My Life as a Warrior Princess: Three Tactics for Fighting PBC

I have always had a gusto for life. Big dreams. Grand ideas. Strong and independent with a will to fight for what I want. And while I’ve had my share of trials and tribulations and fought like a champion through life, nothing could have prepared me for a primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) diagnosis just a month before my 44th birthday. After all, I didn’t feel sick or look sick and had no warning signs or symptoms, but a routine blood test showed extremely high alkaline phosphatase liver enzymes, and here begins my story.

Once the shock and anxiety subsided and I began to wrap my head around my diagnosis, I knew I could do one of two things: give up and feel sorry for myself, or choose to fight this disease with all the strength and courage I had inside me. So I armed myself with an arsenal of data, facts, and research and straightened my tiara to begin the fight of my life. Based on everything I learned from my doctor and the data that was available, I determined there were three tactics that I could put into practice that would see me through this battle with PBC; a positive attitude, daily exercise, and healthy nutrition.

Positive Attitude

I’m an eternal optimist, always have been. I see the good in everyone and everything. I believe that even our biggest setbacks and darkest days make us stronger, better.

An attitude as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website, “is a mental position with regard to a fact or state: as feeling or emotion toward a fact or a state.” The dictionary goes on to state the “positive” can be seen as “having a good effect; favorable; marked by optimism.”

A positive attitude is beneficial in envisioning success and achieving goals. Research shows there are correlations between a positive attitude and the body’s immune system. Optimism can play a part in helping the body fight off illness and disease. I attribute my ability to live life to the fullest, keep PBC symptoms in check, and rebound more quickly from setbacks to having a positive attitude. Some of the tools I use to help me stay positive are: reading affirmations, meditating, journaling, conversations with supportive family and friends, and checking in with my therapist. Once you find the tools that work for you, be consistent.

Exercise

Source: Leslie Stratta

Keep moving! I led a pretty sedentary lifestyle for most of my young adult life. But then I began working in a healthcare setting and after seeing so many non-ambulatory patients who, over time, had lost the ability to maintain balance or walk short distances, it clicked for me. If I was going to hold on to my independent nature long term, I needed to keep the blood flowing and my body in motion.

So, I made the choice to get moving and began walking a few minutes, three times a week. Those short walks turned into longer walks every day. Having built up my stamina, I added in weight training to build and maintain muscle tone. Now I work out five days a week and do a combination of high intensity interval training and weight training. Research shows that walking for as few as 30 minutes a day can eliminate the risks associated with many diseases.

Exercise is my escape. It’s what keeps me going. I’ve found that if I can just move a few minutes a day, stretch, walk, and get my heart rate up I have more energy, feel better and sleep better. I get it– PBC sometimes makes everything ache and it can make you feel like a walking zombie. But I encourage you to find an exercise program that works for you and keep moving.

Healthy Nutrition

This is the most powerful weapon in my arsenal. What we eat can make the difference between swollen joints and exhaustion or fluid movement and energy. I eat a balanced diet of protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and leafy green vegetables. There is new research on varieties of plants called “nightshades” and inflammation. Bell pepper, eggplant, potato, and tomato are all considered nightshades. While I haven’t eliminated all of these from my diet, I eat them with less frequency.

Source: Leslie Stratta

I have eliminated dairy, most processed foods, and processed sugar. By eliminating these items and minimizing sodium, you can reduce risk of inflammation that can lead to achy and swollen joints. In addition to inflammation, processed foods and sugars are also linked to anxiety and depression. Let’s face it, the daily challenges and symptoms of PBC are probably already causing some level of anxiety and depression. Eliminating these foods from our diets just makes sense.

Modifying a diet of simple carbohydrates, fatty foods, and processed sugars can seem like a daunting task, but by making small changes each day you will begin to see results. And if you want that cupcake at Aunt Sally’s party, by all means have it. Enjoy your life within the nutritional boundaries you set for yourself.

You Can Be A Warrior Princess Too

Source: Leslie Stratta

In summary, fighting PBC makes it imperative that you become friends with your body, mind, and spirit. Each of us is different. It’s important to note that we all have different symptoms at different times and to varying degrees. Equally important is that we each respond differently to exercise and nutrition. And let’s face it, even the bravest warrior gets knocked down and loses the momentum to keep fighting sometimes. True warriors acknowledge limitations and create a strategy for victory around them. They also surround themselves with a support system of like-minded warriors.

Like my warrior story, you can arm yourself with the knowledge to fight PBC with courage and strength in a way that is right for you.

About the Author: Leslie Stratta is a Human Resources professional with a passion for health, nutrition, and fitness.  Leslie’s passion for health and fitness began while working in the Healthcare industry, but it wasn’t until 2007 when she was diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cholangitis that she began to focus on the effects of good nutrition and regular exercise as it related to managing her PBC.  As she learned about her body’s response to eating well and exercising, her passion grew into grew into a desire to coach and support others (especially those with PBC) in setting and achieving goals.

Leslie coaches her clients through various aspects of their lives including personal awareness, relationships, crucial conversations, and goal setting. Throughout all of her work, Leslie focuses on building strengths and recognizing limitations through feedback, self-discovery, and detailed action plans. She brings her experience in transitioning her own life and overcoming personal obstacles to help clients shift from merely existing to living exceptional lives.

Leslie holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Office Administration from Sam Houston State University and a Master of Arts in Human Resource Development and Leadership from the University of Texas at Austin. Leslie’s personal and professional philosophies are the same: investing in people and developing talent will cultivate a passion for motivation, engagement, and satisfaction in career and life.

Leslie is a native of Bryan/College Station and currently lives in Houston where you will find her volunteering in her community, riding bikes, working out, and practicing aerial yoga and meditation. Leslie also volunteers in various leadership roles with the American Heart Association, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and Houston Sports Authority.


To learn more about PBC, click here.

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