Carrie Gallagher is a wellness professional. So after being diagnosed with granulomatosis polyangiitis (Wegener’s) in 2012, she did the only thing she knew to do: Make lifestyle changes to help her live actively with the disease.
“I do certain things to help myself besides traditional medicine,” she says. Gallagher had prednisone and rituximab treatments after diagnosis. “I did a lot of research on what I could do to help reduce inflammation and get off prednisone. I went on a gluten-free diet and that’s made a huge difference for me. I can’t say I do it 100-percent perfectly – that would stress me out too much – but I do it 95 percent of the time.” The dietary changes have helped. Gallagher has stayed off prednisone, and had a rituximab maintenance treatment last year as a preventative.
Always active, she added an activity to help her manage pain. “I started doing yoga two times per week,” she notes. “I literally have been able to cure the pain associated with disease – the joint and back pain is gone.”
She’s working hard to make sure that she manages stress levels to avoid a flare. “You have to manage your stress to stay healthy,” she says. “Meditation, aroma therapy, journaling – figure out what works for you, what helps you relax and calm yourself down.”
The key is looking at the reality without getting stressed out or depressed. “Going to a negative place may even make you sicker,” she says. “It’s scary and unknown, but you have to accept it and tell yourself it’s going to be OK. I was scared to say at first that ‘I will be OK off meds’, but I just had to let myself go through those emotions. Look within yourself and say, ‘I can do this’.”
She suggests patients join support groups. “Find your local chapter of the VF and go to conferences and talks,” she says. “And see if your hospital has a group for people with chronic illnesses.” She also invites patients to contact her directly via email.
“It’s important to think a little bit about everything you want and are striving for – you should still do that,” Gallagher says. “Live your life every day. Learning, staying busy, doing something exciting – all these things help you to be healthier and keep your mind and body in a good place. You can’t be scared.”
Gallgaher offers this New Year’s Resolution for patients: “Once a day to stop – be in the moment, take a deep breath.”