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February 26, 2017

My Alternative Journey to Health

In response to this post of mine being shared on another site recently, many people have wanted to know more specifically what I am doing in my alternative, holistic quest for health. So if that post led you here, welcome! :) I will now endeavor to answer those questions, and if I miss anything, please feel free to comment or contact me. (I do ask that you please read this whole post carefully before commenting.)

HOW IT ALL BEGAN | I had mild health issues and symptoms throughout my childhood and teenage years (they were regarded then only as quirks). In 2010, my body crashed and I began living with debilitating eye pain, headaches, all-over body pain, constant exhaustion, memory problems, IBS, extreme sensitivities to being poked or pushed against, and a plethora of other symptoms, turning my world entirely upside down. (I finally wrote down all the symptoms I could think of a while back, and there were about 75.) In 2011, after testing including an MRI to rule out other possibilities such as arthritis and a brain tumor, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (and a bit later unofficially with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). 

I then embarked on the traditional route of antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and other prescriptions to attempt to ease the symptoms. Only one helped briefly, and based on what I know about those drugs now, I regret taking them. By 2013, I chose to go off all prescriptions, as they, at best, were not helping. I also eventually chose to quit taking over-the-counter medicines, including pain medication.

HOW I STARTED ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT | In 2013, a friend of a friend suggested an alternative holistic doctor in the area and passed along a DVD that covered this doctor's view and treatment of Fibromyalgia. It was all brand new, mind-blowing, belief-shattering information to me, but I skeptically gave it a chance. During my treatment with this doctor, my most notable improvements were losing about 25 pounds (that I really needed to lose) through addressing my diet needs and a brand new sense of hope I didn't know existed for people like me. After being treated there for about a year, my husband and I happened to move to another state and so started seeing another alternative, holistic doctor that my previous doctor recommended. That is when things really started to get good.

MY ACTUAL DIAGNOSES | This new doctor of mine ran a large number of incredibly in-depth tests to check for everything under the sun: Lupus, Lyme Disease, Epstein-Barr Virus, arthritis, metal poisoning, Celiac Disease, food allergies, gene mutations, hormone imbalances, and a multitude of other imbalances, infections, parasites, viruses, and more. While testing revealed literally a dozen or more problems, among my biggest issues were Lyme Disease (the co-infections Babesia and Bartonella), mercury poisoning, and the unresolved chicken pox virus from when I was five years old, along with gene mutations that inhibit my body from detoxing properly on its own. You can read about a few more of my diagnoses here.

HOW I'M BEING TREATED | My treatment has been made up of three main things: 1) Field Control Therapy, a cutting edge treatment that periodically determines what pernicious agents are affecting your body the most and addresses them by strengthening your body to rid them on its own. 2) Supplements that continually change based on my body's changing needs. 3) Diet changes tailored to my body's needs. I also see a chiropractor for adjustments every so many months. Most alternative doctors either are also chiropractors or have a chiropractor in their office that can do this; I just go to a separate one for these specific needs because it is closer to home. I am currently considering adding another layer of alternative treatment and will definitely write about it if I do and find it to be helpful.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES I'VE MADE | In addition to the treatments listed above, I have made several changes myself that have proven to be hugely beneficial:

1) Removing toxic products from my life and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives. There is a ton of information to be found online about what all ingredients we need to avoid and why. But the bottom line is that all mainstream products (yes, probably the ones you've been using your whole life as I had; think Maybelline makeup, Clorox wipes, Tide detergent, etc.) contain chemicals that we absolutely should not be putting on our bodies--what we put on our bodies is absorbed and just as important as what we eat. You can see some examples of what I do not eat below, as removing toxic foods and ingredients is also vital.

2) Detoxing. In this day and age our bodies are bombarded with harmful, sickness and cancer-causing toxins, from makeup ingredients to food additives to cigarette smoke to EMFs. And while some of us have the MTHFR gene mutation (like I do) that inhibits our body's natural ability to help detox these things, we could all use some help in this department because of the sheer, unprecedented amount of toxins we are being exposed to. A while back I realized that the pain I once would have called "Fibro pain" is frequently actually the build-up of toxins and is eased by detoxing. There are a few suggestions for detoxing practices here and here that I have found very helpful on this journey. I would add to that list oil pulling, which I wrote about here; it alone immensely improved my migraines. (You can browse some of my favorite detox tools here.)

