May 11, 2012

Winning the Race Against JRA: A Guest Post by Summer Wesson


We are thrilled to feature this story for two reasons. First, Summer is the first real-life example we’ve encountered of someone who has cured their autoimmune disease. That’s right – cured her autoimmune disease. Second, she did it with the help of a Paleo diet, our Whole30® program, and the tremendous coaching and guidance of Eric LeClair of Team CrossFit Academy, an esteemed Whole9 Nutrition Partner. Read. Be inspired. And share the hopeful message of Summer’s story.

Summer’s Story

I was 19 years old when I was rushed to the hospital the spring after my freshman year of college, with 107 degree fever and severe joint pain.  Although barely conscious, I remember the night well.  My dad was uncharacteristically driving way over the speed limit and my mom was crying in the front passenger seat.  I was admitted to Emory University, put in my own wing, and within a few hours I already looked like an IV drug user with the amount of needles that had gone into my arm.  After a night in the hospital and numerous tests, my doctors had narrowed down my condition to either lupus, rheumatic fever or JRA (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis), all autoimmune diseases that are very closely connected.  Although my symptoms never 100% matched any of the three, they finally settled on JRA. I was in bed for three months, barely having the energy to walk from my room to the bathroom.  Having lived in pain for years leading up to this point, I literally thought this was leading up to the end of my life. When I made a turn for the better, just before I was scheduled to return to college for sophomore year, my doctor agreed to let me go back with the understanding that I would do nothing but go to class and go to bed, I would not try to work out, and I would eat healthy.  So I cut out all meat and became a vegetarian.  Although functional, I felt terrible all the time.  I never had any energy and took so much Advil that I developed stomach ulcers.  My small frame had put on 30 lbs, which I just couldn’t understand since I was eating so ‘healthy.’  I eventually just found a way to live with the pain.  My doctor forewarned me that this was one of the worst cases he had ever seen, and that I could expect my hands to start deforming in my early 20s.

Born to Run…and Eat Meat

When I graduated from college, I decided to go on a road trip from Atlanta to Los Angeles.  I loved the city, and stayed.  Among it’s other perks, the atmosphere and lack of rain was much easier on my joint pain.  Before too long, I realized I had to start trying to do something physical.  My doctors had told me that I would never be able to run, but one day, a friend invited me out for a three mile run with him and I accepted.  I finished the run, went home, threw up, and immediately signed up for the LA Marathon. As I started running more and more, my body started craving what it needed, one of those things being meat.  I went back to chicken and fish and immediately started dropping weight.  The pain that running brought with it was excruciating at first, but became a little better over time.  I went on to complete a dozen marathons before I made the switch to ultramarathons (31 miles and above) and completed my first 100 mile race before I started searching for even more answers. That is when I landed on the doorstep of Team CrossFit Academy. My new coach, Eric LeClair, suggested I check out this thing called a ‘Paleo diet.’ Under his expert guidance every step of the way, I immediately implemented his dietary recommendations. Within six months the pain was diminished to next to nothing.  I went on to complete a dozen more ultramarathons with improved performance, due to a significant decrease in pain. I became what I would call ‘gluten free’ (with no exception) and ‘mostly’ Paleo, because I felt my body still needed rice for more carbohydrates, and I didn’t really understand the downsides of drinking milk.  However, after attending the Whole9 Nutrition Workshop, I finally made the switch to cutting those out as well.  Immediately, my skin cleared up, telling me that obviously I had some kind of inflammatory reaction, and my energy has increased significantly.

Recently, I went in for a complete blood count and discovered my rheumatoid factor was negative, with zero indications of an autoimmune disease.

A Work in Progress

I am still a work in progress on a lot of levels, but it is because of the work that Dallas, Melissa and Eric do that not only allows me to live a life of with less pain, but could actually be the reason that I am still alive.  Every day I am grateful for the things that my coach Eric has taught me, and the guidance that I have received by programs like the Whole9 that have completely changed my life.

We could not be more proud of Summer, Eric LeClair and the entire Team CrossFit Academy team, and to have contributed to Summer’s journey. Use these buttons below to share Summer’s message of hope and determination with others suffering from autoimmune disease. To read other Whole9 inspiring testimonials, click here. As always, comments are welcome.

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