Episode 59: Brooke Geahan

Episode 59: Brooke Geahan

When Lauren first sat down to chat with Brooke Geahan (also known as Everyday Expert, per her Instagram handle) she mentioned Brooke’s “9 lives” — it seems she has this many, as Brooke has come through skin and cervical cancer, Lyme disease and comorbid tick-borne illnesses, pernicious anemia, SIBO, chronic EBV, atrophic gastritis, and autoimmune issues (RA, Hashimoto’s, and Celiac, to name a few), among other conditions. In her research since first being diagnosed, Brooke has come to believe that all of her illness began with a tick bite. For years, she tried every treatment available — or so she thought. In a moment of desperation, and partially because she was running out of money, she found a last resort that changed her life: apitherapy. After having seen over 50 doctors and spent over $150k — not to mention years of her life spent between physicians and clinics — she nearly died after contracting a rare infection brought on by her use of low-dose immunotherapy (LDI). A believer in Western medicine for saving her life, she also found relief in holistic treatments — but it wasn’t until she started stinging herself with bee venom that Brooke began to feel well again. Within three years, she was in complete remission from most of her ailments…and requests for help started pouring in. A calling was born, and she launched The Heal Hive to educate and promote scientifically-proven therapies for wellness, with bee venom therapy (BVT) at the center.

Key links mentioned in this episode:

Brooke Geahan – @EverydayExpert

The Heal Hive

Smyle Foods

The Gutsy Chef

Kitchen Witch Bone Broth

Ōura

@TheChrillness – Chronic Illness Memes

Tune in to learn…

  • how Brooke recently faced her fears by returning to the place where she experienced her first chronic illness symptoms
  • that she didn’t see her first tick bite — but she DID see her second
  • that she rapidly lost functionality after her second Lyme infection
  • that she sees Lyme as a gift now — she has shifted her perspective entirely
  • a run-down of several of the treatments she tried (which allowed her to regain about 40% of her functionality) before discovering BVT
  • that a chance run-in with a nurse from a Lyme clinic brought BVT into Brooke’s life
  • that she prejudged BVT as “woo-woo”, and initially dismissed it
  • that she started BVT, and after a few months tried LDI (not FDA-approved) at her LLMD’s recommendation. It crashed her immune system — and she got so sick she ended up in the ICU after being infected with rare bacteria radiobacter
  • that radiobacter is so rare, she’s the only person in the US who has had it — and the only person who’s had it, period, who hasn’t been treated with chemo to eradicate it
  • that when she was in the ICU, her family and friends were called in to say goodbye to her
  • her realization after surviving radiobacter: that Western medicine saved her life in the hospital, but the medical system is broken — and she needed to stop blindly accepting advice, start asking questions, and do her own research
  • “chronic illness can save your life” — and what she means by that
  • the importance of balance — and socializing with more than just Spoonies
  • that BVT is medicine — it’s only part of the healing picture — and that whole-body health (including mental health) is vital for full healing, as well as an acceptance of the good aspects of Western medicine
  • how she empowered herself with research
  • how The Heal Hive grew organically from patient outreach
  • how BVT supports the bee population
  • the potential for bee products to be used in a wider context of healing…and where research is still needed
  • a reminder that nature is usually the greatest source of information, if we can return to it for knowledge
  • how important it is to invest in comprehensive lab testing so you can get a true picture of what’s going on in your body — and why you need to do your own research in order to interpret the labs
  • the importance of eating healthy — and why there is no excuse not to
  • the importance of finding a community based in positivity — and outside of victimhood
  • the importance of seeking reliable, TRUTHFUL, scientifically-backed information

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Brooke Geahan stands among the wildflowers by the side of a road. She looks into the distance as the wind blows through her long blonde hair. She is buttoning her denim jacket. The color palette is muted and dramatic.

Lauren: All right guys, thank you so much for joining us. I am here today with Brooke Geahan, who is the founder of The Heal Hive. And you’ll also know her as #everydayexpert on Instagram and social media. She has survived multiple chronic illnesses, most particularly Lyme. And she’s here today to talk to us about it. So Brooke, thank you so much for joining us. 

Brooke: You’re so welcome. I’m so excited to finally meet you and speak with you!

Lauren: It’s great. When I got in touch with you, one of the things I said was, “I’ve been following along with the work that you’re doing for a while now, and it’s all just so exciting.” And really, you’re somebody who is beginning to bring discussion about bee venom therapy into the mainstream. Which is super thrilling. So why don’t we, though, backtrack a little bit, and start from the very beginning. Why don’t you tell us when and how you first realized you were sick … because Lyme isn’t the only illness that you’ve survived.

Brooke:  No, I’m a multiple melanoma survivor, autoimmune survivor. Survivor of living in New York for 20 years! (laughs) 

Lauren: I feel you on that.

Brooke: So yes, I’ve been through it all. I had just got back from skiing Aspen. I had no idea I was sick with Lyme at the time, but was already experiencing night sweats, migraines, neck pain and POTS.

It was the beginning of me passing out uncontrollably.

And I still went skiing on some pretty rough mountains back in Europe. 

Lauren: This wasn’t just now.

Brooke: No, no, this was years ago, and I hurt myself deeply. And so just last week, I went back to conquer the mountains. That brought up a lot of PTSD, and I now really realize how I’m a survivor on every level. Because I haven’t really had to confront it since I’ve been so healthy for so many years now. I haven’t really had to confront the true trauma you still hold, and I had to confront it on those mountains. And it was deep. It was heavy.

Lauren: Well, you did have some good wines with you to help you through that process!

Brooke: Yes, I did bring my own biodynamic wine.

I did not ski drunk!!

Lauren:  No. Not through the skiing process! So okay. So it was years ago when you were out in Aspen that you realized that something was really going on? 

Brooke: No, I was in New York. I had gone to school in the Berkshires and upstate New York, and had summered in the Hamptons. So who knows when I first got bit. I went back East … I grew up in Arizona … when I was 16. So I didn’t really feel anything but incredible vitality and energy until about 10 years ago. And then during that time, I was going between New York and London constantly, and then moved to London for a bit of it. And it was while I was in London, that all the sudden the night sweats, the migraines, the neck pain … and I started passing out. My boyfriend at the time would say, “Oh, I’m popping over to grab us some croissants and coffee in the morning. I’ll be right back.” Fifteen minutes later, he would find me passed out on the toilet. I would have just gotten up to go to the bathroom, and I’d be passed out. We kept calling the hospital.

I’d be making eggs in the morning; I would pass out at the oven.

We’d be going out to a restaurant and I would get up at the end of the evening to go to the bathroom or get my coat — and pass out. And it was terrifying. I started going to neurologists, both in New York and London. I saw many, many specialists. I saw a lot of integrative doctors in New York. And yet I was left with no answers. No one ever tested me for Lyme. And then the symptoms disappeared. I had gone on a really, really strict diet, and a roommate of mine who had had Lyme had left me with these herbs. She never told me these were the herbs for Lyme disease. She just left them.

Lauren: She wanted to trick you!

