Heather was diagnosed when she was 24 years old. Now 41, she shares her Journey and what steps she’s taken to spread awareness about this disease.
Heather’s Journey: My name is Heather Marie Kobza. I was diagnosed with Endometriosis at the age of 24. I’m 41 years old and live in Kentucky with my husband and two chihuahuas.
I’ve suffered with Endometriosis half of my life. I’ve had 5 surgeries and all were unsuccessful. I did 2 Lupron injections 8 years ago for the Endometriosis in my bowels. After the Lupron treatments my stomach completely stopped emptying and I now have a gastric pacemaker. I’m 1 in 4,000 people in the United States with a gastric pacemaker.
Friends of mine, Raul and Yuliya Montes, have started a small company creating and selling natural bath and beauty products (and a few other things!). I’ve purchased and fallen in love with several of their items and wanted to sit down and pick their brains for a few minutes and share the news about Special Flower Oil, Co.
…pssssst…they make CBD oil bath bombs…
Looking for all-natural bath bombs, soaps, lip balms, and more? Read up a bit on who these guys are, what they make, and then go peruse their wares!
Lisa: Special Flower Oil, Co.? That’s a great name! How’d you come to be?
Yuliya: We have this inside joke between the both of us that we’re a bit “special” two peas in a pod and all, and we came up with this saying “You’re my ‘special’ flower,” when one of is being a little on the – well… less than intelligent side. We always knew we wanted to own our own business, and at the same time wanted to do something that we both enjoy that benefited other people that we could do together – so one day while taking a shower together, we noticed how many ingredients were on some of the items – and we decided to work on something more natural.
Raul: It pretty much started with this weird rocking side to side, that kind of evolved over time. Our company name is literally our way of making fun of ourselves and each other, even though people outside, likely think that it has to do with the oils we use and such. As far as the start – we woke up one morning thinking, “wouldn’t it be nice to quit our day jobs do something we enjoy more?” Well, we haven’t quite quit our day jobs, but we’re doing what we enjoy.
Lisa: What do you feel sets you apart from the endless stream of competition out there?
Yuliya: We do hours of research over every single ingredient that we use, we refuse to take shortcuts. We believe that we need to be producing a product that we, ourselves would use before selling it to others, and having integrity in the ingredients that we use.
Raul: I think it’s unique that you’ve got a small business co-owned by a married couple, one being a woman, one being an OIF war vet. My background is in combat medicine, and in that I’ve discovered that improvised treatments and at times alternative treatments can have huge impacts on quality of life. Aromatherapy in and of itself isn’t just about chakra crystals and weird blessings, there’s some solid science behind it, including cognitive improvement in Alzheimer’s patients who have used rosemary, lemon, lavender and orange.
Lisa: As a person who suffers from a painful chronic illness that is often influenced by chemicals, parabens, and hormones, I appreciate your dedication to pure and body-safe ingredients in your products. I see you guys use organic and locally-sourced ingredients. Why is that important to you?
Yuliya: Back in 2013, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s – an autoimmune disorder that attacks and destroys the thyroid, and because of it I will be on supplemental thyroid hormone for the rest of my life. The more I did research, the more I found that body care products are ridden with harsh, endocrine-disruptive chemicals, affecting the body – and being a woman, I was using these chemicals all over my body. I threw out a lot of my stuff and began seeking out items that were natural or organic – but these are expensive, so I decided to make my own. I mean, with the skin being the body’s largest organ, and it absorbs a lot (up to 64% of contaminants from water alone), it’s easy to see that what we use on our skin ends up in our bodies – often in our blood streams and lymphatic systems, and it seems like the majority of mainstream body care products contain a horrible cocktail of carcinogenic chemicals, allergens, and irritants. Knowing who makes our ingredients, knowing how they are sourced, and using them ourselves first, always ensures that we’re creating the perfect product.
Raul: I completely echo everything Yuliya said. I think that knowing where an ingredient is from, how it’s sourced, and having a relationship with the ingredient producer is important. Case in point, our Goat Milk, Honey, and Oats soap uses organic goat milk and oats, and raw honey from a local beekeeper, who also happens to be a fellow combat medic. Up to that point I’d never had fresh raw honey – and my god does it taste amazing. These are just glimpses into the items that we’re using in our soaps and bath bombs. I want people to feel as good about the product and the way it’s made as they do while they use the product.
