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Photo of Rachel with her daughter, heads leaning together

As a food blogger I rarely blog about anything besides food. Today I’m taking the opportunity to share some insight into myself as The Stay At Home Chef you probably don’t know. I hope that my story inspires you and brings you hope for whatever miracle you are in need of in your own life.

It all happened in October 2010. It’s been four years, and it is a privilege to share the story with you.

I had a difficult pregnancy with my son, Dexter. When we decided to try and get pregnant again we thought it couldn’t possibly be any worse. I found out I was pregnant before I could even get a positive pregnancy test. The “morning sickness” had hit almost immediately and I couldn’t keep anything down. A couple of weeks later it was confirmed by a pregnancy test. We had to start telling people at the 6 week mark because I was so ill I couldn’t hide it. A couple weeks after that I was hospitalized for hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a condition recently brought onto the public stage by Kate Middleton. It is something far beyond morning sickness.  I was in and out of the hospital a few times before I was set up with a PICC line and home nursing care where I was on intravenous fluids 24 hours a day.

A nurse working on a PICC line on Rachel's arm while sitting at a kitchen table covered with medical supplies.

Just when I should have been getting better, things took a turn for the worse when I noticed something wasn’t quite right with my heart. I started to lose the ability to walk. I would take a few steps before I would simply collapse. My legs would simply give out. I went in for my weekly (yes, weekly) doctor’s appointment and was immediately hospitalized when he saw I could not walk. Test after test was conducted. After a brief bought of being unable to breathe, I was put in the ICU. Someone died down the hall from me that first night. No longer could these symptoms be blamed on HG.

Something was going terribly wrong.

At 18 weeks of pregnancy I was experiencing Congestive Heart Failure and I was showing signs of liver and kidney failure. It was strongly recommended that I abort the pregnancy to save my life. My OBGYN, a good Catholic man, was supportive in my absolute insistence that I see the pregnancy through, at least until viability at 24 weeks. I was released from the ICU in order to travel to see specialists

I saw doctor after doctor after doctor. No one could give me answers. Upon seeing my very pitiful condition one doctor, a cardiologist, simply dropped his jaw in amazement, and, after composing himself, simply said, “Something is profoundly wrong with you. I just don’t know what it is.” Those aren’t really the kind of words you want to hear from a doctor.

I was dying, and everyone knew it.

There I was, a young wife and mother of a 2 year old boy with an ever growing pregnant belly, unable to walk, hooked up to an IV pole, sleeping 20 hours a day, and slowly wasting away as my body systems shut down. I made my husband take me outside, just so I could see something, anything. All I could do was sit on a bench.

Pregnant Rachel sitting on a park bench wearing an orange shirt and sunglasses

But you know how this story must end as I’m sitting here writing it for you 4 years later.

It was a last ditch effort by an OBGYN who researched tirelessly for an answer. Many of the specialists had mentioned it in their brainstorming sessions, but each had dismissed it as a possible diagnosis. It was an autoimmune condition called Addison’s Disease, treated by simple corticosteroids.

Three small pills saved my life.

Addison’s disease is an autoimmune condition where your body basically attacks itself and kills off your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands produce cortisol, the only hormone necessary for life. My adrenal glands had been ravaged and later tests revealed they were completely nonfunctional. Without cortisol my major organ systems were unable to function. I had been experiencing what is called an “Addisonian Crisis.”

I shouldn’t have lived.

Several very experienced and respected doctors in their fields have reviewed the test results from that time with the same response. I shouldn’t have lived. An untreated Addisonian Crisis normally leads to death within a matter of days. I lived for weeks. If I hadn’t been there standing before them they couldn’t have believed that a patient with those test results could have lived. It was a medical impossibility.

I am a miracle

My heart, liver, and kidneys began functioning again, but there was one big question that still remained: would the little baby girl inside me survive? Shoot, would I even survive labor? At 21 weeks I began experiencing pre-term labor and fought it for the remainder of my pregnancy. While my labor and delivery was a far cry from ordinary, I am happy to report that I delivered a healthy baby girl at full term.

My daughter is a miracle.