Brooke: Like berberine and a lot of these very, very common herbs for Lyme. And I took them and my symptoms disappeared. Now I wish I hadn’t, because they just went dormant. But I continued to just … I felt like I regained myself without having had answers why I had had this horrible year of passing out. And then I was really really feeling it … I had gone skiing. Thus the big accident. I started to have vertigo on the slopes, and my ski tip fell into some ice, and then I completely obliterated my knee. It’s called a fully blown knee, the terrible triad — in which basically nothing connects your upper leg and your lower leg but skin. So after that, I had six months of rehab, where I just worked from home. I lessened my stress. I moved back to New York, I was surrounded by friends. And now it makes sense. I went on a super clean diet; I wanted to eat clean as I couldn’t exercise. And everything disappeared. However, it was then I started getting ovarian cysts that were the size of grapefruits. I started getting multiple melanomas. I couldn’t figure it out, and I really felt intrinsically that there was something wrong with my immune system. But yet all the tests came out negative. So I kind of believed my doctors and just thought, oh, I’m getting melanoma because of stress. Luckily I caught each melanoma fairly early. The one on my leg, they had to excise half my calf — which sounds really extreme. It was a melanoma 1 going into 2, but I didn’t catch it at 2 or 3, I caught it at I going into 2. Even so, melanoma surgery is really extreme. So all of these things really caused me to to rethink diet, to rethink stress. But I was still a busy, harried New Yorker who overdid it.

Lauren: And you sort of put it down to that, don’t you?

Brooke: I did, and my doctors did as well. And so it wasn’t until I got bit again that I was more Lyme-aware. By then I knew people who had chronic Lyme.

Before then, 10 years ago, I just thought Lyme was something where you took antibiotics and it went away. 

Lauren: And are you also thinking at this point that maybe the Lyme is the trigger for all of the other illnesses, including the melanomas?

Brooke: Oh, absolutely, with the research I’ve done, I absolutely correlate lowered immune system from chronic infection to cancer. It doesn’t necessarily always have to be that; there can be external influences like radiation poisoning, constant systemic inflammation from constant stress. There’s other things. But yes, science has now absolutely proven that chronic infections like EBV (Epstein-Barr virus), chronic bacterial infections, aka Lyme disease, can absolutely contribute to a lowered immune system that can then lead to cancer. What I can say is that I’ve been melanoma-free from basically the first time I started bee venom therapy. I have not had another melanoma since.

Lauren: Isn’t that interesting. And it’s completely healed you in general … we’re going to get into that. 

Brooke: They’ve already shown that bee venom has a really strong powerful chemo-therapeutic agent in it. So for me, I think it was the key. But going back to when these symptoms happened, when I got bit again … the first time, I never noticed a bite … 

Lauren: Which is common. You don’t always see the bull’s eye. It’s not always a sign that you’ve been bitten, is it. 

Brooke: No, they say, over half the people never get a bull’s eye. Your body doesn’t react that way. So this time I got bit, I got a bull’s eye immediately. I knew exactly what to do. I went to the doctor, I got a month of antibiotics. And just to give you context, the day that I got bit again was a day in which I basically … was running a magazine in New York, I drove myself three hours out to the beach, played two games of doubles tennis, and then threw a dinner party and ended up dancing on tables at a beach club. So, went to bed at 2am. That was my day. I got bit, the next day I felt horrible. Went to the doctor, had the bull’s eye.

The doctor fought with me about the bull’s eye. He’s, like, “That looks like a spider bite.”

I’m, like, “It’s a bull’s eye.” He’s, like, “Well, where’s the tick?” And I was, like, “It must have fallen out the middle of the night.” It was right on my wrist, which was a really weird place. But it was very clear. I went on antibiotics immediately, and I thought I’d be back at work by Monday. And I felt fatigued. I didn’t feel well. I called into work and I just said, “I can’t make it, but I’ll be there by Wednesday.” Friday … the next week … I never went back. I never cleared my desk. I literally, from that day of that bite, and from the day I went on antibiotics, I felt like death. And I say this because what I didn’t realize is … that I already had Lyme … and the reason I felt so horrible is that the minute I went on antibiotics, the Jarisch–Herxheimer reaction started. I started really losing functionality. It took another three months for them to figure out that I had a very, very severe case of babesiosis as well, that I nearly died from. Because the New York State Department of Health would not release my babesiosis scores, because they believed that the numbers that I had were too high for me, basically, not to be already dead. So they demanded to re-test me two different times. And then only the second time did they realize that I was indeed still alive, and that these tests were realistic — and I got rushed to the ICU immediately. 

Lauren: And was this when you also developed sepsis in the hospital?

Brooke: No, that was later. I nearly died from Lyme disease three times. I ended up in the hospital three times, and nearly died three times. The last was the worst. That came close to where doctors were telling my loved ones, get ready to say goodbye.

Lauren: Oh my gosh. I mean, obviously, no one can see this right now. But it just leaves you speechless. Because you’re here now, and it’s, like, “Yeah, we can talk about it!” You’ve really obviously processed a lot of it. But to have been on death’s doorstep and back again, is just amazing. 

Brooke: It’s given me a lot of gifts. I don’t look at it in a negative way at all.

I have learned such wisdom and I have such an appreciation for life.

And even being back on a mountain last week and having to face the PTSD of when basically my health started to fail. It wasn’t necessarily the PTSD of having a horrible tragic accident on the ski slope. I had to then face again … wow, this was the beginning of 10 years. It was really interesting. 2020 … it began the new decade. It just felt like this rebirth in a way, and I was really happy to have felt close to that trauma again. And I say this because it helps me become a better practitioner for my clients when I’m reminded daily of what they’re feeling, I’m just much more empathetic and I can put myself in their position. And so I think it’s valuable, even if it’s fully traumatic.

Lauren: No, I completely agree. So at this point, you’re diagnosed with babesiosis.

Brooke: And bartonella.

Lauren: And bartonella. And you’re in the hospital. 

Brooke: And chronic EBV at this point. I think I was holding on to it. Most of us are exposed to it, I think. There’s a crazy statistic, like 96% of people are exposed to Epstein-Barr virus, but it usually lives in dormancy in your body and doesn’t come out. But when you’re sick, it comes out. So, yeah, I was fighting all of those. And so I started seeing some of the much more well known Lyme-literate doctors in New York. I was put on super-high doses of oral antibiotics, IV antibiotics, IV antivirals, oral antivirals, anti-parasiticals.

Lauren: How could you even keep track at that point? 

Brooke: Yeah. There was just medicine cabinets upon medicine cabinets. I just felt sicker and sicker. And I started getting much more weak, and I started losing my ability to speak.

Neurologically, I was really compromised. I stopped being able to recall simple words.

