My family and friends say that I have amazing story to tell, a story that involves overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds and challenges.
Let’s get crackalackin!
Starbrite (n) ~ The middle name I bestowed upon myself at the tender age of 5 after feeling deprived that my parents did not give me one. Needless to say the name has stuck……Bree Starbrite forever more!
Warrior (n) ~ Exactly as the word implies. A Warrior lives inside us all. I have had to be a Warrior with a capital ‘W’ to survive what at times has seemed like a constant ‘shovelling shit up hill’ scenario. Let me take a moment to explain….
“Illnesses do not come upon us out of the blue. They are developed from small daily sins against nature. When enough sins have accumulated, illnesses will suddenly appear.”
~ Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine
Everything was tra-la-la for me until the ripe ol’ age of 24. Sure, there had been a few bumps in the road and a couple of wrong turns, all in all pretty normal; then an internal implosion, a few sinkholes, and my path has been twisting, turning and changing direction ever since. Looking back there were multiple warning signs that things were amiss, but being young and dumb I ignored them. Until it was too late and ignorance was no longer an option. I was in for the fight of my life.
On the 11th November 2005 my life irrevocably changed when tick tick BOOM [!!] the internal bomb that was my immune system saying ‘F%[email protected] You!’ went off. With widespread damage and life-altering consequences. It was my own person Mack Truck; a life-threatening autoimmune condition known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (pronounced GEE-ann Bar-Ray, its très French) that left me completely paralysed within 3 days and had doctors telling my parents they weren’t sure if I would make it.
I went all out with this one, leaping into the hospital record books with one of the worst recorded cases of GBS in 10 years. Not content with getting just the standard GBS (cos what would be the fun in that I say!) I went for its rare cousin, the Miller Fisher Variant, aka ‘Upside Down GBS.’ My parents like to remind me that I pole-vaulted past my brother in terms of any trouble he ever gave them. Suffice it to say that I cannot even begin to tell you in one page all the juicy details and how I got to where I am today; I will reveal more in future blog updates.
The GBS messed with every part of my body; trust me when I say that no stone was left unturned. It has spawned other side effects such as full-body chronic nerve pain (which I live with 24/7); chronic fatigue; Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS); loss of proprioception (position sense); loss of sensation; numbness that comes and goes (I ‘lose’ limbs on a daily basis; it’s like being injected with a local anaesthetic)……the list goes on. I use trendy walking sticks for short distances and hoon around in my trusty scooter for longer distances. As my mum would say: ‘It’s cool to be you!’
In the face of such adversity, through the darkest hours and into the light, humour has been my coping mechanism. Usually highly inappropriate humour, especially from my Mum (gotta love her!):
+ Mum, with a whisper in my ear as I lay in a hospital bed with tubes coming out of every orifice: “Don’t you die on me bitch!” Oh, see how I have suffered! 😉
+ Doctors, taking their cue from The Mother: “Morning Bree. If you were a horse we would have shot you by now!” They were so impressed, even though it took some time, with me flipping them my interpretation of the bird. I even got a round of applause!
The saying that every cloud has a silver lining definitely holds true for me. Many good things have come out of my experience. I have found my passion in life; my calling. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t hit ‘return to sender’ on some things if I had the chance, no siree! I would love to be free of the physical pain and I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to the beginning, when:
+ The paralysis took over my entire body in a mere three days and had me hoping like hell the doctors had their diagnosis right.
+ My Mum had to perform the Heimlich Maneuver after I choked on lettuce because my throat muscles no longer worked. To think that greens could have been my downfall!
+ When my eyes had to be taped shut at night to prevent them from drying out after my blink reflex shut down.
+ The night where I thought I was going to drown in my own saliva because I couldn’t swallow or spit to save myself.
These are definitely not pleasant experiences to recall and there are many more that have spanned the past 9 years, but the resilience that I have discovered inside myself….WOW!
I have marvelled at the power of my body to not only self-destruct but to self-heal under the right conditions. I have grown so much because of the challenges I have faced and am much stronger (perhaps not physically but mentally!) because of it. Life is good and I am so grateful to still be here.