Rachel in a hospital bed holding a newborn baby wrapped in a blanket.

4 years later I still suffer from the consequences of that pregnancy. Addison’s Disease is a lifelong condition for which there is no cure. My body is dependent on replacement steroid doses that I take multiple times a day. Cortisol needs vary from day to day and hour to hour. There are no tests to tell me how much I need so I have to just guess.

Miracles aren’t always what you expect.

I am not healed. I never will be. I have good days and bad days. Every once in a while Addison’s Disease lands me in the hospital fighting for my life. I have come very close to dying a number of times over the past few years. I spend days and weeks at a time where I’m sick in bed and hardly able to function. It is hard. I suffer. I am disabled, for the rest of my life. It is a hard pill to swallow.

I think in the end we all have our Addison’s disease.

Whether it is a chronic illness, depression, financial struggles, relationship and family problems, addiction, or something else, we all have something we fight. Some people ask why God would do this to me and place blame on him, but I don’t see it that way. I have seen how Addison’s disease has pushed and stretched me.

I am grateful for my illness. In fact, it’s quite possibly the best thing that has ever happened to me because it has taught me how to live.

My struggle is helping me become who I want to be. Yours are too. It isn’t always easy to see it, particularly in those moments where we are suffering and either literally or figuratively in the hospital fighting for our lives, it is nevertheless true. Those moments that challenge us the most are the ones were we can rise to the occasion and choose to be better, despite the problems of life. We can choose to be grateful, no matter what. We can do this! No matter what your “Addison’s disease” is, you can make it.

I’m a dreamer. I dream big.

Getting used to a new life of disability hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes I choose to do things in spite of my disability, just to prove that I can still do amazing things. I run a food blog. I even wrote a cook book. I’ve set out to share love to the world the same way I share it at home, through food. I do it to prove to the world that miracles happen and dreams really do come true. I might be a little crazy in my feats of strength or the heights of my dreams, and sometimes it lands me in trouble, but I will keep on pushing and keep on fighting because for whatever reason,  I am still here. And I feel a sense of great responsibility to have that privilege.

Rachel posed on a mountain bike on the side of the road in the desert.

In October 2011, just 1 year after being in the ICU with heart failure, and just 7 months after giving birth, I completed a month-long Ironman to show the world what had happened, and to prove that miracles really happen.

Yes, I believe in miracles. They really do happen.

Toddler girl sitting in a tire swing at a park while laughing
Our miracle Adele at age 3.
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Andrea Kruger
May 3, 2020 9:20 am

I just saw your post from the troll criticizing your hair. I clicked on the post because I was intrigued by your beautiful smile. I’m so glad I did! Not only was I moved by your story and strength, I now will have some amazing recipes! Thank you and keep being beautiful you!

Andrea

Maureen DeMone
April 13, 2020 9:38 am

you are amazing…love , love , love you and love everything Rachel cooking….your videos are so well done….simplified, easy,and so well shown to us that love to bake, but need refining….THANK YOU

Christine
April 11, 2020 1:56 pm

Thank you for sharing your story with the public! You are an inspiration, and I am so happy I found your website and Faeebook page! I think you are one talented lady, and I look forward to your cooking posts. Rachel, I am so sorry for what you are going through, but please know you inspire and show all of us that living life is all about your attitude and outlook…positivity is everything. You’re an amazing person and I pray that one day there will be a cure found. Thanks again for just being YOU and sharing your delicious, wonderful… Read more »

Rhoda
April 13, 2020 1:48 pm

I also struggle with a type of Addison’s sometimes called secondary adrenal insufficiency. It took five years to be diagnosed and then I had to leave the east coast hospitals and go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota! It took them less than two hours to diagnose me. Over the course of a week, they set up a treatment plan, including emergency medications. Their team and I were surprised I hadn’t died before I was able to get there. I have had and still do have so many hospitalizations that I could not even begin to estimate the number of… Read more »

Joan Southam
August 2, 2020 7:41 pm

I too have Addison’s disease since I was 14 years old and the doctors told my parents, I would not live to be 15. This month I celebrate my 75th birthday! They said I would never have children, I have a son and a daughter! Life has not always been easy but I give thanks for the gift of each and every day! I believe in miracles – the fact that I am still living and enjoying life is truly a miracle! Good luck on your life’s journey!

