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Life Extension Magazine

LE Magazine November 2001

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Into The Light
Finding the road to recovery

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Susan Rich didn’t have a lot going for her in the spring of 2000 when fusion on a herniated disc had left her unable to work or even follow her normal daily routine. Stuck at home, Susan had no escape from her pain—or her mounting health worries. A year earlier, doctors had discovered a diffuse infiltration of fatty deposits throughout her liver, a condition known to be a precursor to non-alcohol related cirrhosis—the same disease that had claimed the life of Susan’s great aunt at age 30. Physically and emotionally depleted, Susan was beginning to lose hope. But she did have something in her favor… she had a friend.

Susan, who turned 47 in August, and Deb Deschaine, who’s 41, have worked together for 17 years at d’Youville Pavillion in Lewiston, Maine, a transitional care nursing facility. Susan is a nursing supervisor and Deb works on a per diem basis as a supervisor and nurse educator. When she isn’t working at d’Youville, Deb does free-lance medical research for a local law firm. And when she’s not at the law firm, she’s likely to be sitting at her home computer, where she combines her research skills with her vast knowledge of both traditional and alternative medicine to help people navigate their way through the healthcare system. Sometimes the people she counsels hear about her through the friend of a friend and e-mail her for help. Other times, Deb just reaches out to someone in need. In April of 2000, that someone was Susan.

“She came over one day with a bag of supplements and dropped it on my doorstep with a lengthy note about what everything was for and how much I should take,” Susan remembers. The bag was stuffed with an assortment of wound and joint repair treatments, mood elevators, antioxidants and immune enhancers, including SAMe, glucosamine sulfate with MSN, vitamins C, E and B complex, and calcium with magnesium. “She’s an extraordinary friend, very knowledgeable and very giving,” said Susan. “I wouldn’t have tried any of that without her.”

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With her low tolerance for medications and general skepticism toward alternative health, Susan wasn’t exactly an ideal patient. But Deb persevered and under her guidance and support, Susan began using the grab bag contents first for a few days, then for a few weeks, and finally for several months. By then, Susan was feeling better—her joint pain had diminished and she was back at work full time. She was even happy. But the real extent of her recovery wasn’t clear until last October when she returned for a follow-up ultrasound of her liver and for blood work to check her liver enzymes. “They found absolutely no trace of fatty infiltration,” said Susan. “The nurse who called me with the news couldn’t explain it—I was so excited I did jumping jacks and cartwheels.”

Both Deb and Susan attribute the total elimination of the fatty deposits to SAMe, whose prowess as a mood elevator and joint healer is well documented, but whose role in liver regeneration has been less publicized. (See Life Extension magazine, June 1997, “SAMe, Part 3: The Liver Super-Nutrient.”) “Susan was so depressed after her surgery that my first thought was she needed serotonin and I told her to try SAMe,” said Deb. “And because of her neck injury, she needed to focus on joint health. But the effect on her liver was a total surprise to both of us. In 20 years in healthcare, I’ve never heard of reversing diffused fatty deposits.”

Susan’s amazing turnaround was especially gratifying to Deb, not only because of their friendship, but also because it constituted the greatest success story ever generated by Deb’s healing outreach work, further propelling her toward a goal of becoming a full-time online resource for people in need. Granted, Deb already has a lot of clients. She receives as many as 30 health inquiries a day and has advised nearly 250 people since first hanging out a shingle six years ago. In all that time no one has ever come back to say that Deb’s treatment suggestions didn’t work.

The service works like this: When she receives a request for help, Deb asks for the person’s current medical records and information on any physician-prescribed treatments that are underway. Armed with this info, she begins research on the specific medical condition and available treatments, interpreting these in laymen’s terms in a 10-page report that includes an overview of the life extension alternatives most appropriate to supplement traditional care. “I’m in favor of blending the traditional with the holistic to achieve optimum health goals,” she says. She bases her counsel on well-documented peer-reviewed research, much of it by way of Life Extension’s disease prevention and treatment protocols. Once her research work is done, Deb’s role becomes that of supporter. “I stay in touch through the early months, encouraging people to be patient because their systems have been depleted for so long, that it takes time to see results,” she says.

This may sound like a thriving side business for a busy mom with a daughter in college—and it could be—but Deb doesn’t charge for her services. She does it because she needed help once and couldn’t find it. At 19, Deb was run over by a tractor and crushed from the waist down. The resulting damage to her sciatic nerves led to chronic pain and depression. “I was totally bewildered,” she recalls. “I went from doctor to doctor, from specialist to specialist and no one could help me.”

To survive, Deb launched her own research campaign, reading everything she could find on health, alternative treatments, depression and bone regeneration. She started to exercise and experiment with supplements, particularly those that bolster the immune system and promote joint health. After some time, she noticed that the pain was subsiding. Then it disappeared altogether. “To this day, I am 99% pain free,” she says. “There are occasional twinges, especially after a day on the computer and, on the rare occasions that I break from my routine, the pain does start to resurface.”

That routine includes high-grade supplements that support the major biologic systems and prevent illness from starting at the cellular level. Deb uses mitochondrial enhancers—CoQ10, acetyl-l-carnitine and DHEA—because most of our energy is produced in the mitochondria inside our cells, a process that tends to wane as we age. Deb keeps her immune system strong and promotes cardiovascular health through sports ginseng, pycnogenol, Life Extension Mix, TMG, EPA, DHA and garlic. For bone and joint health, she turns to glucosamine and for brain function, Ginkgo biloba, DMAE, choline and Cognitex.

She also follows an exercise program that consists of three 45-minute weight-training sessions a week (with an alternating focus on the upper and lower body), interspersed with hour-long cardio workouts on the treadmill. On the days that she weight trains, she takes a creatine supplement to replenish muscles as well as l-glutamine to enhance exercise recovery and reduce stiffness.

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For diet, Deb eats six small meals a day, each of which includes protein and complex carbohydrates, such as fruits and vegetables. She aims for palm-sized portions. “The idea is to keep your cells well supplied with energy,” she says of the small, multi-meal approach. “This increases the metabolism and keeps weight off.” She eats plenty of chicken, especially on weight-training days, to keep muscle protein from breaking down. Water is a critical component—she drinks 8 to 10 glasses a day. As strict as she is about diet, she strongly believes in indulging in the occasional piece of chocolate cake or glass of wine. “I’m not totally religious about my eating,” she says. “I believe you can strike a balance.”

“I’m trying to say ‘thank you,’” she says by way of explaining her extraordinary work for others. “Susan was in a dark tunnel, very similar to the one I was in, and I wanted her to know that someone held a torch at the other end, so she could climb out—and she did. When I saw that happen, I felt my own energy and sense of wellness soar. That is the law of reciprocation. When we reach out to others, we help ourselves as well.”

—Twig Mowatt

Deb can be reached at DebDeschaine@aol.com

 


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