When you meet Dr. Jill, you will immediately sense her compassion and genuine desire to help people find answers and give them hope that they can feel healthy again. What you may not know is that her own journey through life-threatening illness was a powerful force in shaping her passion for teaching people how to heal through functional medicine. Read her story here…
Since my childhood, I have always been passionate about seeking answers to complex problems. I believed that the human body could regain health given the right tools. However, it wasn’t until June of 2001 that I had very personal encounter with my own mortality … and it was at that moment that I had put this belief into action!
During my 3rd year of medical training at Loyola University in Chicago, I found an unusual lump in my left breast and with my husband’s insistence; I proceeded to schedule an ultrasound and biopsy. Although I scheduled the tests, I was not the least concerned that this lump might signify something more serious. A few days later however, my worst nightmare was confirmed with a call from the surgeon. She said yes, despite all of the statistics against it at the age of twenty-five years old, I had invasive ductal carcinoma (i.e. aggressive breast cancer). I was devastated! This sudden news sent my very orderly world spinning as I began to process what the next 12 months would hold… several more surgeries, six rounds of aggressive chemotherapy followed by many weeks of radiation, Ugh! I literally went from doctor to patient overnight. The rest of that year was a blur as I took a leave of absence from medical school to complete this harsh treatment regimen. During this time, an important part of my plan for healing included nutritional supplementation, daily exercise, and prayer for healing. By the summer of 2002, I had officially “beaten” the cancer but nearly destroyed my body in the process. Completely bald, malnourished, and down to my lowest weight since fourteen years old, I was absolutely depleted but mentally still in the game.
At this point, although I had just beaten cancer, I was determined to go further. My desire was to go from surviving to a place of thriving… full of energy and life! My unwavering faith in God and my passion for nutrition became instrumental in turning my health around. The battle against an aggressive deadly breast cancer was only the beginning of my journey. However a mere six months after completing therapy and returning to medical school, I was once again diagnosed with a very serious medical condition.
The following year I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a very painful autoimmune disease, in which the body’s own immune system attacks the gastrointestinal lining, causing malnutrition, cyclical fevers, fatigue, extreme weakness, and ongoing abdominal pain. Undoubtedly connected to the toxic effect of the chemotherapy on my gut lining, I was determined to beat this new threat as well. In the beginning, my gastroenterologist told me point blank, “Diet has nothing to do with this.” He also gave me the prognosis that I would need multiple surgeries over my lifetime and would never be completely cured. I was given powerful medications to calm the inflammation but they did nothing for my symptoms. I was told that I would require steroids and immune-suppressing medications to control the disease. Refusing to believe that surgery and medications were the only options, I studied extensively on the healing power of nutritious food and dietary changes. I began by making major changes in my own diet, eliminating gluten, dairy, and all processed foods and eating nutrient dense options instead. I also consulted with a wise naturopath, who taught me the power of appropriate nutritional supplementation in restoring health and energy and healing the inflammation in my gut.
“This sickness is not unto death…but for the glory of God” John 11:4
Now over twelve years later, after relentless pursuit of personal healing I am currently in the best health of my life, completely free of breast cancer and 100% healed from Crohn’s disease! I continue to eat an organic, whole food, gluten-free Paleo-style diet, exercises regularly, and practice my faith through prayer and meditation. It is evident that God healed my body expressly for the purpose of helping others and thus, I am committed to helping people find answers and live vibrantly through functional medicine. More than ever before, I believe that the human body can regain health if given the right tools… and I am living proof!