A Journey of Hope

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My Keto Journey

In October of 2019, life with three boys was a struggle. I was on a handful of daily pills and just got sicker and sicker.

Until my late 20s, I never struggled. I was athletic, always getting top marks in PE and doing martial arts, table tennis and gymnastics in the evening. Filling out the health history form at a new doctor's office, I was able to leave all the boxes unchecked. I felt vibrant ... until everything changed.

First diagnosis at 27 - Rheumatoid Arthritis

At age 27, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. If I am lucky and take my meds faithfully, they said I might avoid debilitating joint deformation and a wheelchair. They said I needed to avoid all animal fats and eat mostly plant-based. They truly put the fear in me. I believed every word they said and was a "good" patient. They were the experts.

I didn't get better, though. I was chronically fatigued; my joints were filled with fluid, making any exercise impossible. I had to choose: Struggle with the cards I had been dealt with or accept my fate. I erroneously thought acceptance was the better route. And I didn't know about the third alternative: fix my diet.

Over the years, I acquired a few more conditions: full-blown T2 diabetes, NASH, GERD, Hashimoto, and I kept gaining weight, topping at 313 pounds. I was on many medications, including insulin, immune suppressants, statins, and OxyContin. I was also scheduled to take BP meds to protect my kidneys and increase my insulin to include mealtime shots.

In hindsight, it is hard to fathom how I didn't realize that the meds would never make me better. I accepted it and complied when the doctor said I needed to be on long-acting insulin and statins. It never phased me. Mealtime insulin? Sure, I am in.

My aha-moment came late, after almost 25 years of failed yoyo dieting. My A1c was 8.5, and suddenly, my blood sugars went through the roof. After a week of sustained blood sugars in the high 400s, I feared for my life. At that point, I was already diagnosed with NASH (like nonalcoholic fatty liver, but inflamed, next stop cirrhosis). I had a very clear vision that I would not make it past three years.

A Spark of hope

In the middle of the night, I borrowed some short-acting insulin from my T1D son to bring my blood sugar down. Afraid I could have injected too many units, I called my good friend Adrian in Germany. At 3 AM my time, he was on his morning commute in Germany. We did some calculations and figured I would be okay, but I should stay awake and check my glucose every hour ... just to be safe. To pass the time, he recommended watching these videos by Dr. Stephen Phinney part 1 and part 2.

That night my view on nutrition was turned upside down. I realized that there was hope. Hope I had long given up on. Come morning; I was super excited about keto. I wanted to start right away. My husband said I should talk to my doctor first. I nodded, but my mind was already made up. Luckily my doctor fully supported me.

Nothing could stop me now

I was so pumped to start this journey; nothing could deter me. I dove in headfirst. Carbs under 20, no grains, sugar, fruit, starchy veggies. At that time, I didn't know anything about seed oils and ultra-processed foods. I learned about the keto flu and drank Gatorade like my life depended on it. I never got the keto flu.

Some changes happened almost immediately. Like a switch was flipped. I felt energized, happy, of course, and hopeful. My A1c dropped to 5.6, and my weight dropped. I was ecstatic. I ate healthy meals (at the time, I still believed I needed veggies), plenty of homemade and a few store-bought treats. I was never hungry and just breezed through the keto experience.

Good advice was plentyful on the net

I found my favourite people to follow. Dr. Berry and his wife Neisha quickly took first place.

I was doing fantastic, but I was still on insulin. That's when I learned that tightly controlled diabetes achieved with exogenous insulin would not protect me from diabetic complications down the lane. I was pretty bummed, I didn't feel restricted, but I didn't know what else I could do. This is where Dr. Jason Fung entered the picture. Dr. Fung's 6-part series on the Aetiology of Obesity (all parts linked here) opened my eyes even wider. All I had to do was skip breakfast and not snack. Wow. Said and done. I installed a Libre CGM just to be safe, and within just two weeks, I was off insulin. This should not remain my biggest surprise.