The worst of it was when … I lived in pretty much the same neighborhood for about 10 years in New York. I had run out of food, and no one could help me go to the store. And I was just desperate. So I walked the two blocks, two blocks, to Whole Foods. Left Whole Foods. It started raining. I don’t know what happened, but I got really confused. And I couldn’t figure out how to go home. And I freaked out. I remember this … it was like that horrible winter sleet in New York that’s half-snow, half-rain … and my paper bag is getting soaked. And I call one of my best friends and I said, “You need to help get me. I can’t get home.” And she said, “What are you talking about? You’re two blocks from your house.” And I said, “I know.” She’s like, “Okay. Calm down. Let’s get you home. Just look at a map.” And I was like, “Oh, great. Yeah, you’re right. I’ll just follow the map.” And I looked at the map, and it was like looking at a map made by aliens. I understood it was a map, but I couldn’t actually make sense of how you turn left or right, or how you see north or south. It was like looking at a map as if I was two years old and didn’t know what a map was. I started hyperventilating and had to call my friend again. I said: “You have to come get me.” And I went back into Whole Foods and waited 30 minutes for her to come walk me the two blocks. And at that point, I just broke down. I just said to her, “I think I’m dying.” She was, like, “No, you’re just really, really sick. You’re exhausted.” And I was, like, “I’ve been sleeping for five days straight. I can’t sleep anymore.” I’d sleep, you know, 20 hours a day. And those were my days for months and months at a time, that I would literally sleep most of the day, and be up three hours a day. And in those days not even have the energy to be able to heat up my food. I would eat it cold out of the refrigerator because I couldn’t actually have energy to stand up at the oven. The pain was excruciating. And I went through these months of just kind of being in this cloud. Luckily, I had found out that there was a better practitioner for Lyme in New Mexico. A Lyme warrior had convinced me to go with her to New Mexico. And I went to go see this doctor, and I started ozone auto chemotherapy. And that was the first time I did a colonic. And he toned down some of the oral and IVs, and I did a lot more supportive IVs than just pure killing. Looking back, it still wasn’t helping me, but it did help me regain about 40% of functionality. I was able to start walking again. And I could think again. I was still brain-fogged and fatigued and neurologically impaired.

At my worst, I couldn’t even read a paragraph. I would completely get lost after the first two sentences.

And now I could read a full page. So I took these small gains as major gains. But yet, I stayed there for way too long. I don’t mean at the clinic, I mean, stayed at this level of barely surviving. And then my veins gave out, and I ended up having to get a port-a-cath put in. Because at this point, when I say barely surviving … I was able to take care of myself, get to the doctor’s office, get to the clinic, feed myself, but only if I was on, basically, daily IVs. And they were excruciating expensive. And they were just keeping me barely alive. So my veins gave up. I had to have a port-a-cath put in. And my parents had come to that surgery. I was recovering about three days later in a restaurant, and one of the nurses from the clinic walked in. She was my favorite nurse, and I was just having a conversation with my father, saying, “You know, Dad, I’ve gone through my savings. I’ve sold every precious thing I had.” I was a violinist for 30 years. I sold my violin. I had beautiful couture gowns for throwing all these big events in New York. I had to sell them. I had amazing artwork because I just happened to have been in New York at a time when I had friends that were emerging artists. And so I sold two portraits of myself by famous artists. I just sold it all. I had to. I had to save my life. So I was down to about $4,000. 

Lauren: I know from having read all of the information that you have posted on The Heal Hive, you spent upwards of $150,000.

Brooke: Oh, that’s just on medicine. I couldn’t work for over two years. So when I reference $150,000 upwards, I reference what I spent on medicine. I don’t reference what I had to spend on actually living. It was definitely over a quarter of a million dollars. So I just had to sell everything. I was down to my last $3,000 or $4,000. I was hitting up my parents for money. I just said, “I need to stay alive.” My parents love me. My father is cheap, and my parents are very practical and very middle class, and my dad said, “We can’t afford this.” Right then the nurse walked in. I said, “But Dad, look, she had chronic Lyme. And now she works in the clinic. She’s going to explain to you how it’s all going to be okay. It just takes more and more time.” And he’s, like, “How much more time?” And I was, like, “I don’t know, talk to her.” So you went over to talk to her. And my dad is a kind of gruff and big man, and he asked her, “How did you get better?” She got silent. And my father is very smart and he kind of saw through that silence. And he said, “You didn’t get better from this clinic, did you?” And she goes, “Well, it’s really supportive … ” And he goes, “How did you get better?” She’s, like, “I don’t want to lose my job. I’m a single mother of three.” And my dad’s, like, “You’d better tell me.” And she said, “Bee venom.” And I had tried bee venom from the woman she had actually learned from, who started, basically, bee venom in America — called Voice of the Hoshindo. 

Lauren: And Hoshindo is the Japanese term for bee venom therapy, isn’t it? 

Brooke: Yes. So I tried it with her once. It was when I was on multiple IV orals, and I completely freaked out. It did not seem like it was for me. It seemed scary, the bee sting hurt. And I had so much die-off already happening, I shouldn’t have stung at that time.

So I was really turned off by it, thought it was way too woo-woo. 

I never went into it understanding bee venom science. And so it just seemed like another woo-woo thing that I was going to spend a lot of money on, and not get better from. So I just did it once, with just one sting. And I wasn’t prepared. I was not eating right. I was just not in the right frame … lifestyle changes that I just did not institute. So when I started that first sting, I blew up, my throat closed up — which I now understand why. And I was turned off by. So then, when she said bee venom therapy cured her, that was the first time I had heard anyone say, “It fully cured me.” So my father and I sat down with her, and my father, by the end of the conversation was, like, “How much does bee venom therapy cost?” And she said, “Well, once you really get yourself into a good place, and once you learn how to do properly, it’s free … you can become a beekeeper, you can have your own hive.” My dad looked at me, and said, “That’s what you’re doing”. 

Lauren: I love that he went with the sort of theoretically woo-woo option!

Brooke: Because he’s so cheap! (laughs)

Lauren: So in a way, him being cheap kind of helped you out actually! 

Brooke: I always say that the thing that saved my life was going broke. People asked me all the time, “Oh, you know, why don’t you help the celebrity that has really bad Lyme? And I said, “I would, but they have too much money.” We have too many people that are really profiting off of their sickness. You really have to hit rock bottom.

And so I hit rock bottom, and I was broke, and hey, there’s nothing to lose when you have no money.

I would still go to the clinic during the day. And then three days a week, she would sting me and started teaching me. Within a week, my brain fog had cleared — where I was starting to be able to read a full page, two pages, three pages again. Within two weeks, I felt like going on a walk on my own. It was just this natural inclination. I was, like, it’s a beautiful day, I just wanna walk! And it was midway through that walk that I realized, oh my God, this is the first time. I still have shivers talking about it right now. It was the first time that I naturally felt that I had enough vitality to put myself in a position of enjoying the day. And within three weeks, there was no need for me to use a wheelchair. There was no need for me to use a cane. I felt like I wanted to go on a hike. I needed to go back to New York. So within three weeks of working with her, I just said, “Teach me everything you can teach me.” And I left the clinic, never went back, and started to sting myself. And within three months, I was dancing on those tables again. Same beach club. It was three years later after that bite, and I thought I had my life back. And then the Lyme doctor called, said, “How you doing, Brooke?” “Doc, I’m doing great. This is going on … yada yada.” “I’m so excited for you. This is awesome. Guess what? You know how we tried you on IVIg before? You know how we tried you on low-dose immunotherapy before?” I’m, like, “Yeah, yeah, that didn’t work.” He goes, “Well, there’s a new LDI. It’s going to be great, it’s going to elevate your bee venom therapy, it’s only going to help your immune system.” And at this point, I still didn’t truly understand what I know now about how Lyme disease modulates the immune system and what it does, and how it supports everything. And so I just said, “Great, Doc, send it to me.” I had, as I said, $4,000 left over. I hadn’t really spent a lot because when I moved back to New York, I moved into my friend’s closet. So I was living rent-free in her very beautiful, big walk-in closet — but it was a closet. 

