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Sofia Health Celebrates Black History Month: Meet Kelly van Olffen

Kelly van Olffen: Certified Holistic Nutrition, Life and Health Coach

Tell us a little about yourself.

Let me introduce myself – My name is Kelly van Olffen, a Certified Holistic Nutrition, Life and Health Coach who works with women living with Lupus and autoimmune diseases, and who also lives with Lupus and a kidney transplant caused by that disease. I am a single mother of twin boys, one of whom is a Firefighter & Paramedic and the other, an extremely talented creator, video editor and aspiring voice actor.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments (personal + professional)?

As a mom, I have to say my proudest accomplishment is my boys. Each is successful in his own right. Each is pursuing his passion, his dreams, and fulfilling his goals. I could not be prouder.

As a woman, I have enjoyed so many wonderful blessings and opportunities throughout my life. I attended the University of my choice on a full academic scholarship to study Psychology and Pre-med studies. I was part of an amazing marching band which led to trips to some of my favorite cities in the country every year and the opportunity to record a record with and appear at the concerts of Fleetwood Mac! I worked during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics first as a volunteer and later, heading up the Accreditation Center at the UCLA game venue.

I have traveled throughout the United States, Hawaii, and the Caribbean. I am officially a cruise junkie and I love to take a cross-country ride on the train.

As a real estate professional, I have been able to help people realize their dreams of homeownership. And I have received awards for top salespeople and salespeople with over $100,000 in sales in a single month for one of the top Vacation Ownership Programs.

But my biggest accomplishment of all has been surviving and thriving with Lupus and a kidney transplant. It is because of this that I now work as a health coach.

Tell us about your business & mission.

My journey started a few years before I had my sons through a series of medical events that, at the time, were brushed off as staph infections, pericarditis, and other medical illness.

It wasn’t until my boys were 4 years old that I had a major episode that sent me to the ER. Fortunately for me, the doctor on call was remarkably familiar with Lupus and the ER Nurse herself was a Lupus patient. He had all the tests done and sent me to a specialist. When the labs came back – they were conclusive – I had Lupus. After so many years of misdiagnosis, I was almost relieved to know that there was a name for what had been happening to me!

I took medication, steroids as most Lupus patients do, had my regular doctor visits, and went on about my life. I experienced trips to the ER several times a year for different Lupus-related issues, each time being poked and tested for everything under the sun and in the end, no one really knowing what it was or how it happened. In the end, they always said, it must be the Lupus causing it. It wasn’t until about 5 years later that things started to change drastically when I was diagnosed with ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease).

Now I was facing a whole new set of choices to make. Realizing the severity of the situation, I did what I was told by my doctors and underwent intensive treatment with harsh drugs to try to stop the kidneys from failing. For an entire year, I did doses of medication for 6 months on and 6 months off. It worked for a short time, but then the kidney function would start to fail again. Next, chemotherapy. Two years of treatments again 6 months on and 3 months off. It worked for a while but then they always started to fail again. Finally, I made the decision to stop treatments and prepared for the worse.

At about this same time, I learned from my manager at my real estate brokerage, that he had seen a Preventive Medicine doctor who helped him stop his cancer and put it in remission. He had been cancer-free for some time and suggested he might be able to help me. I agreed to go, and I am so grateful that I did because the doctor started me on a path that would change my life for the better.

He explained to me that by using everyday food, meditation/prayer, and exercise, it was possible to stop the progression of the disease, stop my Lupus flares by stopping the inflammation in my body, and hopefully save my kidneys. We knew the kidneys were a long shot because I was already down to 17% function in them, but it was worth trying. I started right away because I was determined to not let this get the best of me. He was also responsible for my wanting to become a coach and help others and even encouraged me to do so.

My kidneys did start to reverse their function for about 3 years but in the end, they did fail (they were just too far gone by the time I got to him). I went on dialysis, but I didn’t change a thing I was doing so that, as he had said, my body would be better prepared to accept and keep the kidney. Sure enough, when I did receive my transplant, it was a perfect match! I have had the same kidney now for, what will be 10 years in September. I am still just as active as I have always been and the only medications I take are for the kidney (anti-rejection medication).

In my work, I teach my clients the same things I learned, and we implement the same types of strategies that I have used in my own care since my transplant to stay healthy, pain-free, and thriving. It is my mission to educate women suffering from autoimmune disease and particularly women suffering from Lupus on the power of food and how it can drastically change your life once you understand it and know how to use it. It is especially important for women of color since Black Americans are at the highest risk for diseases like Lupus, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Both my mother and her twin sister died from complications related to Lupus (my mother) and Scleroderma (her sister).

How do you hope your work will impact/encourage/influence future generations?

I have been fortunate to have the love and support of my family, my doctors, and a network of like-minded women, all of whom have their areas of health and wellness that they coach inspired by their personal journeys. There is absolutely no reason why anyone should have to suffer or feel stuck in their disease. There is always hope and I want to share that message. All it takes is one person who learns how to change their life around and then they teach members of their family and share it with their friends until soon, everyone understands that all the talk you hear about how food affects your health is true and how, when they are implementing those changes in their own lives, they are no longer statistics, but instead, are living and thriving free of the diseases once common to us all.

Our minds are powerful tool’s and what we tell ourselves, what we feed our minds, is just as important as what we feed our bodies.

- Kelly van Olffen


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