Meet Celeste

Celeste Head Shot
My Autoimmune History
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was about 35. (I’m now more than double that.) I seemed to have a case of the flu with body aches and extreme tiredness, but then it continued on into severely inflamed joints in my hands, feet, and spine. I was absolutely panicked! As a young child, my parents and I lived with my grandmother, and I’d watched my grandmother get all crippled up with rheumatoid arthritis, and die when she was 59. I went to a rheumatologist who officially diagnosed me. And he also pointed out that the psoriasis that I had had since I was a preschooler, was associated with arthritis too.

     So, even though rheumatoid arthritis was my first officially recognized and diagnosed autoimmune disease, the truth was that I’d had other autoimmune conditions for more than 30 years by that time! I’d started to have psoriasis patches on my scalp when I was about 4. My mother thought it was just heavy dandruff and shampooed me with that blue dandruff shampoo.

     When I was about 8 or 9, I got hay fever. I was totally miserable every summer from mid August through the first frost in October, with sneezing, plugged up nose, itchy eyes, and itchy throat. And speaking about plugged up noses, as a child I used nasal sprays daily, trying to breathe well enough to sleep at night.

     And there were the excruciating earaches that flared up every now and then. And the pneumonia I got one summer. And the mononucleosis I got way before I was even old enough to have gotten it from kissing boys. And the anemia that I suffered with for a couple of years. And the 5 or 6 colds and upper respiratory tract infections that I got every winter. And all this was above and beyond the usual childhood diseases that kids my age used to get routinely – measles, rubella, chicken pox, etc. – all of which I got too (except the mumps). I was not a healthy kid. I maxed out my allowable sick days every year at school, but I was a really good student, so I always managed to catch up again.

     When I was about 10, I started developing severe migraine headaches. And they got even worse as I became a teenager. In the most physically painful year-and-a-half of my life, when I was in high school, I even had one continuous headache night and day. It was a good thing I was young and strong, and I had enough of the energy and resilience of youth to allow me to keep up with school, homework, and activities, in spite of the severe pain. (In retrospect, I think the headache was caused by deciding to drink a popular meal replacement shake for breakfast in order to be able to catch a 6 a.m. school bus. Who knows what it had in it!)

     When I was in college, I was exempted from taking the mandatory swimming classes because of my chronic ear infections. And I was finally given an official diagnosis of psoriasis, which by then, had spread all over my scalp and was starting to spread onto my face. The doctor at the college health service gave me some coal-tar based concoction, that looked like brown shoe polish, to spread on my scalp and then suggested that I sit out in the sun to “activate it.” It seemed to help, but then a few years later, when I saw a dermatologist, he suggested that it was really the sun that helped with my psoriasis, not the coal tar. And I’ve be using the sun as a successful natural treatment for my psoriasis ever since. And in retrospect, if I’d kept up using that coal tar stuff, given what we know today, I’d probably have given myself cancer by now.

     My late 20s and early 30s were probably the best years of my life, health-wise – except for the migraine headaches, which continued to make me miserable 2 to 4 days a week on average, and the psoriasis, which I treated with sun in the summer, and a sunlamp in the winter. But I was able to hold down a good job and do well in my career as a computer programmer, even if I did have to go to bed the minute I got home from work and sleep through until the next morning in order to have enough strength to go to work the next day.

     But then, as I said earlier, in my mid-30s rheumatoid arthritis appeared in my life. The rheumatologist told me to take big doses of aspirin for the pain. The aspirin tore up my stomach and started to give me ulcers. So the doctor switched me to Naproxen, which caused me to break out in a severe itchy rash and closed up my throat. I also started to take Methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug that was found to help with rheumatoid arthritis, but I had to take liver tests every month, because Methotrexate was also known to cause liver damage. At age 35, I found these side-effects to be very scary.