My illness is a constant management, a dance; sometimes one step forward and two steps back; always moving and changing. I may never fully recover given the severity of my case but I am sure as hell going to give it my best shot!
I will admit that I am just as guilty as anyone of falling back into bad habits. In the early years after my diagnosis I was just trying to keep my head above water. I wanted to return to normal as fast as possible and when I think back to how I pushed myself in the early days I cringe. I was told I would be in hospital for 6-9 months, plus rehab, and I went home after 6 weeks walking on legs that I still couldn’t properly feel. Determination has got me to where I am today but it has also been to my detriment. But more about that another day!
There have been two keys to unlocking the doors to self-healing and wellness for me:
I believe strongly in the power of real food as medicine, integrated with a healthy mind, body and spirit connection, having experienced first-hand the healing that can occur through my own continued journey of chronic illness management. My passion for healthy living and self-healing led me to study at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (aff) in February 2014 as a Holistic Health Coach.
It is my mission to help women shine brite and live ah-mazing, possibility-fuelled lives in spite of chronic health-related limitations. To realise that your health problems do not need to define you. I cannot stress that enough. I am not my illness. You are not your illness. You are a WARRIOR and YOU are in charge!
“You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it”
Do you suffer from:
+ Chronic pain? + Digestive health issue? + One of the many autoimmune conditions that plague so many people in today’s society? + Lack of energy? + Lack of sleep?
If you answered yes to any of the above, I get YOU. I am in your corner.
I have walked (ok crutched and performed wheelies in my scooter!) in your shoes and continue to do so.
I know how debilitating chronic pain and chronic illness can be; how it drags you down and takes every last ounce of energy you have and then some.
I know what it’s like to feel completely detached and out of sync/control with your body and the fear that manifests.
I know how it feels to be powerless. There was a time when I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to feel my feet touch the floor again, much less any other part of my body.
I know what it’s like to have to rely on people for help and how hopeless it can make you feel.
I know what it’s like to have bad days, which can morph into weeks and even months, where the pain, fatigue or other debilitating nature of your illness is so bad that it is a struggle to drag your arse out of bed, much less get on with the rest of the day.
I know because I have been there, I am still there, and I can totally empathise with your situation.
I hope that by sharing my story and the things that have worked/are working for me will empower you to make the necessary changes in your life to be a healthier, happier you. Because really, you deserve nothing less in this life.
For those of you lovely ladies who are fortunate enough to not fall into the bucket of ailments above, if my story resonates with you and you know in your heart that some changes are required, then this blog is also for you.
Please don’t wait until you get sick, like I did, to make a change. Don’t wait for that Mack Truck to hit. I am here to help you. If you are interested in being health coached by me, email me at bree[at]starbritewarrior[dot]com
Social media not your thing? Send me an email at bree[at]starbritewarrior[dot]com
You can also pop on over to my Contact page for more information. If you are inspired and want to keep across all the latest happenings on the blog (think healing remedies, healthy living tips, recipes, and much more) and be the first to know about new adventures in Starbrite Warrior land, join the Starbrite Warrior Tribe using the opt-in button.
Let your star shine brite my fellow Warriors
Are you ready to unleash the warrior within and shine brite in spite of invisible illness?
Bree Hogan is a certified holistic health coach and the founder of Starbrite Warrior, an online resource and support community for women living with invisible illness who want to do more than just simply cope.
As a young(ish!) woman living with invisible illness for the past 10 years, since the age of 24, Bree gets it – she speaks your language; she crutches and wheels a similar path. Bree knows what it is like to battle with your body; feel limited in your abilities; have your illness invalidated because you “don’t look sick”; and most of all, to want more out of life despite the crap-quota of cards that you have been dealt.
Through her unique mix of realism, positivity, humour and a whole lotta heart, Bree shares her personal, oftentimes confronting (no sugar-coating here!), insights and experiences to help women shine brite and live ah-mazing, possibility-fuelled lives in spite of chronic health-related limitations.
When she isn’t Starbrite-ing it up, Bree can be found playing personal chef and butler to Master Horus (fur-baby); or indulging her love of all things mint and chocolatey.
Starbrite Warrior: Ignite your resilience. Celebrate your spirit.