WHAT I DON'T EAT | I do not eat gluten (wheat barley and rye), grains (corn, quinoa, and oats), dairy, soy, nightshades, refined sugar and artificial sweeteners (which means I do not drink pop), table salt, yeast, vegetable oils, and a few fruits and vegetables that I have shown allergies to. While the right diet for each person will vary and is best determined with thorough testing, anyone with autoimmune conditions especially should avoid gluten, grains, dairy, soy, nightshades, refined and artificial sugar, and table salt. I do not eat your typical processed foods and eat organic whenever I can, a change that would behoove anyone, chronic illness or not. The additives and chemicals in today's popular food is absolutely unbelievable. (You can browse some of my favorite foods I've found here.)

HOW I AM NOW | Any journey to health is going to be, as my first holistic doctor put it, a marathon and not a sprint. Anyone with as many issues as those of us diagnosed with Fibromyalgia are going to take a lot of time to heal, especially if you have been sick for many years as I have. (I'm pretty sure I was infected with Lyme Disease about 17 years ago.) There is most definitely hope of being "all better" or at least vastly improved, but that is not going to happen overnight or even in just a year--for anyone. As with any chronic illness, there is not a quick fix.

While I am still in this journey to healing, I am the best I have been since I got sick in 2010, and I even have the bloodwork to prove it. This past year, each of my sets of bloodwork came back better and better, a concept I was definitely not familiar with! I know I still have a ways to go, but I accept that because I know this journey of alternative treatment is worth it, not only for improving my health but also for opening my eyes to the truth about health, medications, toxins, diet, and more.

MY TRANSFORMED VIEW OF FIBROMYALGIA AND CFS | Stay with me here and try to understand what I'm saying with an open mind: I firmly believe that diagnoses like Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome only describe the symptoms one is experiencing and are not legitimate as end-all diagnoses. I too was once relieved when I was given that diagnosis. And then I learned the truth. The suffering of those of us given these labels is painfully, excruciatingly real--but such a diagnosis is a cop-out. "Fibromyalgia" literally means "muscle pain." Chronic Fatigue is just that: chronic fatigue. Those are symptoms. Do you believe that symptoms, like headaches, extreme pain, exhaustion, memory loss, etc., all just happen on their own, with no cause?

When you see someone with a broken leg, do you assume that their leg just broke on its own? Spontaneously, with no cause but only the diagnosis of "broken leg syndrome" because sometimes that just happens? Or even that the leg is just not working for some inexplicable reason that cannot possibly be determined because sometimes that "just happens"? Of course not! Something had to cause that leg to break--a force of some kind had to come in contact with the body, and the evidence of that occurrence is a broken bone, manifested in pain and the inability to walk.

Similarly, nothing that happens in your body "just happens." There is a cause--or more often a combination of causes, whether infections, viruses, gene mutations, trauma, toxins, parasites, inflammation, and more--manifesting itself  in any and all symptoms you are experiencing. Further, any symptom you experience is your body's way of trying to tell you that something is wrong. It's not your body cruelly deciding to mutiny and ruin your life--every pain, every memory slip, every trembling limb, every moment of panic is your body begging you to help it in the only way it can: by getting your attention.

I grew up being told that anything odd my body did was "just because," even that my symptoms summed up with "Fibromyalgia" happened "just because." I believed that for a long time. And that belief came to a screeching halt when my eyes were opened to the truth through my experience with alternative treatments. I have come to truly believe that "Fibromyalgia" is just a label that mainstream doctors give to people with more problems than they can or want to attempt to help. The average doctor doesn't want to run a ton of time-consuming tests (and often isn't even equipped to), see the same patient frequently for six months or a year or two, work with them, analyze every single part of their body system, determine exactly what dysfunctions are occurring, and treat them all individually, patiently, and thoroughly, no matter how long it takes, without a single prescription. The average doctor wants to prescribe you something to make you "feel better"--just enough to get you through--and send you on your way. I don't want to just "get through." I want to thrive. And mainstream medicine does not offer you that option.