Lauren: A true New York tale of survival!

Brooke: I didn’t really have any expenses. So I had most of that $4,000 left, and he said it was going to be $2,500. It was August, I was desperate to go back to work.

I had no money left. I was desperate to not be homeless, living in a friend’s closet.

I was just ready. I said, “Absolutely. Doc, great. I’m already feeling so great. I can’t imagine what I’m going to feel like if this is going to double, triple how fast I heal.” And so he sent it to me. He didn’t tell me that I should be careful, that I should probably eat cooked foods, that there was a chance that it could crash my immune system. Three days after the first injection, I was back in New York because I felt so horrible. A girlfriend had called me; she heard something weird in my voice. She came over. She said, “I have never smelled death before. I walked into that room and I smell death.” What had happened is, the first day after the injection, it had literally crashed my immune system. By the way, none of this is FDA-approved. None of this has been tested. I was paying him $2,500 to be his guinea pig. Of which there was no other recommendation, besides, “Give me the money.”

Lauren: And he knew that.

Brooke: He has a medical license. He’s an MD; he should know that. So basically, what happened is that I was listening to him … he told me during that summer to get really, really good microbes back in my horrible destroyed digestive tract … that I should start to juice and eat vegetables that have barely been washed, as long as they were organic. But he didn’t tell me when I did the LDI that it could possibly crash my immune system, and I should definitely cook my vegetables and definitely wash them. So I was just listening to him. And I had a green juice the day that I did the shot, and the green juice had a rare bacteria in it called radiobacter.

I became the 11th person in the world to ever come down with this bacterial infection.

The only person in the United States, and the only person ever that has ever gotten this infection that has not gone through massive chemotherapy. You usually only get it when it’s crashed your immune system. I went from literally thinking … I’m going back to work and I have my life back after … at this point it was probably nearly five-and-a half-months, six months of BVT (bee venom) therapy, to then, all of a sudden … crashing. My girlfriend rushed me to the hospital. They immediately put me into the ICU and they called my parents and they said, “She has a 106 degree fever. She has an infection we’ve never seen, we don’t know what it is. We actually have to send off her lab results to two microbiologists in Boston because we’ve never seen this. You’d better get on a plane because she’s crashing …”  And there’s a picture of me in the hospital room during that time, in which I look like a corpse. I was fully purple. My lips were bright blue. I look like I’m dead. All my friends stood around me, and they basically just did not know if I was going to survive. Luckily the microbiologists in Boston were able to identify the bacteria. And then the scary part is that they had to culture the bacteria to see what antibiotics worked against it. They couldn’t just give me broad spectrum because I was too weak. I was literally dying. It was two days, 48 hours of basically touch-and-go.

Lauren: Hanging on. 

Brooke: Yeah, the nurses would pick me up and put me into ice baths. I remember I was, like, “God, I was fighting them.” My friends were, like, “No, you weren’t. You couldn’t even lift your finger.” But in my brain, I was fighting them! But I survived it. I survived those crazy fevers, and they found an antibiotic that worked — and I survived. And after that, it was what I needed …

Western medicine saved my life in the hospital. But it was what I needed to remind myself that the medical system is broken, and that I needed to stop just accepting advice and start questioning. 

Lauren: Yeah, this is a really big turning point for a lot of patients with chronic illness, isn’t it. And not just patients but our loved ones — like even your dad questioning the nurse about bee venom therapy. That there is a point at which we go, gee, why haven’t I been asking more questions this whole time? It’s really interesting to me. And I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for your friends and family to be called into the hospital to maybe say goodbye. 

Brooke: When I started having my life back, yeah. That was crucially important to me, to see just how I could not allow the system to use me as a guinea pig anymore. But that I had to also embrace medicine, because medicine did save me. It was a really good lesson of understanding that I had to question authority, but also truly embrace science. And so that’s what I did. I left the hospital, I then started truly researching bee venom.

Lauren: When you thought you hit rock bottom before, this time you really did!

Brooke:  I really did. I left the hospital having more respect for science than ever. I started really understanding bee venom and doing double duty research on how it works. It was, like: How did this work where everything else failed and nearly killed me? 

Lauren: How did you know where to find the right information and the right sources, scientifically?

Brooke: Google was my friend. But also, I was a pre-med major. My whole life I had worked hard to become a doctor, and at the last minute had fallen in love with literature and decided to become a lit grad. But I didn’t change my major until my junior year, so I was fully a total science nerd. My last year of high school, I built an electric vehicle that won a national prize. I was vice president of my physics club. I was a total science nerd. So I was just going back to a happy place, long lost forgotten. 

Lauren: Isn’t that kind of wonderful, too, that this whole experience reawakened a part of yourself that was dormant but important, creatively for you.

Brooke: I do believe that chronic illness can save your life. If you so choose, and you so embrace … nothing is easy about life … even people who’ve been born with silver spoons have just as many issues as those that don’t. But it’s a support system that you build around yourself. It’s how you’re able to navigate hardships. It’s the mental strength you have to put yourself into a positive place, no matter how hard things are. 

Lauren: And you found that within yourself, too. That’s the interesting thing. At one stage, your dad had been the one saying, let’s try this therapy. But ultimately it was you making these decisions and you doing the research.

Brooke: And I started licking my finger and putting it up to the wind — and listening. Instead of, kind of blindly in a panic, going with whatever people told me to.

I started really listening to the world around me, and digging deep.

And so yeah, I ended up finishing bee venom. Went from strength to strength to strength. And it was during that time in the hospital that I realized that my friend, now my husband, never left my side … was truly the love of my life. 

Lauren: And you guys just got married last year. 

Brooke: In May. We had a bee-themed wedding, of course.

Lauren: Which I love!

Brooke: And so I think about that time in the hospital … that I didn’t nearly lose my life, I absolutely regained it. 

Lauren: That’s such a beautiful perspective. And I think that’s the little pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that a lot of people struggle to reach when they’re in the throes of total illness and lack of function. But that there is something on the other side of that, that there are ways through it. And that you have to make that choice, obviously. It’s all in that choice. But it doesn’t sound like there was ever a question for you … that you might just die.

Brooke: Oh, yes. I try to explain this to clients … that every day I lost hope and every day I thought I was going to die. And every day I knew I was going to get better and I was going to beat this. I vacillated within the hour. But my point to them always is: It’s okay to have a better day, it’s okay to vacillate, it’s okay to lose hope, it’s natural, it’s human. But you can’t stay there. You have to force yourself out of it.

You have look out the window and see that bird on a branch and take in the beauty of that moment.

You have to force yourself to see the beauty in the world and in others. I think one of the most destructive things for chronic illness is bitterness. And I see it all the time. 

Lauren: It’s a very good point.

Brooke: It’s a victimization. The problem is … if you stay there, you don’t get out; you don’t vacillate out of the bitterness and the lack of hope, and you just stay there. On a scientific basis, it’s bad for your immune system. It’s horrible for mental health. But you’re just doing yourself a disservice. It doesn’t attract others to try and help you. 

