When illness strikes out of the blue and quickly becomes life-threatening, we sit up and pay attention. Healthy, active Christina Garvin, 39, was diagnosed with sepsis and then had half of her colon removed. The experience taught her lessons about honoring and listening to her body that led her to an incredible recovery. They have also given her a powerful message to share with others.
The immune system activates when it recognizes an infection in the body, like a cold or a bladder infection. White blood cells surround the infection, killing it, and carrying the waste away. Sepsis occurs when the body’s response gets extreme, involving all body systems. In a chain reaction, organ systems start to fail and can lead to death if not treated successfully. The very young and the very old are most at risk, but healthy adults can also be affected.
Garvin was a wellness coach and a dancer, used to pushing her body and ignoring discomfort in her training. Her body was a vehicle that did what she wanted to do, like a car that she drove. She appreciated it as long as it followed her instructions. Then she developed an abdominal infection and her immune system went into overdrive.
To save her life, half of her colon was removed to save her to stop the infection. Then, surgeons created an opening in her abdominal wall where stool and waste could get out of her body. Today, her once strong dancer’s abdomen is covered in scars, rolls, and an ileostomy. Garvin says she has more appreciation and love for her body now than ever before.
Since her ordeal, Garvin encourages women to create a new, loving and respectful relationship with their bodies. Women are bombarded daily with images showing us the bodies that are considered most beautiful. We develop dissatisfaction with our bodies as they are right now. One survey found that 97% of women think at least once per day “I hate my body.” Children as young as three show signs of being influenced by societal messages about being thin.
Today Garvin believes, “My body and me, we’re on the same team. We’re in this together.” She created Body L’Amour, a transformation program to help women learn to love the skin they’re in. Different practices work better for different people. One woman repeats daily affirmation and has sticky notes on her bathroom mirror. Another spends time each week with friends who support her positivity. Others choose yoga, tai chi, meditation, or other mindfulness practices.
The important takeaway is that bodies can and do change all the time. Sometimes it is a natural progression with age and development. Other times it is a crisis like Garvin’s serious health scare. She believes now that working with our bodies, and appreciating their strength, is key to healthy and happy living.