Mine was not a "classic misdiagnosis" because I finally found I had other things resulting in my symptoms; mine was a classic diagnosis. It was determined that I have Fibromyalgia because it hurt in a certain number of places the doctor pushed on and because I tested negative for everything else that they decided to test for. That is a classic Fibromyalgia diagnosis. They didn't make a mistake in giving me that diagnosis; rather, their whole belief system that results in that diagnosis is flawed.

Please keep in mind, I am in no way saying that everyone who has been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia or CFS has the same exact problems I was found to have. But I am saying that I firmly believe everyone who has been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia or CFS has their own unique combination of actual structural and/or neurological and/or metabolic problems that are all teaming up to absolutely ruin their health, and that every one of those root causes is at least treatable or even healable at the source.

Now, if you find all of this insulting to those of us thousands of people diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, I ask that you please go back and reread this and try to see what I am actually saying. I am writing all of this (and all of my other posts on this topic) because I have been where you are. I have reached the end of my rope over and over and sobbed over my body's state more times than I can count. I have earned a college degree only to get sick a few months later and be unable to go get a "real job." I have had my life turned upside down. I have assumed there was nothing that could be done. And then I found out all of the above information and my life completely changed. I went from no hope at all to all the hope in the world simply because I opened my mind and became informed with the truth. None of this is being written to bash anyone who is suffering--it is written to help. I am pouring my heart out, gritting my teeth, and getting through this post not because it's fun or because I think it will be well-received but because I know there are people out there just like me who need it. Surely one or two of you will see the hope in this post and be compelled to become your own advocate and fight for answers and health as I was, and you are why I am writing. I only wish I had learned all of this years ago, and so I am writing for you what I needed to know but did not have access to.

A FEW TIPS | Things to keep in mind:

1) If you're considering going off any medications, please do not do so cold turkey; make sure to check with your doctor first and, if you do, ease off very gradually.

2) If all of the above sounds so promising but you have no idea where to start, the first step is to find a doctor near you. Just search Google for "holistic doctors," "alternative doctors," or "functional medicine doctors" in your area and see what you find. Read their website to see what they say they treat and how they treat it. Ask around and see if someone you know knows one they would recommend, or even if they know someone who would recommend someone (that's how I got started!). Once you find your doctor, he/she will be able to order tests tailored to your needs and walk you through every issue found, one issue at a a time. I highly recommend trying to find one that does Field Control Therapy.

In the meantime, I recommend trying a couple of the lifestyle changes I've made and listed above that can naturally help with many symptoms. But keep in mind, it is all about baby steps--start small, and all your steps will inevitably add up to something great. I know it all can seem overwhelming and even scary, but I want to encourage you that it only seems scary because it's unfamiliar territory, and once you get going on this journey, things will become clearer and more understandable. 

And please know: you are never too old or too many years into sickness to try alternative treatments. There is always hope for improvement!

3) If all of the above sounds absolutely impossible or ridiculous to you, please know that I am just one in thousands being helped by alternative, holistic treatment--and I do not mean just symptoms being soothed but actual causes improving on paper in test results and in day-to-day life.

4) If all of the above sounds like way too much trouble to you, then that is your call and I'm sorry you see it that way. You have to acknowledge the true value of health in order to truly aim for and commit to it. If you want to improve, you have to really want it, more than you want familiarity or even some of your favorite foods. You can be skeptical, as I was, but you must be open-minded and dedicated.

5) No, unfortunately insurance does not generally cover alternative treatments and testing, though it does often cover some. The reason for that is a whole other story.... I know most of us dealing with chronic illness don't exactly have scads of money lying around, and I have said "yes" to things but had to say "no" to others. But each of us needs to weigh the options offered by our alternative doctors and see what we can make happen and what we can't. You do the best you can and will make work what you really want to work.

MY HOPE FOR YOU | As I said before, I know this post will not be well-received by many. A few years ago I would have probably scoffed at it and maybe even laughed. But I'm offering you hope, and if you want to scoff and laugh at hope ... I really can't help you there. You have to reach that point where desperation meets open-mindedness on your own, in your own time.