Lauren: That’s very, very true. And that’s a huge thing too, because people say, where have all my friends gone? And sometimes, friends and loved ones leave without good reason. But sometimes, they also leave because they’re pushed away. And there can be both of these elements at play. 

Brooke: Yeah, there’s a victimization and a selfishness when you get sick — which is absolutely normal and human. But when you’re chronically ill, and you stop seeing yourself in any type of objective way, and everything becomes you, you, you … I’m sick, I’m feeling this way, I’m in pain … it is absolutely human for everyone else to be turned off by that. And it’s hard to navigate that, which is why I think it’s really important for people to have a community outside of the chronic illness community.

I was never one to embrace the victimization which I see in chronic illness, the Spoonie culture …

… which is like, “Let’s all just be Spoonies together and live our Spoonie life!”

Lauren: And that’s hard to be around … that’s really hard, yeah.

Brooke: I mean, no offense to people that are embracing that right now. But it’s not going to help you ever have an easier time matriculating back into normal life, the more you isolate yourself with just sick people. You need to have a balanced perspective. And the only way you do that is in little ways. Let’s say, all your friends left you. Great, they suck anyways, and you’re going to make better friends later. I sure did. But let’s just say they did. Volunteer at an organization where all you have to do is, like, sit at a yoga studio and check people in. Do something simple that you can actually manage, where you’re around people that are not in your social circle of sickness. Because it’s so vitally important. I think it saved me. I never wanted to identify as a permanent sick person. And so I didn’t. I really forced myself to be around healthy friends. And that’s how I met my husband. At one point in my sickness, while I was still attached to an IV pole, my friends were, like, “You have to come up for the weekend to the Catskills.” And I was just, like, “I’m too sick. I can’t.” And they called me again and they’re, like, “Are you sure? You haven’t left your house in three months!” And I was, like, “Yep, let’s do it.” And they all went skiing, I couldn’t. And I sat on the couch — and my husband walked in. And he sat down next to me. And I was, like, “I’m the weirdo with an IV pole attached to me.” And he was, like, “Nice to meet you.” I think back to the fact that if I hadn’t said yes to everything, I don’t know where I would be. But I said yes. And I forced myself to be around healthy people that were happy. And it wasn’t pleasant. It hurt. It hurt to be around couples in love, and watch my friends have so much success and have babies. It hurt, it was not easy.

But I forced myself to suck down the happy pill and be happy for them, and I tried my best to put my bitter pills in the drawer. It saved me, it really did.

Lauren: That’s excellent advice, I think. So how did this entire experience, this healing journey that you went on … first of all, how long did it take you to fully heal, from the time you started bee venom therapy? All in. 

Brooke: It wasn’t an easy road. I think people have to distinguish that bee venom is medicine. But like any medicine, it’s merely medicine. It’s not the full picture. The reason I started The Heal Hive is not because I think that there’s that many barriers to starting bee venom therapy. But because of my experience and journey, I recognize that there are so many other systemic issues that happen when you get chronically ill. And then if you don’t use Western medicine, if you don’t actually do comprehensive lab testing, if you don’t get on the right diet, if you

don’t actually learn to manage stress and sleep hygiene and breath work and manage your mental health … the medicine can only work as medicine does. It’s still medicine after all. 

Lauren: Well, that’s very cool in that the approach that you take at The Heal Hive is extremely integrative in that way. 

Brooke: Exactly. I try to take every mistake I made and turn it around into a system that actually works for everyone. For me, I ran into roadblocks. I was feeling much better from the bee venom, but I was still not 100%. And it wasn’t until I started being able to see what the bee venom was doing in terms of reducing so many symptoms, that the other symptoms really became apparent. And I was able to then distinguish.

I started bee venom therapy with 50-plus severe symptoms … 50. Heart palpitations, to POTS, to fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis.

Lauren: You had Hashimoto’s, too, didn’t you?

Brooke: Hashimoto’s. Chronic fatigue syndrome. Chronic pain. lnterstitial cystitis. Chronic migraines. Kit and caboodle, right? It was only when the bee venom month to month started taking away the symptoms, that I was able to then differentiate. It was peeling back the onion layer. I was able to get down to the core of … wait a second, whoa … I still have these symptoms, I don’t think they’re moving. They’re not changing, they’re not dissipating, they seem pretty severe. And so then I was able to fight with doctors for my right to comprehensively test and to find specialists who could actually dig down and find root causes. And what I did find is that I had celiac disease, and that I also had another autoimmune disease called pernicious anemia. And I also had atrophic gastritis and Raynaud’s. My Hashimoto’s had actually disappeared; I stopped creating antibodies against my thyroid with the bee venom. 

Lauren: Girl, I’m comin’ to one of your retreats!

Brooke: I hope so! They’re fun, too, believe it or not! For talking about bees and sickness, they’re really fun.  By that time, I’d really empowered myself to learn how to read lab tests. I learned how to fire doctors. I went to five gastroenterologists before I found the one that diagnosed me. And they all looked at my celiac antibody tests that looked negative and they said, “You don’t have celiac.” And I was, like, go f*ck yourself. Yes, I do. Of course, I found the doctor that said, “Oh, you are the epitome of celiac.” And he did an endoscope and a colonoscopy, and of course I had massive damage. It was peeling back these onion layers, and really using Western medicine and Western doctors. What had happened, I realized, is that Lyme-literate doctors … this is not for everyone, this is a generalization, of course … but in my experience, the minute they heard Lyme disease, it was an umbrella term for everything. And they didn’t actually force themselves to be creative and to start digging deeper.

Because everything was Lyme. The pain was Lyme, the fatigue was Lyme, the passing out was Lyme. It was all Lyme. 

Lauren: But if you want to target your therapy, you have to target your diagnoses as well. 

Brooke: Yes. So now at The Heal Hive, I’m very bullish … I just had a client yesterday, her thyroid antibodies are extreme. They’re the highest I’ve ever seen. And yet she’s going to her regular GP still. And she’s, like, “I don’t understand it. My GP just keeps putting me on different thyroid dosages, and it’s not helping.” Obviously she’s a first-time client, because, I immediately said, “We’re changing this up. You’re seeing a specialist endocrinologist. You’re seeing someone who has eight years of training to support you. You need a specialist.” Again, when things are not working, when your lab results look skewed, you need to find answers. It’s not okay to just be suffering. So, that is a very, very simple kind of explanation of what I do … I just look at what is very, very obvious, but we’ve been trained not to question. Because in Western medicine, we put doctors on pedestals, and we expect them to care as much as we care about our own health. Sometimes, they have five minutes to see us, and many times they don’t even look over the lab work. I have a client who had severe deep vein thrombosis. If anyone knows that … that can lead to fatal blood clots. And her doctors have been sitting on the lab results for three months. It wasn’t until I got them that I said, “This is absurd. You need to go to your doctor right away and you need to get treatment.” Which she did. But her own husband was a doctor; he hadn’t bothered to look at the lab work. Because he suspected that if the doctor had sent the lab work and it was fine, that it was fine. And she never looked over the lab work because she expected that her doctor would tell her if something was potentially fatal. And so everyone just expected the other to be responsible. Whereas, I walk into every relationship with every client and every retreat, saying to everyone, “It’s up to you. You are ultimately your own doctor. I’m not; no one else is. You’ve got to question authority, you’ve got to question everything. And you have to empower yourself to understand this.” Because it’s not just teaching someone to bee sting is like teaching someone to fish. It’s about teaching them how to actually learn how to stay healthy for the rest of their life. Of course, I care about whether you get better from bee venom right now. But I want you to be healthy for the rest of your life. I am not interested in three years of health — and then you’re sick again. I really want to empower everyone to be able to empower themselves for the rest of their life. And we have to, because our medical system is absolutely broken. 

