Happy Herbivore Blog

February 13, 2014

Herbie of the Week: Lynne (She Beat PCOS & Infertility!)

Meet our Herbie of the Week, Lynne!

I first came in contact with Lynne when she emailed me about Katharine's Minimalist Monday post on downsizing and decluttering. Not only did she tell me about how she makes a conscious effort to limit toys and clothes, but she also shared her and her family's incredible story.

Lynne discovered she had PCOS after years of non-existent periods. Her fertility doctor urged her to switch to a whole foods, plant-based diet, but she resisted. After suffering two miscarriages, she finally made the switch and six weeks later she was pregnant.

But her plant-based journey didn't stop there! Read on for Lynne's complete (and inspiring) story!

Hi Lynne! Tell us a little about yourself.

My story starts when I was a teenager. I had severe IBS and non-existent periods.

In regards to the IBS, I was told I was lactose intolerant and when I was 20 I stopped drinking milk, but still had lots of ice cream and cheese! It was more than just dairy that was hurting my gut. Later I would find out there is a whole other level of health that I didn’t even know about.

As for my menstrual cycle, I remember my mom taking me to her gynecologist who performed a laparoscopy and said my ovaries looked fine. That was it. Throughout my twenties, I consulted a few doctors about my health concern, and they all said "don’t worry about it, until you’re ready to have kids". Really?! Another lesson, the only person that will advocate for you, is YOU. Keep. On. Looking. Until you find the right health professional to answer your questions.

After I married my husband Mark in 2007, I knew it would be hard to conceive a child if I wasn’t ovulating. Nearly impossible. I maybe had my period once or twice a year. You might think- wow, I’d love to not get my monthly visit from Aunt Flow, and sure it was nice to save some money and avoid some nasty cramps, but I knew it was not normal.

Ends up I had PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome- an endocrine and metabolic disorder, which means that my hormones were imbalanced and that my eggs were not maturing enough to be released- hence the no periods. When ultrasounds were done, they could see dozens of immature follicles.

Now fortunately it was my fertility doctor here in Toronto that told me I was unhealthy and needed to eat a whole plant based diet and practice Qi Gong. At first, I thought: "Wow, how rude! I am healthy, what is he talking about? I have never had a cup of coffee or a cigarette, I eat my salads, and the only time I drink pop is with rum!".

I was resistant to change. I didn’t want to make the change. I thought it was unfair. I didn’t want to give up anything. What changed for me was when I had 2 miscarriages, one on Christmas Day in 2009 and the other the following month. Although I was now getting pregnant, my body was not producing the hormones in order to sustain the pregnancy.

I was devastated. It was the hardest thing to lose two babies especially after trying for 2 years. But I was determined and as I read books on health and nutrition, I understood the connection. I hired a consultant to help guide me and within 6 weeks of making drastic changes to my cupboards, mindset and eating habits I was pregnant.

So after I made it through my first trimester, Mark and I were able to celebrate and let out a sigh of relief. Until we got a call from the doctor that Mark had CANCER.

In a way, I was grateful that I had gone through all that I had, learning about the mind-body connection, because when Mark was diagnosed, we were better equipped. We jumped right in with his healing journey. And ultimately, I choose to believe it was my daughter’s way of leading us back to a whole healthy life.

What was it like for you to eat a plant-based diet while pregnant?

With both of my pregnancies, I was super nauseous. I would gag on water. And honestly, vegetables did not appeal to me so maintaining a healthy diet was difficult. I tried as best as I could to maintain a healthy diet; however I was gentle on myself and gave myself permission just to eat what I could stomach. Even if it was something gross. I remember having to send my husband out to buy a Big Mac. Yikes! (It’s hard for me to share that with you, but in the name of being authentic and letting go of perfection, I am opening up to being vulnerable). [Editorial Note: I really do appreciate her honesty!] I used acupuncture and hypnosis to help me through it. I can recall though that when I was finally feeling better, I was so excited and happy to be able to eat rice and broccoli again!

Is your husband plant-based as well? If so, has it helped him since his cancer diagnosis?

Yes, my husband went plant-based immediately following his cancer diagnosis. It helped that he had seen the fantastic results based on me switching to plant-based in order to conceive just 6 months prior. Eating real food that is nutritious for our bodies has helped us be stronger in the face of adversity. It has helped Mark live with cancer and heal his body. It has helped us think more clearly as well as feel more alive.

What about your daughters? How are you teaching them to be plant proud?

Our daughters are definitely being raised plant-based at home. I say at home, because when we are out in social circles, we are somewhat flexible.

I struggle with what to "allow" as a parent because I want to protect and nourish my children; however I also want to instill in them the power to make their own choices. My oldest knows that sugar and dairy give her a stomach ache based on her own experience. And she can be heard saying "Grandpa that is not a healthy choice!".

There are times that we are more "strict" than others and I think this is all part of the journey. It’s a process, changing one’s eating habits and lifestyle takes time, effort and energy. The expectation is not to be perfect, because I can put a lot of pressure on myself. The expectation is to make progress. And to celebrate the small and simple changes that we make as a family that align with our values.

Parenting is my most important job and I take responsibility for modeling and teaching my children what I know. I am learning along with them. I do the best that I can and trust my instincts. I am learning to be more gentle and compassionate to myself. That taking care of myself in an extreme way, as I did in order to become a mother, is my most important goal. Ultimately, so both my husband and I can be there for our children, alive and fully present.

I hope to show my children unconditional love, connection, courage and resilience as we live out our lives together. Our girls are learning that their body can heal itself when given proper rest, love and good food. What a beautiful belief to have instilled at such a young age. I am one proud mama!

What a gorgeous family! Thank you so much for sharing with us, Lynne! We'll be sending lots positive thoughts Mark's way!

UPDATE February 2014

We are taking things one day at a time- last week we found out Mark's tumor has grown ever so slightly, but the cancer remains localized to his pancreas and it has not spread (contrary to what the medical oncologists had warned).

We continue to focus on our health and projects that bring us joy. We are launching Ten Percent, an inspirational blog/apparel company that aims to help inspire, educate and give back to various wellness projects.

I am also redefining my work as a pediatric Occupational Therapist and who I work with; integrating my knowledge of natural healing and simplicity parenting. You can check it out on my website.

Thank you to Lindsay and the HH team for all that you do!

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