples is vice-president/publisher of Rodale Books. Follow her on twitter @manaples.