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. So at what point did you realize that the work that you were doing to heal yourself was something that you had to share with other people, and sort of give birth to The Heal Hive? 

Brooke: Oh, I didn’t. It was chosen for me.

I wanted nothing more than to join the world outside of sickness.

I started a Paleo bakery. I was making fabulous cakes for fabulous people. 

Lauren: Smyle. Smile with a “Y”. 

Brooke: Yes, exactly. And it was fun. It was cathartic to make something with my hands, and have something and then feed people. I felt like an Italian grandmother; it was nourishing! And it felt like everything I needed for the time.

Lauren: And you were nourishing other people after having healed yourself, which I’m sure felt like you were paying it forward. 

Brooke: Exactly. And then I ended up in LA, where my husband grew up. He really was interested in moving back to LA. We were there on kind of a reconnaissance trip. And a woman found me at Whole Foods. Her name is Faith. And she tapped me on the shoulder, and she said, “Are you #EverydayExpert?” And it was the first time that’s ever happened. And I said, “Yeah.” And she was, like, “I’ve been following you for the last few years.” And I said, “Oh, nice to meet you!” And she said, “How did you heal yourself?” At this point, I hadn’t been open about bee venom therapy. Now, the word is out. It’s on the tip of people’s tongues, but back then …

Lauren: I wouldn’t say it’s even on the tip of people’s tongues now, though. People are talking about it, but there are still a lot of people that you say “bee venom” to, and they’re, like, “Excuse me, what?” 

Brooke: That’s true. There are 1.9 million people who share with post-treatment Lyme disease. And I think that we’re only at the the tip of the iceberg, the really little tip, to understand it. But even so, three years ago, no one talked about it. So I was just really reluctant to share my apitherapy — which is the term for bee venom therapy, the umbrella term for all the healing that can happen from hive products. I was really scared to share my apitherapy experience — not because of any issues people might have with live bee stings or anything, but because I was tired of people proclaiming that a Lyme treatment healed them. Having everyone jump on the bandwagon, and then a year later, they’re, like, “Oh, sh*t, I’m sick again.”

I really wanted to prove to myself that it worked before I shared it with others.

So I didn’t want to share my story until I knew that I was fully, 100% fine. And when Faith tapped me on the shoulder, I felt 100% back to normal. But I hadn’t yet been challenged. I had no idea that about six months later, I’d find out that my mother was dying from cancer. I had no idea that I would have to move out of New York after living there for 20-plus years. I had no idea about all the stresses that would happen subsequently. And I knew that some people would feel better from Lyme modalities, but then the minute that they got stressed, it would all come back. I hadn’t had that type of trauma challenge me before. So I just said to Faith, “I’ll teach you what I know. But you know, no guarantees; I’ve never taught anyone else.” She was in horrible shape when I met her. She and her husband had spent tons of money at a really famous doctor, Dr. K we’ll will call him. And they had just gotten nowhere, and they were broke and they were desperate. And so I said, “Let me see if I can apply what I know to you.” I immediately saw the holes in lab testing, I immediately saw the holes in diet and lifestyle. Within three months, she was reporting that she felt like she had hope again. Within six months, she was hiking and walking, and planning for a future that she hadn’t for years. Even after that, I wasn’t planning to change my life from baking to starting The Heal Hive. But then other people, during those next six months, started reaching out to me. And then I started seeing … because people started reaching out and strangers were sending me lab tests … I started seeing this systemic dysfunction within the medical system. I saw people that had lab tests that said they had gluten antibodies — that were never then sent to gastroenterologists. I saw people that had massive low hormones that were never send to a gynecologist or OB. I saw these egregious errors in accountability for these patients. And I started becoming really angry again. I had anger when I first got sick, worked through that. As I said, I put the bitter pills in the nightstand.

But then I started getting angry for others. That was easier, because I didn’t have to hold that anger. I could just be upset for how so many people were still being failed. And I started reawakening an advocacy in me.

Then as more people asked me to help them, I just started helping more, giving more advice. And then all of a sudden … it was only last year, last October … I was catering this Hong Kong socialite’s wedding in Palm Springs, and it was crazy. She had a 250-person wedding, and she wanted eight desserts per person. We had just moved to Sonoma from LA; there were two moves in two years …

Lauren: Eight desserts per person?! I couldn’t even eat two desserts! (laughs)

Brooke: They were petite! Still, it was a lot. I tried to find a commercial kitchen, and we had just moved here a month before and I couldn’t … so I was working between two different ovens and two different houses.  And my husband came home at night, and I was bawling, crying in front of Robin. And he was, like, “Oh, babe, it’s going to be okay. You’re going to get the desserts done.” And I said, “No, that’s not why I’m crying. They’re fine. This is a lot, but they’re fine.” And he said, “Why are you crying?” I said, “All day today, I’ve gotten emails from people that are desperate, that have tried bee venom therapy. It’s failed them. They thought it was their last hope. They don’t know, they’re stuck or lost. And I just spent all day with my hands covered in flour, trying to help them and text back and be on Instagram all day. And baking. I just don’t know how I can do both.” And he kind of shook my shoulders to shake me out of it, and he said, “You’re not going to save anyone’s life with Paleo brownies.” I looked at him and I said, “Well, what do I do?” And he said, “You know what you have to do.” And so that was October. 

Lauren: Very good advice!

Brooke:  He always has great advice. He was also the one that said to me, “No more experimental therapies. You’re doing bee venom therapy.” I really value his advice. He’s a smart man. And I spent the next few months just thinking about it, and helping more people, and reading more lab work, and just trying to see how I could take my journey and build it into a system. And then decided to beta test it with a retreat in March, and threw a retreat in Sonoma. We had 11 retreat attendees show up, and it was magical, wonderful. I brought in a wonderful nutritionist named Magali Brecke; she built a bone broth company called Kitchen Witch, which is an awesome low-histamine glass bottle bone broth. We became friends through Instagram. I really loved her approach. She truly believes in autoimmune Paleo diets and how that heals. But also in being a normal person, and doing an elimination diet and learning how to bring in more foods, and diversify your diet. She’s really holistic-based but practical. I was, like, “You have to come.” We’d never met before the retreat, and she cooked these literally five-star meals for everyone.

Many people hadn’t actually had a nice meal cooked for them in years.

So we treated them with that. And then a yogi who had first taught me back in New York, breath work and singing and chanting, and learning to restore the vagus nerve … she happened to move back to her hometown, which was the Bay Area. So I brought her on board …

Lauren: The universe definitely conspired in your favor. You were due!