     I was beginning to wonder how long I was going to live, and whether I was going to die early, all crippled up like my grandmother. And truthfully, the drugs didn’t help much. I was beginning to walk like an old woman, shuffling along. I could barely hold anything of any weight in my hands, because they were so weak and sore. The weight of a Sunday newspaper was almost too much for me to lift. The rheumatologist sent me to an occupational therapist who showed me tricks for compensating for what was happening to my body, but we weren’t really curing anything.

     My husband and I were living in New England at the time and the cold of the winter months was just too much for me - making the aches and pains and stiffness of the arthritis excruciating to bear. So in 1985 we moved to the warmth of California. Fortunately, once we were in California, I found that my options for medical treatment were much wider than they had been back East, and I started to use what’s often called alternative medicine.” In the old days, before all our modern prescription drugs, what is now called “alternative medicine” was just called “medicine.” And it worked much better for me than the drugs.

     Shortly after moving to California, I spent 6 weeks in a program which included eating lots of salads, drinking lots of calcium-magnesium drink, and spending 6 or so hours a day in a sauna sweating out the toxins in my body that I’d accumulated in my first 35 years. And my arthritis miraculously went into remission. The swelling and pain in my joints went down, I got my strength back, and I could walk normally again. From then on, I was sold on using “alternative” treatments as my primary medical support, and I’ve only used the drugs of western medicine as my last choice treatment (and only for short-term emergencies). And this is particularly ironic since I was a Chemistry major in college and originally wanted to go into drug research! But when I finished my Masters degree in 1969, I wasn’t seriously considered for a job as a research chemist, and ended up in the computer field – where they needed bright, logical people badly, and weren’t so fussy about whether that person was a man or not.

     When I was about 40, I started to have the symptoms of low thyroid function. I was living in warm California and wearing sweaters, even in the summers, because I was so cold all the time. But I wasn’t officially diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis until I was halfway through my 50s, since my TSH screening test was always “normal,” and no doctor did any of the other tests for thyroid function that probably would have disclosed that nothing was normal about my thyroid. So I didn’t get on thyroid hormone replacement until about 15 years later, when my thyroid was already so damaged by autoimmune antibodies that it finally showed up on my TSH test.

     On November 25, 1992, while still living in California, I went to a doctor who did muscle testing (kinesiology) to test for food sensitivities, and he told me to stop eating many of the foods that I routinely ate. He said if I was willing to stop eating those foods, I could probably cut down on the number of migraine headaches I was having by about 50%. So the day before Thanksgiving, he told me that I shouldn’t be eating beef, pork, chicken, eggs, dairy products, wheat, corn, oats, rye, beans, almonds and peanuts, coffee, tea, colas, various alcoholic beverages, the nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant), the fruit that I ate most commonly - including apples and grapes - and anything containing yeast or fungi. (In other words, pizza is my worst nightmare. There isn’t a single thing in it that I should be eating.) Basically all I was left with was seafood, some non-chicken poultry, a few types of seeds, herbal teas, spices, and about half the vegetables and fruit on the planet – but not the ones I usually ate. But I really wanted to cut down on the migraines, so I did what he said. And he was right. And I had fewer migraines than before. And that opened up my mind to the link between what I was eating and how I was feeling.

     When I was 50 years old, I took a trip to Africa with a small group of fellow spiritual seekers. In preparation for the trip, I decided to go on a total fast (except for water) for 3 weeks. And I had another important breakthrough in understanding. The cleansing caused by the fast seemed to be more than spiritual. It seemed to be doing wonders for my body too. The first few days were miserable - I was hungry and had a colossal migraine - but after that I felt fine. Better than ever. No migraines, and – miraculously – my psoriasis was getting noticeably better too. That was another major piece of evidence that what was going into my mouth was in fact contributing to the problems I was experiencing with my body - even though the conventional doctors had always denied that what I ate had anything to do with my headaches, or anything else that was wrong with my body, for that matter.