My hope is that someone reading this has their eyes opened, that the clouds begin to part a bit and you catch a glimpse of the hope that lies in the truth and in the alternative, holistic world. If you are in misery and feel like you are stuck in a life-sentence of Fibromyalgia, CFS, or any chronic diagnosis, you do not have to stay that way. I know this is some mind-blowing stuff, but once you begin to wrap your mind around this temporarily unfamiliar world of alternative treatments, you'll see it's mind-blowing in the best way.

I'm not going to lie and say this is an easy road. Any journey to health is going to hold a multitude of ups and downs. But what worth doing is ever easy? I hope you can see that your health is worth it.

Would you like to hear more about anything in this post? Still have questions? Please feel free to comment below or contact me
You can also check out some of my favorite foods and tools I've found on this journey here.


 Nothing on this blog is to be construed as medical advice,
as I am not a doctor or health professional. I am only 
 a woman with powerful personal experiences to share 
 and am not responsible for any adverse affects from 
 incorporating my suggestions.  No claims about promising
 treatments or approaches are to be taken as guarantees
of improvement or cures. Please do not make any 
drastic changes without consulting a doctor.  

January 5, 2017

Six Years

I look back, and my heart cries over that twenty-three-year-old woman crying on the couch, drowning in the fuzzy, answerless diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and the helpless helplessness of a life doomed to pain, exhaustion, and misery. 

"Fibromyalgia" literally means "muscle pain." That's just a symptom. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome--that's just a symptom. How on earth did I not know that those diagnoses essentially meant nothing, that there had to be infections and viruses and toxins in my body manifesting in my multitudes of symptoms? How did I not know what is no-brainer knowledge to me now? 

Because that kind of thing is a secret. 

That's not how good little people think. We have all grown up in a society that has conditioned us to playing the role of the helpless victim when we need to be taught to play the role of the ruthless advocate, the capable hero in a battle we have every reason and advantage to win. It's just that those we have so dangerously come to trust the most won't tell us how.

That woman who had no idea her diagnoses were just names of symptoms, that she was sick for a reason, that there was healing in her future cried a lot. She lost years to a bogus diagnosis and trying all the ways to help that everyone said to try. And then she found out what was really wrong with her body and learned in the process that thousands and thousands of suffering people are so suffering for many of the same reasons. And that's why that girl who kept crying on the couch back then can't shut up about it all now. Because she learned secrets that flipped her upside-down life rightside-up again and better than it ever was before. And all the other people crying on their couches, drowning in a fog of bogus diagnoses and the helpless helplessness of a life doomed to unending misery need to know:

Healing is yours for the taking if you want it.

I cry over that girl now not so much because she was suffering but more so because she didn't even know she didn't know what was wrong. I thought I had the answer and was simply doing the best I could, the best that anyone could do in such a situation. But I was dead wrong--miraculously, hindsight-is-20/20-gut-wrenchingly wrong.

When I was a teenager, I had this distinct feeling that I would be sick one day. As bizarre as it sounds, you could say I almost saw it coming. But while I had the impression I would be sick in the somewhat distant future, I had no idea at all I would or could later be well one day--and on the way transformed to a completely different person.

Sometimes I have moments of seeing social media posts of mine or hearing my words to others on health and wellness from afar and do a mental double take. Because I distinctly remember Health class back in 2nd/3rd grade and beyond. It was dry, dull, and pointless, made up of food pyramids and admonitions to exercise. (Considering health textbooks are fueled by mainstream views, it's no wonder they didn't exactly light a fire in me to truly care, but I digress.) I had no motivation to care about my health, as most healthy people don't. And well into my twenties, "health" was this abstract, unimportant idea floating in the air, something we all know our whole lives to be important but most of us not really caring to know why. And "eating healthy" held an even less appealing connotation: lots of greens and vegetables with no flavor but filled with deprivation and hunger. If anyone really didn't care about health, it was me.

Funny how you have to lose something to learn what the fuss was about.

If I could change what that girl lying on the couch six years ago is sobbing over, I wouldn't. I wouldn't snap my fingers and make her healthy if I could. Because she would continue to be exactly the same as she was before: floating along in blissful, pill-popping, gluten-filled, sugar-coated ignorance until some other illness caught up with her.

