Interstitial cystitis (or IC) is a painful bladder disease that affects up to 20 percent of the population. For many years, very little was known about what caused it or how to treat it. Thankfully, pioneers such as former Asheville resident Diana Brady have worked to change that. After 30 years of struggling with IC herself, she spent five years researching and writing a book about IC and how to treat it with natural remedies: IC Naturally published in 2009. This year, Brady received a Woman of the Year award from the National Association of Professional Women for her work in the IC field.
Xpress asked her a few questions about IC, the award and her advice to others.
What is your personal story with IC?
Diana Brady: In my late 30s and early 40s, I started to have symptoms [of IC]. I was going back and forth between doctors — none of whom could find the problem. I went to about 15 different doctors in seven years. … I was subjected to two surgeries, neither of which were necessary. It was an incredibly horrible nightmare, and a very painful time, physically and emotionally.
Finally, a couple of people were sent my way, and I started looking at natural treatments. I found an alternative-medicine doctor, who was wonderful, and an internist. I started dealing with people who were more into natural remedies and learning from them.
I realized that after all the physical pain that I was in, I needed to get an additional education to share my knowledge. My goal was always to prevent other women from going through the hell that I had gone through (so I became a nutritionist).
When I got to the ripe old age of 60, I realized I'm not going to be here forever, and I wanted to share my knowledge, so I spent five years writing my book.
Now the book is out there, and it has gotten a lot of good press. Women tell me how much it has helped them — I feel comfortable that I have given back the knowledge I have.
That's quite a story. What did winning the Woman of the Year award mean for you?
It was quite nice! It was acknowledgment. I struggled for literally 30 years, and I tried so hard to benefit others, and to me this was acknowledgment that, “OK, lady, you've done good. You've helped others, you've accomplished your goals, and good for you.”
How many people are affected by IC?
Approximately 20 percent of the population [are affected by] IC/PBS — painful bladder syndrome. It's a broader range [than IC alone], so it affects many more people.
It seems that there's more understanding of IC than there was in the past.
Right now, there is a tremendous amount of interest, understanding, organizations, funding from the NIH [National Institutes of Health] — I am just thrilled and overwhelmed. I never thought we would get here. At times, 30 years ago, [the treatment was to] literally just pour bleach into your bladder. To say the treatments were barbaric was an understatement. It is encouraging to know there has been a tremendous amount of progress, and I am very happy about that.
What is your suggestion to someone who might have IC?
If someone believes or even suspects that they have IC, I would recommend they follow the IC diet because it is very, very important. For a lot of people, the symptoms diminish with the diet. Try it for a week or two, and if symptoms diminish, that's a good indicator.
You've gone through some really tough times to get this point. What would be your advice to someone who is struggling, especially with physical challenges?
My advice would be to really be the guardian of [your] own health, be it physical or emotional. Doctors and therapists are there, and they're wonderful, but you really have to take control of your own emotional and physical health. No one knows your body and your mind like you do. [The doctors] are there as counselors, but you have to be the one to know what's going to work and what doesn't work.
How does it feel to be a woman pioneer in your field?
It is very, very gratifying — it's like the culmination of a life. I've spent 30 years of my life getting here. I've made decisions that have cost me. I've been told I'm crazy. I've struggled to help others. [The Woman of the Year Award] is a final accolade, and it's extremely wonderful.
To learn more about Diana Brady, interstitial cystitis and her book, IC Naturally, visit icnaturally.com.
— Nasimeh Bahrayni is an Asheville writer.