Brooke: Oh, absolutely! It was … you’ve gotta do this, you’ve gotta do this. So we brought her in, and I had no idea at the time that she had been spending the last few years working with a grief yoga specialist. So it was a magical three days of just transformation. And one of our attendees ended up driving up on her own; was really, really scared. She didn’t know if could even drive there, even though she lived in the Bay Area and was only about an hour away. She fell asleep for most of the retreat lectures, because she was so fatigued. And she felt so horrible, but she recorded them. She left the retreat, and as I waved her away … she was giving about three others a ride back … and she stopped her car, jumped out, ran towards me, and she said, “I came here with no friends. I’m leaving with a car-ful.” I started crying!

Lauren: I know! That’s so beautiful.

Brooke: And she’s now one of our A-plus students. She got off oxycodone after 10 years of being on pain relievers; she’s lost nearly 50 pounds. She’s now in Italy … her third trip, I think, to Italy in the last six months. She’s completely regained her life. She’s just amazing. It really is something that takes a lot of effort, a lot of work. But I love doing it. And to watch people like her just thrive is worth it. 

Lauren: You say chronic illness saved your life. And now you’re paying it forward and helping other people. 

Brooke: It definitely feels like a calling. I did not build this with anything else but … let’s just see if it works.

Lauren: Now, despite all of our positive news about bee venom therapy, we should be clear what we’re talking about, too. It’s not as simple as just getting bees and stinging yourself, right? You’ve talked about that there’s a holistic and very integrative approach. But you also encourage people, once they’ve learned about everything, to get their own bees, right? 

Brooke: Oh, yes. You know, people don’t realize that beekeeping is kind of expensive, to keep the hives up and healthy. And that the more we support beekeepers who ship bees to people for bee venom therapy, the more we actually build healthy, robust beehives.

So it is actually supporting the bee population. 

Lauren: But do the bees die when you use them?

Brooke: They do. But to put into context, a healthy hive in the middle of summer will lose 1,000 bees a day. And the interesting thing is that, basically, within a short amount of time, the community of bees know how many bees they’ve lost per day. And the queen bee makes it up, creating more baby bees. So it’s a cycle that is self-sufficient.

Lauren: That intelligence! It’s fascinating because we’re in this post-truth world where people, unfortunately, don’t know where to look for information. You are obviously a trusted source, and you’re showing people where to seek trusted information. But not only that, I also wonder about the bee crisis we’re in, too, and how that has played into the work that you’re doing. Because we know that bees are dying off at alarming rates right now. The work you’re doing … do you think it’s raising awareness and actually encouraging more people to consider raising bees?

Brooke: I hope so.

A bunch of my clients have already started their own beehives.

And then a girlfriend who was so sick with Lyme … she had that version where you throw up a lot … she was as bad as me. She was literally dying. She’s a dear friend of mine from New York who moved to LA. Of course, she was stuck in … “Oh, but the ozone … but my doctor says this … “ And finally, six months in, and throwing up 20 times a day, she and her husband were, like, “Brooke, okay, we’ll trust you. We’ll try this.” So I taught her. And they’re now thriving. They bought a farm this spring in Vermont on an island. They’re calling it Nice Island. 

Lauren: That sounds so lovely. That sounds so nice!

Brooke:  They’re building it into a pollinator island. They’ve now culled all the deer; they’re making it as tick-free as much as possible in Vermont. And they’re going to build it out, and I’m hopefully going to work with them to build this camp that will be for, basically, pollinator awareness. Also for bee venom therapy. And so that is someone that literally, two years ago, a year-and-a-half ago I started working with, and now all this summer she worked 14-hour days — tilling soil, clearing weeds. She has her life back. And she’s building a pollinator sanctuary. So yeah, I do believe that the sacrifice we make of a small amount — it’s not really that many bees. The max you really should ever do is 10 bees three times a week; that’s 30 bees. You add up the numbers, it’s not that many bees. I healed from much less from that. There are some people on the Internet that like to proclaim: It has to be 10 bees. I didn’t follow their advice, because I learned from a nurse, and she told me to listen to my body and to go at my own speed. So I did, and I heal from a lot less than 10 bees. But really when you add up the numbers, just by supporting the beekeepers that you’re ordering the bees from and by becoming bee aware, I think that we’re actually adding to the bee population by doing bee venom therapy than subtracting from it for sure. 

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’m also wondering, as bee venom therapy continues to grow in popularity, do we have long-term studies that are showing us the effects of bee venom therapy in treating certain diseases? And does this mean that all chronic illness can be cured with bee venom therapy, do you think? 

Brooke: Sadly, we do not have the research. One of the major new 2020 missions of The Heal Hive is … I actually, for 10 years, built and founded my own nonprofit in New York. So I have experience doing that. My goal is to actually build out a nonprofit arm of The Heal Hive for research and development of bee venom therapy. For everything. Because we do know that it is a powerful antibacterial; we know it’s a powerful anti-viral. We know that it has a massive chemotherapeutic agent. It also has a really, really powerful anti-inflammatory that is known by molecular weight to be 1,000 times more powerful than any cortical steroid on the market. It is a wonderful mast cell degranulator; we know a lot of people with long-term chronic illness have mast cell disorder, and it helps with that. So I mean, the sky’s the limit. They’re using it for HIV therapy, they’re using it in hospitals for MRSA infections. And it’s not just bee venom; it’s also propolis and royal jelly and bee pollen for allergies. There’s so many different avenues we can take with bee research. A lot of people are putting money behind it. A lot of big pharma is actually trying to silo out these different aspects of bee venom so they can patent it and then sell it as medicine.

Lauren: That’s frustrating!

Brooke: I’m putting research into the actual whole bee. Because, let’s not forget that nature usually is the easiest source of finding something. So that’s what I’m planning for 2020, 2021.

Lauren: You’ve got so many plans! I’m like, let’s go!

Brooke: Well, I credit bee venom. I’m healthy. And really, I say to everyone … because I think if I can end with something, is that I deal with clients all the time … the chronic illness community at large is feeling this desperation to get better. In which you’re, “I have to … I have to get back to work … I have to do this … “ And I try and say to them, “You can’t do anything until you’re better. You have to just accept and figure out a way through it until you’re better.

Because you cannot compare yourself. You cannot try and force yourself.

The more you force yourself to try and go to work earlier than you should, try and handle more things, try and start a business … the more you’re putting your health at risk.” I didn’t try any of it until I was 100% healthy. And that’s why I can do it all, because I can handle the stress. 

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely … you sound like my mom! It’s all very good advice. So, let’s round it all out. I really like to sum up my interviews with a couple of Top Three Lists. And the first one … you’ve already mentioned a number of fantastic tips for people who are living with chronic illness. But I’m wondering if you can sum up some top three tips for someone who maybe thinks something’s off. Maybe they’re looking to get tested for Lyme. Maybe they know they have Lyme; maybe they’ve got something else going on. What would you recommend to the Spoonies out there — whether they identify as such or not — to navigate the minefield that is chronic illness? 