I would not change the what. But I would change the how--I would tell her the truth, the truth that took me years to discover, that I never dreamed existed:

Healing is yours for the taking if you want it. 


December 6, 2016

🎉 Katya Valera is FIVE! 🎉

Well, she will be on Friday, December 9th! 🎉

I started Katya Valera on a whim about a year after I got sick, with a name that wasn't even close to Katya Valera, and I can't believe it's been five years.

While I'm still sick (but getting better), Katya Valera is still with me and going stronger than I ever (and, I modestly think, better than ever), and I am so grateful! This little business has been the happiest creative outlet for me while I'm unable to go get a "real job" (though let me tell you, I work, as I put it, "an awful lot for a sick person..."), and I would want to keep it going even if I were healthy.

Of course at this huge milestone, I couldn't go without a massive celebration, so that's what I'm doing! There are FIVE huge events happening all week long in my shop/on Instagram leading up to the big day, and trust me: you don't want to miss any of them!

First up is a giveaway of my most popular piece. I first made this necklace in 2012, and it sold at a jewelry party. I was so bummed it was gone so soon that I decided to make another to list on Etsy, and I've been making and relisting it ever since! 

I more recently added bronze and gold versions to the shop, and you can see them all in the shop right here. And! You can enter to win your choice of the three


The giveaway is going on on Instagram and on Facebook, so be sure to enter both places for extra entries! It ends on December 9th--of course--at midnight EST.

The second of the five big events is a special OOAK IG Sale of 11 brand-new, one-of-a-kind pieces not in the shop. They're all posted onInstagram and are priced at at least 15% off! Be sure to take a look, because the sale ends tonight, December 6th, at midnight EST!


And the next event ... I can't tell you about, silly! You'll have to keep an eye out on Instagram and Facebook for it tomorrow! Plus, there's still two more big events after that--so be sure to follow along so you don't miss out on the madness! (Because trust me, what's still coming is definitely some more madness.)
And as if this week weren't already special enough, this shop (and my other shop too) is featured in the most special gift guide at MoreThan Lyme

I was so touched to be included with so many other business-running Lymies, and the intro is the most beautiful, accurate description of what we do that I've ever heard. Be sure to check it out and maybe take advantage of a coupon code you may find in there! 

Thank you so much to everyone who has shopped and followed Katya Valera over the years. I am so thankful she's still going and hope you'll continue to #shopsmall and follow along in the future. Happy celebrating! :)

November 17, 2016

Prints and Gift Sets: More Ways to Encourage + Giveaway!

This has been a long time coming--back in August with the official launch of the Streetlights at Midnight shop I said all the printables would soon be available as prints. And two months is soon in chronic illness language! :) So here we are: 5x7" tangible prints of all the quote printables in the shop are now available!






Plus, this development brought some new designs with it too!






These are just a handful (pretty literally!) of the many designs now available, covering the broad categories of faith, life, and love. Of course all of these are available as both prints and printables, and several are also available as greeting cards!

In addition to this exciting new facet of the shop, I've now also added themed three-print gift sets!





There are eleven sets available, ranging from chronic illness-focused to a new student/graduation theme, and any would make a wonderful encouraging gift. Plus, bonus: you get the three at a discount!

AND NOW! To celebrate the long-awaited arrival of prints and gift sets (and help a lucky someone get a start on their Christmas shopping), I'm having a giveaway of one print set over on the Streetlights at Midnight Instagram page and also the Facebook page! So please take a minute to enter for your choice of one of the eleven print gift sets--you can enter at both or either places, and the giveaway ends Sunday night. So don't miss it, and be sure to share it with your friends!

And while you're waiting to hear if you're the winner ;) be sure to check out all the new prints (and printables and cards!) in the shop here and all the unique print gift sets here. Happy shopping!

November 14, 2016

Please Listen

My husband was awakened by me crying last night. Do you want to know why I was crying? Because sickness is hard. Even though I am getting better, I am still sick, and it is still hard. And you know what one of the hardest parts of being in such a place is?

Watching scads of people around me getting sick and doing nothing about it.