Lisa: A lot of our readers suffer from chronic pain. I see that you have “hemp isolate” bath bombs; can you tell us a little bit about what that means…and how your bath bombs may help someone in pain?
Raul: CBD. It’s CBD plain and simple. I’ll be really honest – its really hard to sell items online that contain them, regardless of the farm bill passing. As such I wanted to make sure it was something that if someone said, “oh what is hemp isolate powder,” that they could type it in and the first thing they would see is CBD. We’re covering ourselves while trying to afford a completely legal and THC free item to those who need it.
don’t entirely know how CBD works yet, they think that it interacts with
receptors in the brain and immune system. Moreover, it helps as an
anti-inflammatory as well as can help those who suffer with chronic pain, and
associated insomnia without adverse side effects. Now – when its combined with
other anti-inflammatory and pain relief oils such as lavender, yarrow,
eucalyptus, and chamomile – and of course Epsom salts, it creates a beautiful
pain relief cocktail that you can literally just envelop yourself in. I’ve also
got some CBD soap curing right now that I whipped up earlier today using the
goat milk oats and honey base. I’m excited to use it!
Yuliya: CBD is nature’s way of affording us a pain relief option that doesn’t involve using drugs, while being able to indulge in the experience. Imagine it, you pour a hot bath, enjoying the hot steam – you toss in one of the bombs and soak for a half an hour, letting your skin absorb these pain relief oils and CBD… Oh you’re ready for painless sleep.
Lisa: If someone doesn’t want a “hemp isolate” bath bomb, do you offer them the option?
Raul: Of course, we understand that CBD is still considered one of those edgy, experimental type of products – because of that we have the same bath bombs and soaps completely hemp free.
Yuliya: All of our products are customizable. If you see an item of ours that has hemp, and you want a hemp free version, just reach out – we’re more than happy to make custom products.
Lisa: I’ve gone through numerous pain management and stress-reduction workshops over the past five years and I’ve learned that sometimes to help reduce symptoms and pain, we need to try to calm our nervous system. Take a moment. Breathe. Meditate. There’s a great connection between pain and a heightened sense of “FUCK, EVERYTHING HURTS (and I wanna die!)”. That being said, I know you make scent roll-ons. I’m partial to the “Palomar Skyline” blend as I find it very soothing, calming, and the scent jettisons my mind up into the mountains. Are your essential oil roll-ons intended to aid in relaxation and calming techniques? Or just smell good? How can your customers better use your roll-ons to help calm and de-stress, both physically and mentally?
Yuliya: Absolutely, I deal with constant anxiety. I’m currently testing an experimental mixture that I’ve named “Natural Xanax,” Which I use pretty regularly to reduce my overall stress levels. Our oils are designed to both smell nice (and not overpowering) while helping the customer come off the proverbial edge. They also work amazingly while meditating. Our goal here was to help the customer find peace in the moment.
Raul: I’ve got some that I’ve made just to act as a cologne, such as the GWOT Christmas, but by in large the scent oils are designed to help center someone. Dealing with PTSD, I’ve learned that sometimes a couple of dabs of the Palomar Skyline can help pull me out of a moment – whether its dealing with chronic pain due to spinal compression (or a recent shoulder surgery), or dealing with the existential hell my mind likes to throw me into. I always recommend using the oils on pulse points – or if you so choose, diffuse them, close your eyes, and focus on the smells. As odd as it sounds, I personally practice a verbalization of what I “see” when I close my eyes and focus on the scent. It really helps to pull me out of the mind-storm and places me on a mountain, in a lavender field, or in an orange grove…
Lisa: Do any of your roll-ons have pain-relieving capabilities? My Mum buys me an essential oil spray that does the trick for acute pain. And a friend of mine gifted me with a roll-on that also helps with surface pains.
Yuliya: Yes! Like Raul said, certain oils have pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. Rolling or dabbing them on the skin can help with pain and inflammation in addition to the calming nature of each one of the oils.
