Endo Warrior Spotlight: Claire Barker
I "met" Claire online a few years ago while researching the information available to women with endometriosis to help them heal. What I found was incredibly bleak (as we well know). Blogs dedicated to the unending horrors of endo, awareness sights re-iterating nothing could be done, and the same nutrition advice that depletes bodies more than it heals. Yet, in the middle of the doom, was Claire's blog: www.theendotheworld.com. Claire was funny! She had humor, sarcasm, wit ... all the qualities I adore in a friend, especially one facing so much endo pain. So I wrote her up...
Turns out Claire isn't just a good writer, she also is deeply involved in the endo community as an activist, awareness raiser, and volunteer (check out the video on the right). She's basically a British bad-ass endo-warrior who, in her soft spoken way, helps people listen and understand what endometriosis means. There's really nothing cooler than that. We became new age pen pals.
Claire was also trying to get pregnant ... without success. She and her wonderful husband had been trying for over 2 years by that point. I adored Claire to pieces, so I offered to work with her to help build her body up (her husbands too) for pregnancy. I reminded her it took 3 full months for both egg and sperm to mature, and then we set about making a nutrition program that Claire diligently undertook. Her previous "endo diet" of restriction was pushed to the curb, and in came the big guns of deep nutrition I speak of so much on this site.
What happened? Almost 3 months to the day Claire was pregnant! I cried I was so happy for this amazing woman. See, good things can happen to endo-warriors :) This is her story in her own words, below.
My fertility journey with severe endometriosis and adenomyosis: An ode to Heal Endo.
by Claire Barker
I remember waking up from my first laparoscopy with my surgeon hovering over me. 'Good news, it isn’t cancer' she said. ''Bad news, you have endometriosis and it's really bad, it's EVERYWHERE''. She recommended that I go to see my GP to have the Mirena coil fitted. ''Oh, and come back and see in a year when you've been unable to conceive, if that's what you want'' she added.
And that was my terrible introduction to the crazy world that is life with endometriosis. I was 25 years old. I had never even heard of endometriosis and no explanation was provided. Not that it was a huge surprise after some speedy Googling- I had been suffering with severe period pain, fatigue, bowel and bladder pain, as well as shoulder pain since I was 12 years old. These symptoms had worsened over time and become increasingly debilitating to the point where I was considering dropping out of my PhD studies as I felt too ill and exhausted to continue working. I was hospitalized with diarrhoea so severe at one point that I almost died of dehydration! A year later a diagnosis of severe adenomyosis followed.
The news that I had a chronic and incurable condition that I would have to somehow manage for the rest of my life was more upsetting than the fertility bombshell at the time. I was only 25 and having children hadn't ever really crossed my mind at this point, despite recently becoming engaged to my partner Simon. I joined a local support group and did lots of reading, and decided the best course of action for a chance of recovery and to boost my fertility was to have excision surgery, which I underwent in London two years later.
While excision surgery helped to reduce my pain and symptoms significantly, I soon realised there was a huge difference between 'having less pain' and 'feeling truly well'. Two years post surgery I had also been unable to conceive which was making me feel anxious, depressed, and like a failure. Like many of my endo sisters I turned to natural approaches with the aim of prompting my health, and started following the 'endo diet' religiously. I cut everything- gluten, dairy, soy, meat. You name it, I didn't eat it. I was also pretty miserable (I'm a massive foodie at heart) and didn't feel that the endo diet was nourishing me in the way that I hoped, as I wrote about in my blog HERE. I was also punishing myself with heavy exercise daily with the thought that this was healthy and would help me to manage my pain better and to lose the weight I seemed to be gaining despite my attempt to restrict calories.
And that's where my association with Katie from Heal Endo started. She contacted me saying that she liked my post and agreed that the traditional endo diet is not as healing as it could be - and is often counterproductive. Katie suggested that she could work with me and that with her guidance we might be able to improve my symptoms and make me truly well again. I jumped at the offer! I would try anything, although by this point I felt somewhat sceptical about the impact that a natural approach could achieve. Fertility, I insisted, should be placed on the back burner indefinitely. I knew my body needed to heal and was in no fit state to carry a baby as it was. Anyway, I felt defeated and was reluctant to spend huge amounts of money on IVF.
After completing a barrage of testing and paperwork documenting my symptoms and usual diet, Katie was able to devise an individualized eating and movement plan to start me on my journey to healing. I was slightly intimidated as it represented a huge change to my usual habits - as a low sugar plan was recommended for me at first as my glucose scores were through the roof! Strangely, I grieved the loss of caffeine the most as my daily cups of tea had fuelled me for years and had become somewhat of a comfort blanket. Instead of daily weight training and running I'd be walking. Still, I persevered and committed 100% as I knew this was an all or nothing opportunity.
What amazed me was how quickly my symptoms started to reduce when following the 'Heal Endo' approach. After about two weeks I noticed something truly remarkable whilst driving to work- for the first time in over a decade I was feeling well! I had energy! I actually felt happy! All this while eating more than ever too.
As the weeks rolled on this trend continued- my energy levels increased to what I'd call 'normal', my mood stabilized (no more 'hangry' my husband joked to his relief), and my bowel symptoms melted away. I enjoyed being able to introduce more foods over time, with the focus on their healing benefits rather than the focus being on deprivation of what was off limits. Also, the food I was making was really tasty- even my husband (the ultimate sugar addict) was able to join in and was enjoying the meals. Being able to eat lots of organic grass-fed meats, dairy, and vegetables was a joy. This is all no small feat as things were actually quite challenging in my personal life at the time as my beloved dad had become very ill.
But the biggest shock, three months into my work with Katie I fell pregnant completely unexpectedly. I am awaiting the arrival of my baby boy any day now. I will never forget Katie's amazed and delighted face when I told her my news. It felt like a miracle but upon reflection I was feeling so well by this point I honestly believe my body was ready at last. Everything seems to have fallen into place, and I am so grateful to Katie and her Heal Endo method for this.
I cannot recommend working with Katie and/or following the advice published at Heal Endo highly enough. It has honestly changed my life and I will be practicing her approach for the rest of my life. She is also a kind and fun person who is open to collaboration and helping you get the most from your own healing goals.
I hope my story can give some hope to other women out there experiencing fertility struggles. I feel like if I could go on to conceive and carry a baby to term with severe endometriosis and adenomyosis then there really is hope for other people too. Please don’t give up- healing IS possible!
You can follow my blog ‘The Endo The World’ online (http://theendotheworld.com) or on Twitter (@EndoLadyUK) for further information and updates.