Getting off meds

A few months later, I learned that the dose of Imuran I was on was the same dose given to kidney transplant recipients. Why? The dose was supposed to be an initial dose to be lowered to maintenance (about 1/3 of the initial dose). For 15 years, no one ever bothered to reduce the dose, no one told me, and I trusted the system. It was similarly mind-boggling that I was kept on a statin with an LDL under 30.

But I digress. I knew it was vital to get off Imuran. Despite the high dose, my joints were still filled with fluid, and I was in chronic debilitating pain. Not even talking about the fatigue and paralyzing depression. Here is where Dr. Berry came to the rescue again. So far, every piece of advice I have seen Dr. Berry give checked out. Even things like the RICE protocol, which I thought was indisputable.

I found Dr. Berry's Autoimmune video. Short of going carnivore, I eliminated all foods mentioned, anything not keto compliant, and anything processed (except keto chow and keto bricks). I also eliminated nightshades and all spices made from nightshades. I felt I had one shot at getting off Imuran, and I wanted to make it count.

Even though I fully expected to be successful in getting off insulin and losing weight, all that, never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to be able to reverse severe RA (rheumatoid arthritis). But I did just that. I weaned off Imuran with exceptional results. All the fluid is gone. The chronic pain is gone. I was able to enroll in Tae-Kwon-Do again. This was a dream come true. Not taking my Imuran anymore, I was now a non-compliant patient. So, my rheumatologist fired me. That was over a year ago.

This is my journey so far

But this is not where my journey ends

As time passed, my diet and lifestyle got cleaner and better. Fewer plants, fewer toxins, no seed oils, no ultra-processed foods, no Teflon, no plastic to drink or eat from, and to store or cook food. I developed a few pet peeves like CICO, seed oils, forcing water, and of course, the RICE protocol.

I confess I have a problem. When people challenge me, I tend to accept. Dr. Berry challenged me. He said (paraphrased), now it is your turn; if you want to pay me back, spread the word, help me help others. Everyone deserves to be healthy.

I accepted the challenge. You could not have paid me to shut up. I duelled with all sorts of people on Facebook and Twitter, trying to convince them (which was not likely to happen) but planting a seed in those who followed the discussion. I believe that it improved my English skills, too (English is not my native language).

Pretty soon, I realized I needed to create my own group. My Facebook group Reversing Insulin Resistance is a little over a year old and has close to 7,000 members. The group addresses the root cause: Hyperinsulinemia and how to reverse it naturally.

And I didn't stop there. I built a website Reversing Insulin Resistance where I post a weekly blog and maintain a selection of informative videos, tools, and recommendations for books, kitchen tools, drinkware, and exercise equipment. We had great guest bloggers like Sam Apple (author of Ravenous), Michelle Hurn RD (author of The Dieticians Dilemma) and Dr. Philip Ovadia (author of Stay of my Operating Table).

I also created a few memes, which are not only fun but spark great discussions.

A new Endeavour

My newest endeavour is a coaching business. Being immersed in the material for close to 3 years, I am stepping it up a notch. With my best friend and business partner, Joy Sypher, we created Kendo-Keto. Slashing carbs with Roxana and Joy.

The Silver Lining

In hindsight, I wished I had learned about keto sooner. It could have saved my family and me much unnecessary anguish. I see a silver lining, though; with all the health issues that my family and I accumulated, I now have better insight and am better positioned to help others.

I often hear that this lifestyle is not sustainable and too restrictive. But the reality is that being in pain, chronically fatigued and physically impaired is far more restrictive. Doctors say that T2D and RA are chronic-progressive. That is a bald-faced lie. I and thousands of others are living proof that these diseases cannot just be managed (eventually getting worse), but they can be reversed.


One of my highlights was getting invited to be a guest on the Low Carb MD Podcast with Dr. Brian Lenzkes and Dr. Tro Kalayjian.

Another highlight was being featured in a magazine.

Being acknowledged in the low-carb space is a huge reward. Reading comments on how I helped people is my biggest reward. I found my true vocation: helping others improve their health.

Final thought: Dr. Stephen Phinney got me started, Dr. Ken Berry got me off immune suppressants and provided continued and reliable keto/carnivore support, and Dr. Jason Fung got me off insulin.

Written by Roxana Soetebeer
Published: May 7th, 2022

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