Lisa: I’ve read your soaps use goat milk and locally-sourced honey. Why is that better than ingredients that may be found in other soaps (handmade or otherwise)? Sell me on their magic!
Raul: Goat milk alone is an amazing item. It contains Alpha Hydroxy Acids that help to unbind dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, giving a more rejuvenated look, vitamin A, which has been proven to reduce lines and wrinkles, cream – which keeps the skin moist (especially during those winter months) and minerals like selenium, which has been praised in recent years for its ability to prevent skin cancer.
Then honey helps to
balance the skin’s natural bacteria, helping to reduce the appearance of acne,
as well as speeds up the healing process of the skin.
Combined they can help with eczema, psoriasis, and even candida overgrowths on the skin.
Lisa: I’ve never made soap before and imagine it’s much like making Jell-o: throw everything in a bowl and *tada* I have soap in a few hours. I know that can’t be true. So… how what all goes into creating a handmade bar of soap? Help me appreciate the process and effort, please.
Raul: Soap can be a real pain in the ass to be honest. It starts off with research and figuring out what items I want to use to make a soap – for example, if I want to make a beautiful swirly soap, I need to use canola oil, keep out the shea butter, and make sure my fragrances and essential oils aren’t going to accelerate the saponification. The next part is selecting my fats – which are oddly enough, often the same oils we use for cooking – coconut, canola, sustainable palm, olive, and the like – melting them down and mixing lye (yes lye) with either distilled water or goat milk (which has to be frozen to avoid curdling). Once lye mixes with a liquid, it creates a lye solution which is the basis for *all* true natural soaps.
Let me restate this:
all real soap is made with lye – anything without it is a detergent and not a
soap. Yes! Real Soap is made with lye. You might wonder where the lye is on the
ingredients list of your favorite soap – “saponified oils of –“ or sodium
followed by cocoate, palmate, palm kernelate, tallowate, or olivate. Soap
makers know that people are afraid of the word “lye.” None remains in the
The lye is then blended with the oil, it begins something called “trace.” Trace is the point in soapmaking where the oils and lye have emulsified and the lye begins saponifying. Once this happens the lye and oil molecules combine and are chemically changed into soap and glycerin. From this point it’s put into a mold for a few hours or days, then cut, and left to cure for four weeks.
Lisa: What’s been your favorite product to make?
Yuliya: Soap! Always soap. There are endless possibilities – from scent combinations to oil combinations. Each one of our handcrafted small batches is completely beautifully unique in its own right, and it should be, because it reflects us as people.
Raul: Soap. It might be a pain in the ass, but it’s totally a relaxing activity for me, and I can design each bar as meticulously as I want to. I can’t draw. I can’t paint, so this is my art.
Lisa: Have you had any mad scientist concoction failures with any products yet? Tell us a funny story…
Yuliya: My first round of lip balm. It was horrible! It was rock hard. Completely solid. We ended up scrapping the whole batch because I was being stingy with oils. It was like trying to rub a candle on your lips.
Raul: My first round of bath bombs. Oh God, they were horrible. I’m not even sure where they went wrong… well the worse part was – I’d made two batches – the first was great, and we had gotten our first order when we’d opened the Etsy. Guess which ones got sent? Yeah… as soon as I realized, I contacted the customer (who thankfully hadn’t used it yet) and sent out another set of bath bombs free of charge. I mean, we saved the day, but it felt really dumb.
Lisa: Any sneak peeks at items you’re working on that aren’t released yet?
Yuliya: Massage candles, therapeutic body butters, tinted and flavored lip balms, face masks, and beard balm for the guys.
Raul: A few more soaps. I want to have seven main “flagship” soaps, and run a special “soap maker’s” batch once every month or so – which will just be a few of our “left-field” ideas thrown into action
Lisa: Do you take custom requests?
Not only do we take customer requests, we look forward to it!
Lisa: Anything else you’d like to add?
Our goal is to give back to the communities. We like working with 503s and other small businesses. We also have wholesale options (we make it, you sell it as your own).
A li’l more about Special Flower Co.:
Early in 2019, we were discussing the prospect of having a wedding reception, and began discussing what kind of party favors we would use. Initially we settled on bath items, like soaps, bath bombs, and scrubs, but after looking, we felt like nothing really fit the people who had always been there for us. There were plenty of quality goods out there, but none that were uniquely “us.”