Okay, some think they're doing something about it. They're trying to eat more salads and drink less pop. Or they're trying to exercise a couple days a week. Or they're taking whatever pill is the latest bandaid their all-knowing doctor has chosen for whatever symptom(s) is the most annoying. Or they're doing nothing at all but expecting God to up and heal them and save them the trouble.

Or they actually are doing nothing about it. Because at the end of the day, health is not really that big of a deal. Definitely not worth such drastic measures as giving up the foods or habits they can't live without or making inconvenient lifestyle changes.

And this leaves me in tears.

Any of you reading this who know me at all, in person or online, know I'm sick. You've gathered I rarely leave the apartment and I frequently don't make it to church. You know I have that whole Etsy shop thing but I don't have a real job and supposedly am not able to get one. You know I've mentioned how making dinner and doing the dishes on the same day doesn't always happen, and when it does it's my big accomplishment for the day.

You know I am suffering. And you maybe don't know but surely can guess that the accumulation of all of the above does result in a kind of misery. I am getting better, and I know and trust that God is using this suffering for something bigger than I can see. But in the mundane everyday and in the face of the gifts I was given and am currently unable to use, in a marriage where I constantly struggle with how much I think I should be able to contribute and how little I actually can, in the grand scheme of seemingly everyone else's daily productivity and success in any area of life and my own pitiful contrasting amount, you could say I am a kind of miserable. Not because I am depressed, not because I don't have faith, but because chronic. illness. is. freaking. hard.

So I have to ask, how do you think sickness of this level starts?

It starts a little at a time. One infection. One gene mutation. One virus that lodges itself in you. One food allergy. One accident. All of those things? They happen. That is life. There are germs, there are sicknesses, there are gene mutations, there are accidents. But add them all together over the course of even just a childhood, and they can team up to wreak havoc on your body and take you down. Slowly.

Until one day your body has all it can take. And you? You become me. You are left with a B.A. you cannot use. Children you cannot take care of. A job you cannot get out of bed to get to. Gifts with no ability to use them. Dreams that seemed hard to reach while healthy but that are now laughable.

Am I trying to scare you? Yeah, I am. Because I'm starting to think that's the only way, besides prayer, I might get anyone's attention.

Here in my kind of misery, my tears, I am wishing, hoping, thinking surely all of you who are aware of my suffering and either seemingly healthy or just beginning to witness a decline would take me as an example. That you would think, "Gosh, I better nip this _____ in the bud now so I don't get as bad off as Kacie." But I have seen no one do anything that indicated such a thought process. I have seen the opposite.

Can you please do that, for me? Can you do me a favor and care about your own health, for your own good? Can you make my suffering worthwhile, use my body's breakdown as an example to you of what could happen and do everything in your power to prevent that?

Prior to the day my body had all it could take, I did not know any better. I knew none of this, so even in maddening retrospect, there is nothing I could have done to start truly taking care of my body and to find the treatment I am doing sooner than I did. And I did not know how valuable health was because I hadn't yet experienced the loss of it.

I now sit here, on the far side of health, seeing in all its blazing glory how valuable what I have lost is. How miraculous it is to be able to go to sleep when it's dark, get up in the morning, get yourself ready, go to work or take care of your kids all day. Go buy groceries, make dinner, and do the dishes. Dust and vacuum the house and clean the bathroom. Make plans for the weekend or your birthday or Thanksgiving like it's nothing. Because when you have health, that's what it is to you: nothing.

But when you lose it, you realize it was everything.

In my tears, from the bottom of my heart, I am begging you: make my suffering worth it. Take my broken body as an example. Remember this post, remember my words, remember my tears when you are crushed under yet another migraine. When no amount of salads are making you lose the weight. When your stomach is unexplainably upset yet again. When your cholesterol just won't go down. When you keep finding yourself anxious for no reason. When mysterious skin rashes just keep coming. When your brain isn't quite as sharp as it used to be. When you find yourself having to nap every chance you get. When your body aches and screams through another day of work.

Remember me. Realize what you stand to lose if you don't try to win now. Find out the root reason your body is rebelling in the way it is rebelling. It's just trying to get your attention, just like I am.

Please listen.

{If you need someone to point you in the right direction of health and cheer you on as you reach for it, I'm here. Please feel free to contact me.}