     In my early 60s, I was feeling extremely fatigued. I attributed it to the severe stress I was under, having had to move back to my hometown in Illinois to be the caregiver for my elderly mother, and having more than half of my life savings and retirement funds wiped out in the Stock Market crash of 2008. Since health care in Illinois is pretty conventional, I felt cut off from the kind of healthcare I prefer. I tried acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, because that was available, but it only helped some. I still didn’t feel like I had my life back.

     Then my acupuncturist was hit by a car and could not work for a while. During that time, I heard a radio program where a chiropractic doctor was talking about his Total Health Institute in Wheaton Illinois, where he helped many people get to the root cause of their illnesses, including his wife’s cancer. I listened to the show several times and what he was saying about what caused disease, and how to reverse it, really made sense to me. So I made an appointment to have the screening tests that he offered. That was life-changing for me. He was the doctor that taught me how to eat differently and live differently than I had been eating and living. And that did the trick.

     What was really amazing was how quickly my body responded to the changes I was making in food and lifestyle. In just a few days of being on a raw vegan diet primarily of vegetables, low-sugar fruit, nuts, and seeds, the migraine pain stopped entirely. And in just a few weeks, the food cravings that I’d had ever since I was a teenager, went away! And even though I goof off every now and then (and usually cause myself misery when I do), I’ve been eating that way ever since.

     So what I continue to do today, and teach others to do too, is largely based on a combination of what I learned at the Total Health Institute, my background in science, my decades of reading about health, and my own experience. I’m my own lab rat, or as I like to say, “Your Canary in the Coal Mine.” Today, I’m in far better shape than I was a few decades ago. And even better, I know what to do and I have the tools I need to continue to have a great life, not limited by feeling terrible any more. I have my life back!


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My Purpose

     My mission is to help women Create Optimal Wellness in body, mind, emotion and spirit for themselves, and their families. Because of what I've learned through my personal experience in overcoming autoimmune conditions of my own, and decades of continuing study and experimentation on myself to find natural, do-it-yourself solutions that work, I am in a great position to help others in their quest for Creating Optimal Wellness too.

     I educate and assist people to improve their wellness through a program which includes high nutrition eating, drinking pure water, deep breathing, light exercise, avoiding toxicity, laughter, emotional clearing, positive affirmations, and meditation. I give talks, teach classes, write, create videos, and provide private coaching. I am also a spiritual teacher and guide and a New Age minister with mixed background in Christianity, Buddhism, Yoga, and Taoism.

     I facilitate a weekly meditation group at a senior center in a northwest suburb of Chicago, where participants learn and practice simple meditation techniques for de-stressing, and improving their health and well-being. We also read and discuss various materials designed to give participants new ways to look at life. I facilitate a weekly Laughter Club there too, where participants learn how to "laugh for no reason," also for their health and well-being. I often give live workshops and presentations on various wellness topics, and I do a video blog with short tips for how to get well and stay well.

     Degrees: BS and MS in Teaching of Chemistry, University of Illinois, Urbana IL; MBA in Business Administration from Clark University in Worcester MA; and Minister/Spiritual Teacher from CoreLight Ministries, Santa Fe NM.

      Certifications and Licenses: Laughter Yoga Teacher, Laughter Yoga University, Bangalore India; Total Health Minister, Total Health Institute in Wheaton IL; Raw Food Teacher, Nomi Shannon, The Raw Gourmet, Bonsall CA; Addiction Recovery Support Specialist, FL license 364; EFT Intermediate Practitioner 1, certificate #111280.


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“Very interesting, it makes sense why you are so passionate in what you are doing. I wonder though how different you'd be today had you actually gotten a job in the chemistry research field and had been successful?

     My professional background is school social worker. I decided to stay home when my first child was born because he was premature and had on-going health problems. . . I know that they are only little once and will grow up and free up my time some day. And I'll have plenty of time to work again. . . And now I'm quickly getting educated and passionate about this healing our children topic. Who knows where this will take me?” – L.E.