Shelby Miller is eating for her life.
Having explored the ins and outs of Western medicine, the former Squamish resident turned to her diet as a lifeline in a fight against an undiagnosed auto-immune disease.
“It feels like you are on fire,” said Miller, who moved to Whistler to live with her fiancé a month ago. “It’s like when you take Listerine, but in your body. And then you have an ice cream headache.”
Miller is no stranger to near-death experiences. As a promising young swimmer with the Castlegar Aquanauts, at the age of 14, Miller was given 12 hours to live when she suddenly needed a liver transplant.
While she received a liver, that was far from the end of the story. Miller later discovered the donor had Hepatitis B. Doctors gave her new organ five years of life. It lasted 14.
With a second liver in place, Miller went through regular treatment to deal with Hepatitis B. But a year and a half ago, something started attacking her body.
“This has been more challenging than having two liver transplants,” she said, noting the uncertainty clouding the disease is frustrating.
So far the only counterattack is huge steroid doses, a treatment that is harmful to Miller’s body and not sustainable, she said. With no other options in sight, she turned to alternative medicines, including nutrition.
“My food has become my medicine,” she said.
A group of Squamish residents followed Miller’s lead. In an effort to back Miller as she undertakes a strict meal plan, the fitness centre Body Storm’s participants mimicked her eating habits for a month. In a fundraising effort, they garnered pledges for their weight loss.
Miller is unable to work, Body Storm co-owner Kimberley Cummings said. This was the community’s way of showing their support, she noted.
“[Miller] is the essence of a strong person,” said Cummings, who has been friends with Miller for approximately five years. “She is a really sweet, sweet girl.”
The gym’s fundraiser and people’s donations have so far amounted to $3,920. Anyone wanting to add their donation to the pool can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s been a big help to feel as though she’s not tackling the strict diet program alone, Miller said. She has discussed tips with the fundraiser’s participants on Facebook and learned valuable information from their experiences, Miller said.
“I am on a bit of a rollercoaster and they are not fun when you don’t want to be on them anymore,” she said. “This whole thing has filled up my hope tank.”