That’s where Special
Flower Oil Co. began.
uniqueness are what make an item special. It’s the time taken to make a unique
item that isn’t mass produced and misleadingly called “handcrafted.”
It’s about the time and effort we take to perfect our art, whether that be the
scent in a bath bomb, the particular composition of a soap, or the one on one
focus on customer service.
We are Special Flower
Raul and Yuliya
NOT JUST ANOTHER “HANDMADE” BATH PRODUCT
Our products utilize top of the line organic, fair trade compliant, rain forest safe oils. Moreover, we source local products from goat milk to honey, as often as we can, utilizing veteran owned businesses where available. We also source our herbs from local, organic, pesticide free gardens – because you deserve to feel as good about a product’s background, as you do when you use the product.
You can find Special Flower Oil, Co. on the interwebs:
I want to extend a huge thank you to Yuliya and Raul for not only creating some amazing products, but for being the exceptional human beings that they are…and for taking the time to give us a sneak-peak into their lives and business. We wish you continued success in all endeavors!
*I was not compensated for this interview. It’s just something I wanted to do for them…and you.
Mollie was diagnosed with Endometriosis when she was 20. Now a year later, she shares her journey with us.
Mollie’s Journey: It all seems full circle to me after about 7 years.
At about 13 is when I got my first period and my symptoms began to start at 14 from what I can remember. What I do remember vividly is the pain, daily. My mother thought I was just trying to skip school because the only thing I could explain to her was that my tummy hurt. Any mother would think that a 14-year-old that complains of a “tummy ache” almost everyday is just trying to get out of class so I can’t blame her for any of that.
Heather was diagnosed with Endometriosis when she was 24 years old. Now 37, she lives in Florida and has started “Heather’s Hope Endo Strong”, and is also a model advocating for chronic illness.
Heather’s Journey: I‘ve suffered with Endometriosis over half of my life. I’ve had 4 surgeries and all were unsuccessful. I did 2 Lupron injections a few years ago for the Endometriosis in my bowels. After the Lupron treatments my stomach completely stopped emptying and I now have a gastric pacemaker. I’m 1 in 4,000 people in the United States with a gastric pacemaker.
I’m infertile and don’t have any children.
After being in an abusive marriage of over 11 years I also suffer with PTSD severe anxiety. It’s been a rough road to travel but I have my supportive husband and Endometriosis Sisters to help brighten my day. I’m having my 5th surgery this year. I’m also part of Models With A Cause representing women with chronic illnesses.
Words of Advice for Us: Remember your not alone! Please seek an Endometriosis Specialist and stick to the Endometriosis diet. It’s very important to keep the diet and stay away from Soy, Dairy, Caffeine & Alcohol.
The Last Word: I started Heather’s Hope Endo Strong by myself last February. I do post on chronic illnesses and mental illnesses. Being an advocate has helped me meet other Endometriosis sisters and help raise awareness all over the world.
If you wish to contact Heather, you may email her here or check out Heather’s Hope Endo Strong here.
I want to send a special Thank You out to Heather for being brave enough to share her personal story, struggle, and victories with us today. I am so grateful that you stepped away from that abusive relationship, have found a loving husband, and continue to share your experiences and help others!! You are a beautiful, brave, and strong woman. Thank you!!!
And if YOU would like to share your story, you can do so by clicking here. The best part about this disease is the strong network of love and support from our fellow EndoSisters, and our friends and family, too.
Scanxiety…? It’s a term frequently used in the cancer community. An overwhelming sense of anxiety before a scheduled scan to check if your cancer has come back. Am I comparing cancer to Endometriosis? No. I’m simply stealing their well-coined term.
For any of us Endometriosis sufferers who have had any type of relief either from surgery or medicine, there’s always an underlying fear that it will recur at any time. The doctors tell us there is no cure. They tell us it will grow back. There are a few doctors and patients out there who swear that if you remove all of the Endometriosis during an excision surgery, it will not return. But even the best Endo surgeons out there have documented cases of their patients having recurrence of Endo growth.
Perhaps some get lucky and it doesn’t return. But for many of us, it does.