Photo by Arica Dorff, Pet'ographique
February 1, 2003, I woke up screaming at the top of my lungs from a dead sleep. I looked down to find that my whole body had swollen by about 30 pounds! I couldn't move without excruciating pain nor could I be touched without screaming! This day changed my life forever.
I had to borrow prescription pain drugs just to get through the day. I couldn't walk, so I would lean against walls and slowly slide sideways to reach the bathroom or living room. I refused to have any help with bathing, so it took 2-3 hours just to take a shower. I could not even lift my arms to wash my face or hair, and forget about bending to shave my legs! All the daily things that I took for granted were now my worst nightmare.
Three months of screaming and struggling to get through a 24 hour period and I was done with the torture. No doctor would help since I was freshly divorced and left with no health insurance to help pay for treatment. Nurses over the phone told me, "It sounds like MS! But we can’t help you." I was exhausted and couldn’t live the rest of my life in this torture.
I was living with my parents in May 2003, I told them I needed to talk with them first thing in the morning. I said, "I can’t do this anymore! I just can’t be tortured like this and not have any doctor willing to help me. I've decided to commit suicide today but it's not your fault, I just don’t want to be in pain anymore." I had never experienced such horrible pain before and never in a million years did I think these words would come out of my mouth.
I woke up to find almost 2 days had passed, but I was in my bedroom, in my own bed. I had passed out from standing too long while speaking with my parents apparently. Next thing I know, my Dad comes in and gets me up to take me to a doctor, still wearing my pajamas as it was physically too much to get changed at this point.
A few days later the doctor's office called. The nurse was in tears, "I am so very sorry Dee. I was hoping to have better news for you. You definitely have Rheumatoid Arthritis, the worst case we've seen in a very long time. But unfortunately, you also have Lupus." She went on to tell me, “It's a deadly disease, but we’re getting you to a specialist and we've sent over a prescription to be filled to get you out of pain quickly."
I didn’t really know what either disease entailed, but I had heard of Lupus being deadly. All I could think was that life was over as I knew it. I mean, how was I going to take care of myself?
After meeting the specialist, he gave me his recommended treatment, traditional Chemotherapy! I just thought that was crazy so with a lot of research and time with the doctor, Oral Chemotherapy treatment was the best route for me to take. I also started a juicing regimen of fruits and vegetables for the holistic medicine. The next day after starting the medicine, I could walk; still with pain, but nothing like before.
Two weeks after I began to walk again and return to a more normal physical state, my Father began to show signs of illness. It looked as though he had a stroke during the night, his speech was slurred and he just didn't look right. We took him to the hospital to find he had over a dozen brain tumors and multiple lung tumors which were protruding from his body. Eleven days in hospice and he just went to sleep.
Six months after my Father passed away my Mother had a stroke. She was partially paralyzed. She couldn't walk and was now bed ridden for me to take care of.
Stress, a major factor with my new diagnosis followed as I was the chosen one to put funeral arrangements together, memorial service and everything else that comes with losing a family member. Although I experienced the short set back with my health, I slowly bounced back to remission.
Dealing with the unknown was one thing, but now that I was diagnosed, my life and world was changed forever! I had been an extreme athlete, snowboarding, kickboxing, hockey, watercrafts, dabbled on the drum set to list a few. I could no longer do those things and begun to feel lost and depressed.
After moving to Las Vegas, Nevada in 2005, I rescued another Boxer from Death Row. A beautiful boy named Rocky. A six week training program and he was ready to go to his forever home! My husband and I wanted to keep this guy, but it seemed the last abusive owners used cats to rile him up to be a fight dog. We couldn't put our cats in jeopardy, so we found Rocky the perfect family. I was home bound since we moved to our new home. 2005 was a growing year for me, new city, new people, moving and living with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. But I did rescue a few Boxers from death row and found that training and exercising these dogs really benefited MY health. Saving lives of death row dogs was beneficial for all. I was pretty depressed when Rocky left us so I told my husband, "I want a Bulldog now, not to fix anything, but an English bulldog would be great for our family." He couldn't believe his ears. I wasn’t aware the English Bulldog was sought out by so many as the “dream dog”.
We already had the Maltese girls, Bonnie Blue and Bella Boo, AKA the BB Girls. My husband, Kevin and I got the BB Girls for my Mother. She wanted constant K9 contact. We surprised her with TWO Maltese sisters. Her doctors felt the dogs were the reason for my Mother living so many years in her unhealthy state.
Saving Boxers and helping to find great homes got me out of the house for dog walks; I met surrounding neighbors, joined a dog group for play dates, started my own community senior citizen dog training program and found my body was getting stronger by taking care of Rocky’s needs! Who knew!?!
So in 2007 I found Mugsy Malone. This beautiful red and white English Bulldog puppy with a full black mask all wrinkled and fat. It was over for me… I fell in love instantly.
As a responsible dog owner, I made sure we did our daily exercise in the pack, fed him the best food and gave him the best veterinary care I knew.
But what this bully gave me was priceless and an amazing control over my disease! Mugsy Malone and the BB Girls gave me my life back, a life that I thought was over.
After a year, I was running each day with my dogs, my Lupus was mostly in remission and I found I was having more good days than bad. My doctors were amazed and noted I was a "Medical Miracle." I shared my holistic juicing diet with my doctors and anyone who asked! No one believed I had Lupus with my energy level.
I call Lupus the "invisible disease", most people don't look sick; therefore people don't know what you go through with pain, rashes, scarring, hair loss to name a few. Even with my new husband that I had married in August of 2004, Kevin, my best friend, it was a struggle for us. Because I didn’t look sick, it was hard for him to relate or even help. I felt like a teacher schooling this man about how I felt every day and using descriptive words to describe the pain so he could relate. Lupus can destroy relationships and has destroyed marriages. I’m thankful; my marriage is healthy and very supportive of my daily dealings with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
My choices worked for me. Finding the best doctors who listened to ME, the holistic diet and definitely bringing a pack of dogs into my life has added that missing X Factor to make my life meaningful and loving. Medicine helps us cope, but the dogs mend our hearts and souls. I’ve always had pets in my life since childhood, but I never knew the healing powers until I became sick. Dog companions are miracle workers and can bring your life into perspective.
Interesting enough, Bo & DeeMo was born due to Mugsy Malone, and then we added our baby girl, English Bulldog Moxie Mia* to the pack and the Queen of Bo & DeeMo. Together, Mugsy and Moxie are the faces of our Company. They are on television performing runway shows, modeling and bringing much joy and positive education to Bully families across the world.
I had to train our entire pack for such disabilities, hospital equipment so they are sensitive to fragile people like my Mother and me. Four out of the six dogs we have are Therapy teams and to date, I have chosen one to be my service dog.
Ironically, Brandi, Co-Founder of Bo & DeeMo has been diagnosed, Kristin, Events Coordinator, Sharon our Executive Assistant to name a few all diagnosed with Lupus and surrounding autoimmune diseases. It was by chance we found each other, but the connecting factor comes back to the Bulldogs!
The company of Lupus, Bo & DeeMo knows first-hand what it takes to beat and live with Lupus and other autoimmune diseases. We band together to make each others lives easier and support each other through the bad days, but in the end, the best miracle medicine is our dogs! Bulldogs or any other breed.
Moxie Mia passed away March 21, 2012 in recovery from surgery complications. I dedicate this to our baby bulldog who left us so soon at 2 years old. Our lives will never be the same, but her royal position will always be remembered and loved by all. Dee Mounts, Bo & DeeMo
Short story by Dee (DeeMo) Mounts, Co-Founder, CEO of Bo & DeeMo, LLC.