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There is Hope!

My name is Sarah Sorbel. I’m 31 and I live in Orange County, CA. In January 2008 I was diagnosed with IC, followed by endometriosis in April. I have lived with pelvic pain since the age of 15, and bladder issues since childhood – mostly frequency and urgency. Specific painful bladder symptoms started when I was 21 (2005). I had what my doctors and I thought were recurring urinary tract infections, but when the medications weren’t helping, the doctors – including urologists – had no idea what to tell me or what to do.

This went on until January of 2008 – three years – when a nurse at my gynecologist’s office reviewed my medical history and said, “I think you may have IC”. At that time I had no idea what IC was. She was the first one to recognize the symptoms, diagnose me, and help me understand what I needed to do to live with the disease. First we tried medications, but I wasn’t reacting well to them – the side effects were outweighing any benefits. Finally in 2011, after three years of misery, horrible pain, and frequently missing work, I gave the IC diet a real try. I had sporadically followed it since my initial diagnosis in 2008. For example, I had been caffeine free already, and I decreased the amount of citric fruits I ate, but I had not committed to it fully. Once I decided to commit to the diet, I eliminated foods and drinks that are thought to be triggers – potassium, Vitamin C, anything acidic, anything spicy, processed foods, and things that are inflammatory in nature, such as gluten. I had also had bad stomach pains after nearly every meal since I was 14. These symptoms disappeared when I eliminated gluten.

In addition to the IC diet, I also committed to the endometriosis diet guidelines as well – eliminating gluten, dairy, soy and red meat from my diet, as well as the items I eliminated for IC. Within weeks I began feeling better! Whenever I would compromise or cheat on the diet I quickly paid the price. For me, another factor that contributed to pain was stress. My stress at work suddenly increased dramatically, and until I changed jobs, I was in constant pain regardless of how well I did on the diet. Upon changing jobs in 2012, I felt exceedingly better!

I am currently off all medications except birth control. As long as I keep my stress down and follow my specific diet restrictions that work for me, I remain mostly pain free. I have only had one IC flare in the last two years! All this relief has allowed me to get back to racing triathlons (which I put on hold for 10 years due to my health issues) and I am now competing in Tough Mudders, too! Since they are important, I have been experimenting with the levels of Vitamin C and potassium my body can handle. As an example, I have found that I can eat half a banana every other day without feeling pain in my bladder, which helps prevent muscle cramps after a long day of training! For me, I’ve found that anything with less than 15% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C or potassium is generally safe for me, as long as I don’t consume it every single day.

I want to remind everyone there is hope, whether it comes in the form of diet, stress management, medication, or something I haven’t even thought of – there are always stones to overturn and new things to try in order to get back to living a normal and fulfilling life! Never let anyone tell you there are no more options or that you need to learn to live with pain. Those who don’t suffer and that tell you that are giving up because they can with no repercussions – but you are the one living with the disease. Never give up!

Sarah Sorbel