Donna Thompson
May 19, 2020 7:48 pm

Rachel – someone told me that you must be Rachel Rae and I didn’t think you were because your hair was really long. Tonight, I went looking to find “The Stay at Home Chef” – and I found you 🙂 I love your constant smile, your enthusiasm, your video set-ups. I love your music and I love your recipes. I just love YOU! After reading your health story, I am in awe of you, your Faith, strength, courage to fight those many challenges and come out conqueror. Such a tremendous woman you have become. And, I have begun making really… Read more »

frieda miller
August 15, 2020 3:33 pm
Reply to  Donna Thompson

Rachael you are a beautiful young ldy with a beautiful family I love everything about you and love your recipes

Sue
August 18, 2020 2:45 pm
Reply to  Donna Thompson

You are the most impressive person. Thank you for sharing your story. I am totally inspired by you.

Donna
February 14, 2020 11:22 pm

Hi Rachel
I also saw your video about the grey hair. Such unkind people. Your hair is lovely and I couldn’t see any grey until you pointed it out, so there must have been another motive for such harsh words.
I have my struggles with Lupus, so I can relate to some of what you are going through.
Thank you for you testimony and faith in God, that he has everything under control.
Thank you for you recipies too
God bless you and your family
Donna

Sandy
February 16, 2020 4:50 pm

You are a courageous and inspirational woman. I, too, have been diagnosed with autoimmune disease, but I have lasted 44 years since then. I truly believe that God has spared me to do important work in His kingdom. I pray that you have continued strength to withstand whatever comes your way.

July 20, 2020 6:22 pm

God bless you. Thank you for sharing your personal testimony, and especially your love. It is felt with every word, and recipe. The bible tells us, “We overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and by the words of our testimony”. Thank you for your testimony. My sister has a few autoimmune diseases. Life can be hard but with God all things are possible.

H. Collier
July 16, 2020 12:48 pm

I’ve been watching and enjoying your Stay at Home Chef videos for some time. I love your smile, energy and enthusiasm. I’ve always thought of you as a beautiful and talented chef… until I read your story and watched your video on the challenges you have faced. I now think of you as strong, courageous, tenacious, inspirational, and totally amazing in addition to beautiful and talented. You carry yourself so well that it never occurred to me that you have serious on-going medical issues, much less the medical nightmares you have been through. And yet you are gracious and full… Read more »

Diane DiMeo
May 20, 2020 6:11 am

You are inspiration. Thank you for your story. I love all your recipes and videos.

Linda Schuler
April 2, 2020 8:30 pm

You go girl. Your recipes are a joy to eat. Your courage, tenacious, upbeat demeanor and determination are awesome. Our world needs more like you.
I wish you could travel and do seminars and/or demonstrations.

Take care.

Sincerely,

Linda Schuler

Kevin O
July 25, 2020 12:08 pm

Just read your story, very inspiring! I have Ushers Syndrome Type II (hard of hearing and going blind). Like you, I refuse to let it rule my life, yes there are a lot of adjustments, but in the end, it is just a matter of moving forward. Love your recipes and most of all, love your smile. By the way, your husband sounds like a really cool dude (I’m a server admin…us computer nerds need to stick together).

Harold Reece
July 21, 2020 11:26 am

Hi Rachal, I discovered your cooking videos and subscribed to you channel. I was attempting to print some of your recipes and stumbled onto to this personal blog. Thank you for sharing your story, since this blog is somewhat dated it appears that you health has improved or perhaps you only record on your good days. We recently have been through our own medical challenge my wife has breast cancer and we have been through surgery and treatment for the last year and a half. Now we believe that we are in recovery, but you never know so we try… Read more »

Lina Martinez
July 14, 2020 8:58 pm

You are an inspiration! You are a miracle! I love watching your blogs n you make everything look easy n fun! Keep up the positive spirit!

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