A few months back, we were lucky to meet Marisa Zeppieri, self-proclaimed “Lupus Chick.” As a new fan of Daily Greens juices, she had shared the story of her personal journey on Social Media — and what a story it was! We knew we wanted to know more, so here it is. Meet Lupus Chick! We think you’ll find her story as interesting and inspiring as we do.
1. You’ve faced a number of challenges in your life. Would you mind briefly describing some of the obstacles you’ve had to overcome?
Certainly. With all the challenges I have faced, I feel like a cat with nine lives. In my 20s, I was hit by a truck as a pedestrian. It took about a year for me to recover and doctors recognized the event as a trigger for Lupus symptoms to express themselves. Ever since my Lupus diagnosis in 2001, I’ve battled mini strokes, blood issues, a blood clot, heart issues, a brain aneurysm, vasculitis and Lupus’ daily aggravation of fevers, rashes and fatigue. I’m probably forgetting some but I try to focus on all of the great things that have happened in my life instead.
2. Can you tell us specifically about your journey with Lupus? How and when you were diagnosed and how has your life changed since your diagnosis?
As I briefly mentioned, I was diagnosed in 2001 later in the year. A few months into my recovery from the vehicular event, I started getting strange fevers, rashes, pain and ultimately a ministroke. There were enough things going on for a Rheumatologist to take notice and test me for a myriad of illnesses. Three weeks after testing, Lupus was confirmed. Lupus has changed all aspects of my life, I believe for the better. It forced me to reevaluate my career, things in my personal life, my faith and stirred a desire within me to make the most of each day, and to leave a positive imprint on the world.
3. Tell us about Lupus Chick. What inspired you to start it? What mission or goals do you hope to accomplish with Lupus Chick?
I started LupusChick in 2008 after meeting a lot of lupus patients who felt alone and were struggling with feelings of isolation and depression. Today we are a large autoimmune community and reach about 200,000 people per week via our website, LupusChick.com, and social media. In 2015, I added a nonprofit segment to LupusChick to help patients with educational, medical and physician costs. That year we raised several thousand dollars and gave away five life enhancement educational gifts to lupus patients who were in college or a certification program. Education is extremely important to me and my prayer is we are able to continue to program in the future on a larger scale.
4. We understand nutrition has played a huge part in your journey. Can you tell us how nutrition and diet have helped you meet your goals and/or overcome your challenges?
I’ve always been fascinated by the human body, and was actually in Nursing school when Lupus reared its head. Through the years, I became more interested in how food, diet and supplementation could help some of my symptoms. Then in 2010, I had my worst season ever. A major flare left me with severe muscle wasting, heart issues, jaundice, and in the hospital where I was so thin and literally wasting away, I could not feed or take care of myself. I became wheelchair bound for about a year.
Being newly married, this was extremely difficult for me. My husband and I happened to watch Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and it literally changed my life. We started to implement juicing daily and I began to see nutritionists and functional medicine doctors. Within three months, I was out of the wheelchair. I’ve never had to use it since. Juicing gave my body the nutrients it so desperately needed without my body having to expend energy. Six years later, I still juice about twice daily. In fact, I actually teach classes on juicing now in my community and online. It changed my entire life, and helped me get my health back on track.
Today, juicing, along with a clean diet that is mostly raw, gluten free, diary free and heavily-vegetable based, helps me keep many symptoms in check. It hasn’t cured my Lupus, I try to make that very clear to people, but…I am on the lowest medication I’ve ever been on in 15 years!
5. At Daily Greens, we believe that a healthy lifestyle – including drinking green juice – can have a transformational effect in people’s lives. Can you describe your transformation, and how you believe drinking green juice has empowered it?
I know how severe my state of health was back in 2010, and it had gotten to the point where even the doctors seemed to be giving up. When I find old journals, I see daily goals for the day that included standing on my own for one minute with no assistance, or walking from my bed to my bathroom without a walker. Today, it is hard for me to even picture being in that situation and it highlights the radical changes I’ve had in my health. Juicing provides me with the energy I need to get through each day, as fatigue is a major symptom of Lupus. I believe it has also helped me with my skin, hair and nails, and supports my immune system, as I seem to catch a lot less germs. Over time, it completely changed my taste preferences too and pushed me in a direction of only eating clean, unprocessed food.
6. You offer a juicing class – what’s your favorite juice to make? And when you’re not making your own, what’s your favorite Daily Greens green juice?
I’m big on greens, so I love to combine kale or collards with some basil, cucumber, celery and ginger. I will even add a little pineapple in at times to mix it up. On rare occasions, I will treat myself to a more fruit heavy juice such as pear, cucumber and mint. I am a sucker for anything with pear in it!
As far as Daily Greens, I can honestly say I loved each one I have tried so far. I originally bought a multi variety case from Costco and was pleasantly surprised how unique and tasty the juices were, and I loved the fact they were low in sugar and not loaded with fruit. If I had to choose, I would say Harmony is my absolute favorite. It has three items I adore – pear, ginger and fennel!
7. What lessons have you learned that truly surprised you?
Living with a chronic illness that has no cure has brought about so many great changes and lessons in my life. It has made me even more compassionate, grateful for easy days and simple pleasures, and made me very aware of the small amount of time we are truly given on this earth. In some ways, I feel like I am rushing against time, as Lupus is so unpredictable. So it is my mission to make the greatest positive impact possible on the lives of others in whatever time I have left here.
8. Any great advice you’ve received along the way that you wouldn’t mind passing on?
As far as my personal life, my husband always reminds me to “be flexible.” And, with a chronic illness, I don’t think there is any other way to be. Surprises happen, flares happen out of nowhere, and we can only control so much of our life. Being flexible and in some ways spontaneous, has greatly reduced stress in my life.
In my “business” life, I’m grateful for the advice I have received over the years to dig deep and determine what makes you or your brand unique, and to run with it. When you focus on what makes you distinctive and stop comparing you or your brand to others, incredible things begin to happen!
Hike or Bike?
Pool or Ocean?
Ocean, no…pool. Tough! I am obsessed with the water.
Fiction or Non-fiction?
Non-fiction all the way.
Favorite fast healthy meal?
Collard wraps filled with brown rice, black beans, cilantro, red cabbage, sunflower seeds, cumin and a dab of salsa! I make a bunch at one time and they are great to eat on the go!
Write a Haiku about your journey.
Life ever changing,
Grateful for love, laughter, hope.
Lupus will not win.
Thank you so much for interviewing me about LupusChick and my juicing journey! I am so thankful for DailyGreens.
Find LupusChick online at: http://lupuschick.com/