||“No. I’m not crazy, and I know that something is wrong with me, and I won’t stop until I find out why I’m
feeling this way.”
This is what Grammy® and Dove nominated songwriter, and recording artist, Dayna Caddell, would
say to several doctors who thought her illness was all in her head.
It began in September of 2012, on a hot, dry day in Scottsdale, Arizona while she was with her family
celebrating the birthdays of her father and brother.
“I remember the day very clear when I had my first flare up,” Dayna tells EEW Magazine. “I awoke with
a deep red dot on the side of my eye but thought nothing of it. A few weeks later, I awoke with puffy
eyes—well, beyond puffy. So bad that I could hardly see.”
This would be the first symptom of many “flare ups”—brain fog, chronic fatigue, joint pain, food
intolerances, anaphylaxis —on a long road to a diagnosis. You see, the nature of autoimmune
disease is to attack in cycles, to ‘flare.’ And this was just the beginning for Dayna Caddell.
The term “autoimmune disease” refers to a varied group of illnesses that involve almost every human
organ system. It includes diseases of the nervous, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems, as well as
skin and other connective tissues, eyes, blood and blood vessels. In all of these ADs, the underlying
problem is “autoimmunity” – the body’s immune system becomes misdirected and attacks the very
organs it was designed to protect.
“Feeling poorly for years before I got a diagnosis turned out to be typical. According to the American
Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), it takes an average of about five years for a
sufferer to be diagnosed,” explains Dayna. “In the beginning stages I ended up consulting various
specialists for various symptoms: a dermatologist, an allergist, a neurologist, and a rheumatologist,
with no avail.”
Autoimmune diseases affect various organs and organ systems. In the United States at least 23.5
million are affected by some form of autoimmune disorders, and are one of the leading causes of
death and disability, and of the 50 million Americans living and coping with autoimmune disease (AD),
more than 75 percent are women.
Despite these statistics, autoimmune diseases remain among the most poorly understood and poorly
recognized of any category of illness. Individual diseases range from benign to severe. To help
women live longer and healthier lives, a better understanding of these diseases is needed, as well as
better, more effective methods of diagnosis and treatment.
After being diagnosed with this incurable disease, Dayna decided to use any and every platform
available to tell her story so that she could help anyone who is suffering from similar symptoms but
have no clue where to start. “I am now an advocate for this disease, and every March (autoimmune
diseases awareness month) I plan to travel and share my testimony in hopes of spreading the word,
encouraging and inspiring,” she exclaims.
Although her illness is autoimmune, the diagnosis is not definitive because her disease mimics several
autoimmune diseases, which is common in many cases.
To maintain a somewhat normal life she has changed her lifestyle drastically. “It’s important to know
your triggers and to modify your diet and overall lifestyle. No stress, healthy eating, low activity, and
moderate exercise,” explains Dayna.
According to AARDA, autoimmunity is known to have a genetic basis and tends to cluster in families
as different autoimmune diseases — a mother may have lupus; her daughter, juvenile diabetes and
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis; her sister, Graves’ disease; and her grandmother, rheumatoid arthritis.
In addition, different ethnic groups are more susceptible to certain autoimmune diseases. In lupus, for
example, African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women are two to three times more
likely to develop the disease than Caucasian women. And 9 out of 10 people who have lupus are
“Although my disease is incurable, through all of this I’ve learned, you have to be an advocate for
your health in the face of medical ignorance, arrogance, and a lack of training,” exclaims Dayna.
“And you can’t be discouraged when you know something’s wrong. Be steadfast and get the help you
For more information on Dayna Caddell and to learn how you can help her fight, please visit www.