Archive for November, 2013

What MS has Taught Me (Final)

Posted: November 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

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I have been thinking for a while on what I wanted to end this little series with.  There are so many thoughts and feelings that are constantly running through my head because of Multiple Sclerosis.  Do I end it on a positive note and let my readers be happy or do I be brutally honest about how I feel about this disease at the time I am writing this?  Then I decided that I am just going to write what goes through my head and see how it looks when I am done.  So here it goes….

What has MS taught me?

It has taught me the importance of diet and taking care of my health.  It has forced me to become more educated in food and supplements then I ever would have been without having been diagnosed.  It has taught me how screwed up America’s approach to healthy foods and disease prevention (or lack there of) is.  It has taught me the importance of exercising and how good you feel after a hard workout.  It has made me appreciate running and all of the beautiful scenery and nature that I see while on my runs.  It has made me appreciate the open road on my road bike and the ability to be alone with my thoughts in a positive enviroment.  I think most importantly though it is teaching me to appreciate life.  It has taught me to slow down, look at all of the things that mother earth has to offer.  The sunrises, the sunsets, the fall colors, and most of all the ability that mother earth has to work so seamlessly if we let her.

MS is drawing me back to the simpler times of living.  Living off of the land and being less dependant on our world of convenience.  I focus less on material goods and services and more on what I have immediately in front of me.  My house, my land, my family, our diets, our health, and the things that truly make me happy.  I have found that I am much happier staying around the house then going out to eat or to the bar.  I enjoy doing chores and learning to fix things myself instead of calling a repair man or paying someone to do the job because you just didn’t feel like doing it.

I’m learning how to deal with fear.  This disease is terrifying to me.  It mentally eats away at me about 95% of the day.  Every time my legs get a tingle in them or go numb, or I trip over something or bump into something when I am walking I can’t help but to think “I am one day closer to losing my mobility?”.  But that is also pushing me to do what I can and what I want to accomplish right now.  Not waiting until tomorrow.  It has taught me self discipline.  If I don’t do my daily exercises or follow a strict diet my symptoms act up causing the mind games to start which then causes stress which then makes the symptoms worse.

I have learned that it is better to just keep doing the best you can do and not complain.  I know that anyone without MS will never know the physical and mental pains that go along with this disease, and they will never understand the fear that it instills in you on a daily basis. It has taught me that there are far more serious diseases out there and that although I am unfortunate to have gotten this one I am fortunate that I got this one.

It hasn’t been an easy road and I know that I have a long way to go.  I have some great support around me with my friends, family and most of all my wife Vanessa.  I know that when the MS acts up it really changes my moods as much as I try to not let it, and I thank my family for putting up with me.

This disease does suck.  There is no doubt about that.  But it has taught me a lot of good and opened my mind and eyes to a lot of different things around me.  I hope that the knowledge I have learned, am learning, and am  trying to pass around is helping some other people as well.

That so far is what MS has taught me.

Thanks for reading.

This picture is me after finishing the Tough Mudder Minneapolis.

This picture is me after finishing the Tough Mudder Minneapolis.

Part 2: Exercise

In Part one of this series I talked about how the Paleo Diet has changed my life.  I mentioned in the last post that My health is better, my endurance is better, and my overall feeling of life is better.  I will give credit for this to the Paleo Lifestyle, but not just in the way of eating, but rather in opening my eyes to other aspects in your life that are just as important as nutrition.

Before I was diagnosed with MS I was an active person.  I have been a cyclist for most of my life and had just recently gotten into running, and fitness was becoming more important in my life as I got a little older.  In March of 2012 the first serious symptoms of MS really acted up after a snowmobile trip to West yellowstone.  I got fairly sick while I was out there and just couldn’t kick it so I went to the Dr. and got an anti-biotic.  After 3 days of anti-biotics my feet had gone completely numb.  (The anti-biotic is a story for another day)  This had happened before in prior years but it was never to this extent and it would come and go, I just chalked it up to a pinched nerve from one of my previous injuries.  This time however instead of coming and going it just kept coming, working its way up my legs.  It got to the point where I couldn’t feel my legs.  I would lay in bed and snuggle with my wife and couldn’t tell if we were even touching.  (That was depressing to say the least).  As time went on the numbness moved all the way up to my chest.  I could still walk and did some downhill skiing, but my legs were very heavy and it took a lot of effort to move them and I couldn’t feel anything.  Once it was up to my chest I started to have some other health issues that were terrifying.  Not to get too in depth but they involved bathroom functions.  I remember one instance where I was driving and had the sudden urge to pee.  Lets just say I wasn’t able to stop the car fast enough.  I had been going to the Dr. for quite some time by this point trying to figure out what was going on.  Though I had pretty much figured it out thanks to the internet.  I would have to say that this was the low point during my MS experience.  I was very depressed and had stopped exercising and my symptoms were at their worst.

