Kimberly Button, 35, is a Green Living Expert, journalist and the founder of GetGreenBeWell.com. Kimberly is also the Green Living Expert for the nationally syndicated lifestyle TV show, Daytime.
HBP: Kimberly, the HBP team really likes your website. Sometimes we’re mirroring some of the same products or information, but for different purposes. I remember we both did something on soap nuts. I laughed as you covered them as laundry detergent and we covered them as shampoo!
Kimberly: That’s what’s great about natural products. They multi-task.
HBP: Exactly! Okay, I want us to jump right into discussing your amazing story. I know you’re serious about only using the healthiest and most natural products you can get your hands on. You’ve told me how you askew the chemical laden beauty and personal care items for things “with ingredients I can pronounce,” but you’ve got a back story that is really intense. I think if anyone sees you now, they’ll find it hard to believe you were so ill at one time you were in a wheelchair. Will you share your story with our readers?
Kimberly: Well, when I was 3.5, I was diagnosed with a cancer called Wilms tumor. It’s a childhood cancer. As a result, my kidney was removed and I had many years of chemo therapy after that. Skip forward to fall semester of my sophomore year in college – I began to get really sick.
HBP: Sick how? What were your symptoms?
Kimberly: Sore throat, exhausted all of the time. It was not just tired, but an exhaustion that affected my entire life.
HBP: I’m assuming you went to a doctor to see what was going on. I mean this couldn’t be the childhood cancer coming back because as I understand Wilms tumor doesn’t occur in adults.
Kimberly: Actually, doctors said it was because I was away from home for the first time.
HBP: What? So basically they were saying it was in your head. Or at least your head was causing your body to act up.
Kimberly: They blamed a lot of things – stress, studying, etc. This went on my entire college life. Then I graduated, started my first job and the sickness was getting worst. I had puss in my throat and symptoms similar to strep throat. So doctors started throwing medicine at me, while still telling me it was all in my head.
HBP: Did they do any actual tests during all of this?
Kimberly: Yes. They did this 18 point test for Fibromyalgia. I failed. Then they told me I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Through all of this I’m trying to work and be a normal young adult. I got a job at Walt Disney World that required me to speak a lot. After a while I was too sick to stay there. And I was on so many pills by now – Narcotic pain killers, Lyrica for Fibromyalgia. This was before it was even approved. But the doctors and everyone else was still telling me it was in my head. And my insurance wasn’t covering some of this stuff because the doctor was just trying to see what would work.
HBP: Wow. That must have been so hard. So after your Disney job, what did you do for a job?
Kimberly: I had several jobs, but I kept leaving because I was so sick. At one point I couldn’t stand on my feet for any amount of time. I had very little mental clarity. I’d go home after work and fall asleep, straight into the next morning. In my last attempt at a job, I was working at a book store. I couldn’t lift my arms to carry the cash draw to the back room.
HBP: How did you take care of yourself?
Kimberly: I went on disability. I continued to go to doctors hoping someone could figure out what was wrong with me. By this point, I was walking with a cane. It was ridiculous. I was 24-years-old and walking with a cane. I had to go through tests in a rehab department to see if anything was wrong with me mentally. They had me putting together puzzles. It was really insulting.
HBP: I can imagine. At 24, you want to be out taking on the world. It’s your prime time.
Kimberly: It should have been. But I was sleeping 13 hours a day and my hair was going gray.
HBP: You know, the gray hair at a young age was something I heard from another woman we interviewed. Interesting. Did the doctors think you were making your own hair gray?
Kimberly: All they kept telling me was that I was depressed. Well, yeah! I was depressed. By 27, I was in a wheelchair. I had to move back in with my parents. I couldn’t cook myself a meal. I couldn’t clean the house or drive myself to town. I had no energy for anything.
HBP: At what point did you say, “Enough of this. There has to be something else I can do”?
Kimberly: It came when I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to take handfuls of pills anymore. I decided to try a different method. I visited a naturapath. He told me about possible food allergies. So I eliminated gluten from my diet.
HBP: Did that help?
Kimberly: A little bit. Not much. Then I saw a chiropractor. I got a little bit of improvement in terms of my balance and being able to walk. He said my liver was extremely toxic.
HBP: Awww. There’s the word. Every woman we’re talking to has had some brush with that word – toxic.
Kimberly: I visited other conventional doctors, as well. Just to be sure. They suggested MRIs, CAT scans, shock treatments to my muscles. Someone wanted to drill a hole in the base of my skull to release pressure on my brain. He said they’d had great success with this treatment.
HBP: I’m assuming you passed on that one.
Kimberly: (laughing) definitely passed on that one. Finally, I started looking into green and healthy living. I started by changing out my beauty and skincare products. I eliminated items with artificial fragrance, which was a big trigger for me. It gives me migraines, my sinuses start draining, I sneeze continually. It’ll go on for the rest of the day if I get one whiff. I haven’t been to the mall in years because there are scents everywhere.
HBP: So eliminating fragrance was actually played a part in your healing?
Kimberly: Oh, I definitely saw improvement – not having migraines anymore was great. I also started to see a psychologist who was helping me with the emotional issues of being sick. I wasn’t sick because I had emotional issues. It was the other way around. This psychologist was wonderful. And she told me about something that really changed my life in a big way.
HBP: What was that?
Kimberly: She told me about a chiropractor who was using Advanced Activator Technique. It uses a little instrument that triggers on specific body parts and jump starts your body’s natural healing process. Within eight months of starting treatment I was walking without a cane and I had more energy than I’d had in years.
HBP: That’s wonderful. So, for you, healing came in stages and through persistence. You saw so many medical professionals and kept an open mind about alternative methods. And you changed the products you use.
Kimberly: Yes. And each year I still see improvements. Others saw such a difference in my health that they wanted me to talk to people they knew who were ill. I was so glad to tell people about my experience because I want to get the message out to protect your health before it gets to the point where mine was. And I definitely explain that toxins may be contributing to the problem that just won’t go away. The scent from the shower curtains may be causing the migraines. Or the synthetic fragrance in your face cream. When I buy new furniture, I don’t allow them to put stain repellent on it. I only use low VOC paint.
HBP: It sounds like what you’re saying is it’s a lifestyle of wellness, not just one component. You saw your first improvement when you made the synthetic fragrance connection, but you needed to press on to find complete healing through other things.
HBP: In the beginning, how did you educate yourself on buying non-toxic personal care items?
Kimberly: Now I typically buy from Whole Foods and other natural markets; Vitacost.com. But in the beginning, I went to my local food co-op and there were just a few brands. It was easy for me to investigate those companies.
HBP: How do you decide on what to buy now?
Kimberly: I read their ingredients and I read beyond the marketing claims. If you read the About page for a company, you’ll get where their philosophy is. If they’re into natural living, it will be obvious. Read beyond the packaging. It’ll take 2 minutes of your time.
HBP: So what’s next for you and GetGreenBeWell.com?
Kimberly: I’m working on a book to help others live their healthiest life.