Brooke: I would say the first thing is comprehensive testing — and do not cheapen out on it. No matter how expensive it seems it is. Do a GoFundMe, do whatever it takes. Sell your shoes on Poshmark, I don’t care. The one thing you need to know is, what’s going on in your body. And you don’t know until you’ve done true comprehensive testing. And do not rely on doctors for that list of comprehensive tests. They’re lazy. It takes them, sometimes 15 minutes to a half-hour to an hour to actually fill out a comprehensive lab requisition. They’re used to just having the nurses do the normal one. And that’s not enough.

You really do need to do your research to find out how to do your own comprehensive labs.

And we will be teaching a class on that. 

Lauren: Very good. And you also teach classes that you can do remotely, so is it something that you can do?

Brooke: And we’re expanding all of our all of our classes for the next year to also encompass autoimmune, infertility, general gut health. But also a lot of it is helping people who don’t know whether they have Lyme or not, to navigate whether they do. So I’ll be teaching kind of an intro course to just how to figure out what the f*ck is going on with your body. Maybe I’ll call it that! 

Lauren: Yeah, I love that. It’s the WTF course! 

Brooke: Exactly! 

Lauren: Okay, so the first tip was comprehensive lab work. What’s after that for the top three? 

Brooke: Diet. Staying away from gluten is not a trend; it is something that will absolutely help everyone out there. And eating organic. Glyphosates are known to really cause destruction in our digestive system. There are a lot of people out there that say, “Oh, just stay away from the top offenders.” I’m bullish about this. I say 100% organic. And you know what, it’s not expensive. Start actually going to farmers’ markets. Apply for food stamps; most of them you can use at farmers’ markets. Start actually spending the time and cooking your own meals.

People go, “But I’m too tired. I don’t have time.” Yes, you do.

Everyone can buy a $50 Instapot; if you can’t, beg, borrow and steal. Throw a protein, vegetables, and some water or some broth into an Instapot — and you have healthy meals for the week. There is no excuse for not eating healthy. 

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. Labs, diet. What’s number three? 

Brooke: Mental health.

Lauren: That seems to have been something that was very consistent with you throughout your health journey. 

Brooke: Absolutely. I had done three years of deep psychoanalysis, way before I had ever gotten sick. And I really credit understanding how to question my own authority … it taught me to get out of that place of selfishness, of me, me me … and put myself objectively saying and being able to assess whether I was handling things from a self-destructive way or self-serving. I’m not always perfect at it; I can still be self-destructive. I’m human. We all are human. I’m not here to preach and say I’m holier than thou. But I do think that our society does not put an emphasis on mental health, and therefore it it trickles down to us. And we forget how much mental health is important. All of you out there that are dealing with depression and feeling inadequate and feeling hopeless … work with a therapist, go to a yoga community that brings in breath work and community. Not like a Yoga Works, hot bodies getting sweaty. I’m talking true yoga community. Find somewhere where you can support yourself in a positive way. And worst case, and best case, go on a nature walk once a day, or at least every other day or at least once a week. Try and get out in nature.

Because until you get your mental health right, you can never help yourself.

It doesn’t matter how much bee medicine you’re doing. It doesn’t matter how much antibiotics you’re doing. Everything stems from whether you can handle the stress. And if you can’t, you’re not going to get anywhere. So that is foundational. 

Lauren: And it’s also seems very interconnected to a certain level of discipline that you certainly have innately but that you seem to have developed through making the choice to survive, really.

Brooke: You know, you can’t be a victim. And I see it so often, I see it with a lot of clients, And I’m trying to teach them that life has not given you everything you wished; life is definitely not fair. But it’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to be a warrior or a victim. And I say that to my clients all the time. You are warriors, not victims. You’re warriors, not victims. And sometimes I think it gets through. 

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. All right, one last Top Three list. Do you have anything in your life that gives you unbridled joy, that you’re unwilling to compromise despite the lifestyle adjustments that you’ve made around your wellness? Maybe it’s guilty pleasures, secret indulgences, comfort activities even?

Brooke: Biodynamic organic wine.

Lauren: Thatta girl! That’s what we love to hear!

Brooke: You know, I don’t drink every day but I do drink. And I look at my biohacking ring … and I notice that I don’t get enough deep sleep, I don’t get enough REM the days I do. But I love it; it’s my guilty pleasure. I’ve learned to drink earlier; I’ve become more of a day drinker than a night drinker. That’s helped. But I don’t think I’ll ever give up enjoying the pleasures of life. I’m a little bit of a sybarite, and I love good food, good wine, hanging out with people, beautiful environments, and I will never give that up. Ever.

Lauren: I love that. Anything else on that indulgence list … or is it mainly just the wine?!

Brooke: I’m pretty disciplined, I have to say.

And I derive pleasure from being healthy.

So, really, wine is my only true vice, I would say. And it’s not that bad, because I only drink clean wine. 

Lauren: And you’re also in an area in Northern California where there’s certainly access to those kinds of wineries, too — which I bet is really great. 

Brooke: I moved to a very dangerous place (laughs).

Lauren: Yes, really good wine! Well, Brooke, is there anything else that you would like to add as we round everything out? Certainly, tell everyone where they can find you — to find your work and perhaps go to a retreat with you? 

Brooke: Well, I first want to say that the reason I named it The Heal Hive, and not after myself, is because it really isn’t about me. It’s about all of us. It’s about the community we build. It’s about the practitioners we bring in. We just made a new hire this year, 2020; we have an ER nurse who’s going to be working with us, who’s used to crisis so she’s going to be wonderful. And she’s an autoimmune warrior herself, so she gets a lot of this. So I just want to leave people with … whether it’s The Heal Hive or not, that you need a community. And find a community that’s based in positivity. There’s a lot of people out there on the Internet that take advantage. Question them.

Make sure that the people you speak to and you get advice from are real, and that they’re backed up by fact and not fiction.

The same for your doctors. Additionally, I would say … anyone who wants to work with me, know that I’m tough. I demand you to be a warrior, not a victim. If you’re ready, come on! But I’m not going to hand hold you, and I’m not going to tell you that it’s okay to cheat on food, on lifestyle, on stress. I’m pretty hardcore. But I’m hardcore because I know what heals. So, you can find everything about my approach, my story on TheHealHive.com, or you can go to our Instagram, #thehealhive and #everyday expert. And I just have to thank my staff. I have such wonderful staff; one of them, who does all the marketing, is the coolest. And #thegutsychef, which is our chef; nutritionist Kathryne Robinson, who is our yogi. All of them make The Hive, and more are coming. And if you have any questions about bee venom, we’re an open book over at The Heal Hive. We’re transparent. You can ask the people who follow us; you can ask us any question and we’re always happy to answer. 

Lauren: And you also list approved practitioners and lots of scientific articles with tons of information. It’s great, so people can really see what good source material looks like. 

Brooke: Nothing that we recommend is not scientifically-based and third party peer reviewed. That’s really important.

Lauren: Brooke, it has been such an honor and a pleasure speaking with you. I’m so excited to watch The Heal Hive continue to grow. And hopefully, I’ll see you and some other listeners who are tuning in at a retreat sometime soon. 

Brooke: I hope so. Thank you so much for including me. I am honored, and it’s so nice to finally talk to you and see your face. We’ve actually been Skyping this whole time. You’re a beautiful soul, and thank you for sharing all this with everyone. It’s been a total pleasure. 

Lauren: Thank you so much, Brooke. 

Brooke: You’re welcome.

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