In July of last year, during the peak of a heated and highly competitve race for County Circuit Clerk, I went to my OBGYN for some concerns I had about how I was physically and emotionally feeling. And how I was feeling was BAD. After my own research and a conversation with my dr., we decided that I should have a laproscopy. A week after the exploratory surgery came the diagnosis that I knew was likely: Endometriosis. Stage IV Endometriosis. If you don’t know what that is, Google it. And understand that while I hate that I have it, it was a huge relief to know that the last 15 years haven’t been me being crazy. There was a REASON I felt so good when I was pregnant with Reagan – all my symptoms were in remission! There was a REASON I spent so much time at other doctors for GI problems – Endometriosis was invading my digestion system! There was a REASON I felt depressed and fatigued so much of the time – I was in chronic discomfort and felt like it was “my normal” and had just tried to live life and not complain if I could help it.

Finally knowing this ridiculous, crappy diagnosis is what had been at the root of so many things for so many, many years was overwhelming. For one thing, I don’t know if I can have any more children. Shey and I have talked about having children for years, but for one reason or another, we never took the plunge – now we’re not sure if we can. For another thing, because of the advanced state of my condition, my doctor had recommended a full hysterectomy in the next couple of years if not sooner. I’m 33, and while I’ve joked that “yanking it all out” sounds like a great idea most of the time, the thought of such an invasive and permanent change to my body is more than a little scary. At the time of diagnosis, I opted to take some hormone therapy for 6 months. Mainly to help my body heal some of the lesions and to buy me some relief while I sorted out what would happen after the election: win or lose.

Well, we all know I lost. Then came some really fun stuff at work and, long story short, I changed jobs and now feel like I’m on the edge of a new beginning. So with that new beginning came the realization that I simply had to take charge of my own health.

I took drastic measures. After reading rather extensively about the effect of dietary choices on endometriosis symptoms, I decided to become a “flexitarian”. Not a diet, not an “eating plan”, not a temporary, try-this-and-then-go-back-to-whatever-is-easy-and-convenient plan. Basically, what I have done is something I should have done a long time ago. But it took me realizing that my food choices were literally making my body sick before something clicked in my head.

So what is “flexitarian”, you may ask? Basically, it means that I’m about 75% vegan. And buddy, let me just tell ya, it’s hard. I live in the south. The land of the fried chicken and the home of the buttermilk biscuit. You start even thinking about cutting animal products out of your diet if you’re a southerner and you’ve eliminated 90% of your daily intake before lunchtime! Hell, we even cook our vegetables with bacon! (Which is why they’re so good, of course!)

And I love to eat. I love to cook. I love to bake. I love meat. I love cheese! I love sour cream! And I still eat them – but in very, very strict moderation.

I’ve been doing this for 10 days which may sound dangerously early to start talking up something that I could fail at at any moment. But every day that passes feels like a victory because I feel so much better. My digestion problems have done a 180. My pain and fatigue have substantially decreased. My skin is clearer. I’ve lost over 3.5 lbs. And best of all, I feel like I’ve finally learned how to treat my body right.

I knew when I decided to make this change that it couldn’t be temporary – I was going to have to commit to doing things differently. Forever. And so far, I’m really, really proud of myself. So, here’s to better health and a summer full of fresh produce! Eat more veggies, y’all!