Author: Mimi Lange Johnston

I was born premature, weighing 3 lb 3 oz. I spent 1 month in an incubator before being discharged. I had all the usual childhood illnesses–chickenpox, mumps, scarlet fever. I began having Crohn’s symptoms as a teenager, but didn’t go to the doctor about it till my mid-20s. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 1990. 

My early symptoms were diarrhea, gas, bloating, cramps, and later double-over pain in my intestines. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s 9 years ago and also had IBS. Unfortunately, the treatments for these illnesses are very different from one another. My doctor decided to treat the Crohn’s because he deemed it more serious than IBS. 

Initially, I was treated with Dipentum and Levsin, then a year later with Prednisone. While this allowed me to continue working, I still lived with a good deal of pain and the diarrhea would come and go without warning. I discontinued all medication prior to becoming pregnant in 1994. I miscarried one child, then became pregnant in 1995. There were no ill effects and my daughter was born C-section in November 1995. I got pregnant six months later and was hospitalized for Crohn’s symptoms in October 1996. No tests were performed at the time nor was treatment given. The second daughter was born healthy and on time.

I was hospitalized in 1998 and given Prednisone. It helped quite a bit though the side effects were dreadful. And whenever I got below 30 mg, I’d start having symptoms again. In desperation, I started praying for another way.

I heard of Ginny Harper from the owner of Peaceful Planet, a vegetarian restaurant in Nashville. I met with Ginny and Mark Armstrong in August 1998 for a consultation. I began taking Nature Biotics, drinking aloe juice,  and cutting out all meat and dairy products. I took the series of macrobiotic cooking classes and began incorporating some macrobiotics into my lifestyle. I found it helpful for me, but difficult to adhere to because of time, other family eating habits, etc. I began weekly shiatsu massages with Ginny. These were helpful.

In March 1999, I began to see a therapist, on Ginny’s recommendation. This has been extremely helpful in reducing and dealing with stress. Also, I began Taekwondo, which I liked very much. I began sliding in my eating habits, and had a flare-up in June 1999. Shiatsu helped, but now I’m reassessing, beginning to embrace macrobiotics again, as well as using vitamins, aloe juice and exercise. I am trying like hell to avoid another round of Prednisone and realizing that being healthy takes a lifelong commitment.

I would recommend alternative approaches to anyone who is in imminent danger of colon surgery, or whose lifestyle is hampered by frequent flare-ups. It’s a big investment of time, attention and money (healthy food costs more than the usual stuff we put in our bodies), but if you really love yourself, it’s an investment worth keeping up with. And it more than offsets the cost of lost time and productivity, not to mention the unhappiness that comes from being in denial, eating junk and feeling unwell much of the time.

Doctors know quite a bit about how to treat the symptoms of Crohn’s and IBS. They just don’t know how to prevent a flare up. Many of the medications patients are given have side effects that are as bad as the disease itself (Remicade, for instance, has been known to cause Leukemia, according to a specialist I saw at the Cleveland Clinic).

It’s hard not to feel sorry for yourself and to look within yourself for the answers. But the truth is it takes a partnership of you and your doctor to get you well. Drugs can be a real blessing, and in the middle of a flare up, sometimes they’re the best choice. Sometimes, perhaps it’s good to go ahead and have the surgery, then try to start fresh. But in the end, doctors don’t have all the answers. You live with yourself 24/7. You know which foods your body can handle and which ones it can’t. If you don’t know that, you should.

We are responsible, ultimately, for our health. It takes a balance of good eating, being aware of how our bodies react to stress, certain foods, smoke, etcetera, as well as an active regimen of strengthening the body through exercise and eating well – the mind through meditation and the spirit through meditation, counseling or regular solitude. And no matter how well we do, sometimes we slip up, or are too stressed and we fall back. At those times, it’s important to rely on our network of people who can help and the habits that will help us bounce quickly back to good, sound health.

I highly recommend Ginny Harper to anyone who has the desire to achieve good health. It’s not the easy way – drugs can temporarily make you feel better quickly, and surgery can seem like a good option for someone who’s suffering seems like it will never end. But if you have the desire and the commitment to be an active participant in your health, it is the way that works, and Ginny will walk with you every step. She will guide you to the right resources, be available to talk and help you take charge of your life and your health. To find another, better way than the way you’ve been living. To think of a cure as possible. To get the most out of your life and to make constant worrying about your illness something that you used to do.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 1990. I’ve been on Prednisone 3 times and I’ve been hospitalized three times. I have miscarried because of it. In June of 1998, I returned to the hospital with another flare-up, and in desperation I turned to Ginny. After changing my eating habits and regular shiatsu massage, I went to Cleveland Clinic in January of 1999 where a colonoscopy showed no sign of Crohn’s. I am a believer!