My wife had been doing a ton of research into how to treat MS and that is where we came across the Paleo Diet.  We started with removing grains and I noticed a big difference.  Spring was also starting to show it’s face which cheered me up a little bit and gave me some urges to get out of the house and do something.  I decided to start running again.  It was very hard at first.  My legs were still fairly numb and heavy as could be.  Once I got moving though (about a mile or so into my run) I felt great.  By the time I had finished my run my numbness was almost gone.  This went on for quite some time.  Some days my legs would feel good and others the numbness would come back and my gait would be off  (Hot days are worse).  on those days as soon as I would get home from work I would go for a run and things would get better.  At first I was trying to stay active because I thought that “if I can still run I am beating MS”.  But then I realized that if I didn’t run, MS was going to win.  This is when I realized how important exercise was going to be in my life.

My diet was going well but I had now decided to go full Paleo.  I wasn’t really drinking or eating very much dairy at this point.  A little cottage cheese here and there and some half and half in my coffee.  When I took dairy out though…….My numbness went away in about a week and has rarely come back, and when it does come back it is minimal.  So at this point I was feeling pretty good.  My spirits were up and my symptoms were down.  I was back to exercising most days of the week and could feel definite effects if I didn’t.  In the middle of the summer 2 of my friends decided to do a Try-a-Triathlon.  Basically a mini triathlon without any pressure of the bigger races.  I decided to do it and signed up the morning of.  The gun went off and we were off.  The swim was hard, I only swam one time before this.  The bike went well because that is my strong point and the run went well too.  I ended up winning.  That was a big boost for me (having been diagnose with MS a few months prior) and has gotten me to where I am now.  I did one more triathlon last summer and surprised myself with my results in that one as well.  I have now decided that I am going to pursue the sport of triathlon for a couple of reasons.  It is a hard sport that requires you to exercise on a regular basis in multiple disciplines.  That means you are using almost every muscle in your body.  It is also very mentally challenging, forcing you to go beyond what you think you are capable of.  Whether you are racing against other competitors or the clock or just trying to finish, the sport holds you accountable for how hard you trained and the time that you put in.  This is a great lesson that I have carried over to other aspects of my life as well.  If you put in the extra effort there will be a reward.  Maybe not instantly or even noticeable but at some point it will benefit you.

The Paleo diet (Lifestyle as I like to refer to it) has really made me look at life in a different way.  We eat clean food.  That is food that is grown or raised without the use of chemicals.  I don’t use any products that contain chemicals on my body.  Start reading your labels on shampoo, deodorant, hand soaps, lotions, etc. It is amazing what we put on our skin.  (Yes I still shower and use a deodorant. I just use natural or homemade alternatives) I consciously drink a lot of water throughout the day.  I try to remain as stress free as I can and enjoy the moment that I am in.  I follow a strict sleep schedule to allow my body the time that it needs to repair itself.  Exercise and triathlons have helped with all of these areas.  I want to perform well so what I put in my body is important.  I want to recover quickly so my rest is important.  I have found that nothing relieves stress better then exercise.  There is something about being out on the road with your bike or running on a trail with nothing but you and your thoughts is very therapeutic.  I start everyday with 30 minutes of core exercises and stretching.  If I don’t follow through with these disciplines my stress levels go up, my anxiety goes up, my patience with my family goes down, and my MS symptoms start to come back.  If you recall from my last post I have just had a knee surgery so I haven’t been able to run in a while or exercise like I would like to and I can definitely feel the effects.

So, I’m not saying you need to get out and do Triathlons (though they are fun),  but get out and exercise and enjoy nature!!  It will benefit all aspects of your life.

Thank you for reading!!