What’s Next? A Road To Recovery…

You get some crazy, insane news from your doctor one day. News that comes at you and seemingly runs you over like a mac truck. It’s shocking and somewhat expected at the same time, and you choose to not ignore it anymore, because that’s physically impossible.  You are faced with making a choice. You can take the first or second route. The first is filled with unexpected craziness, things you don’t like, things you don’t feel comfortable with, things that make you want to run. Far.

You are told by your doc that this is the route that you will take, and you will be forced to take it for the rest of your life. He looks at you and says “you will be on disease-modifying drugs (DMDs) for the rest of your life” and just those thirteen words send your mind reeling with all the awful, horrible, no good, very bad things that are going to happen because of it. All you can  think about are the commercials you see with all the pharmaceutical companies telling you every single side effect that could and would happen if you took the drugs. So many side effects that your head could likely spin, and you could levitate at the drop of a hat if you thought about it long enough. Ha. Not really, but really.

The last thing you want is to feel sick because you are on something you’ve never heard of, never read about, and never known anyone who has ever taken it. Not to mention, the seriously long list of options when determining which drug to take, and the giant stack of information that is thrown at you to review and decide upon NOW.  Imagine, you can’t even hardly see the doc, but he expects you to give him an answer on what you’re wanting to do “for the rest of your life” right now. Decide.

So instead, you think. There has to be a way out. This isn’t it. It’s not my only option. There is more, there has to be. There’s way too much out there in this world for this to be it.

What do you do? You search for a second route. You tell your doc that you’re not going to settle for this, and that you won’t be doing anything or making any drastic decisions until you know more about everything. All possibilities. Every way it could go. You need to know before you make a decision and put your life on the road he’s suggesting.

This is how it all began for me, after the diagnosis that I was given by my not-so-understanding-or-compassionate-neurologist. When I said in a previous post that I decided to never set foot in his office again because of the way I was treated, that was true. I have never stepped foot back into his office and never plan to again. I was the 5th person he’d diagnosed with MS that morning in his office, and he had zero compassion, zero understanding of my needs or desires, and zero ability to see past the disease-modifying drugs long enough to understand that there could be other possibilities. So, I said no thank you. See ya never, doc.

 

Our journey began that afternoon, after leaving his office. We left feeling defeated, exhausted, overwhelmed, scared to death, and confused. It was a completely dark place. I never felt that way in my life, and it was one of the first times I got to console R as he cried into my arms, instead of vice versa. We sobbed together for a while. Thinking and feeling and just being. We held each other up so the other wouldn’t fall to the ground and just sob out of desperation. We would take turns crying so hard our breath was caught short. We would take turns consoling the other while we saw a glimmer of hope that things would work out somehow. We weren’t sure where we would go, but we knew where we weren’t going, and we knew that decision felt like the right one. No matter how scary it was, we knew that we had to make the call and we chose to say no, so that we could say yes to something else.

When we got home, R immediately called a friend of ours, who also happens to be a naturopathic doctor. We asked if there was anything he could do to help, and we knew that diet would be a major focus of this new life. We knew that he would support us with this and that he had some testing he offered to find out which foods were inflaming my body, so that I could stay away from them. It was nice to instantly have someone on our side, and someone to make us feel like we had hope.

DMDs were not hope for us. They were a “quick fix” if you will. A way for the doctor to have an answer when there are no concrete answers. They were a guarantee that life would go the way it was going… in a downward spiral to a future that was very scary and unknown. So saying NO was the best choice I could have made, knowing the two routes that laid ahead of me at the time.

We searched and read and researched and asked questions wherever we could. A few friends who I told early on led me to others who had similar diagnoses as mine, and those people gave me book names to read and information on where to find specific diets that people have seen success with. My husband had read that diet could impact the path of MS greatly, and it was time to figure this out. He was researching it the day the diagnosis was confirmed. We wasted no time.

So on I went to start the journey to healing. It is a constant, all-of-the-time thing. It’s not something that is done for a period of time, and then TADA!! ALL DONE! YOU’RE HEALED!!! Nope. Rather, it’s like flip of a switch and now, for the rest of my life, this is the way it will be. I never want to have to experience something like what happened last year again. There is no way that can ever happen. And because I need to make sure of that, something had to change.

What were those changes? I’ll talk about that next. Stay tuned.

 

A year later…

I feel humbled and grateful for every single person who has and will read my story. I am completely blown away by the response of going live with my blog last week, and I’m compelled to write more and inform you all of everything I feel and think. Haha. Get ready. This blogging thing could be really addictive.

Thank you for reading and for inspiring me to keep writing. I truly believe that as we share our vulnerable sides of life, many people can be changed and impacted for the better.

Since all of the turmoil of last year, and changing everything I do to focus on healing… I refer to that old life as just that. It was my old life. This is my new life. My family’s new life too. It’s all changed, but change is good if we have enough time to reflect back on it and see the journey we’ve come through.

Four days ago, the day after my blog went live, I had a year check-up with the ophthalmologist who had a pivotal role in all that happened last year with my health, and with jump-starting the healing process.

He had diagnosed me at that time, with Internuclear Ophthalmoplegia (INO) in my left eye, and Optic Neuritis in my right. Yep. Two eyes, both of them affected. If you’ve never experienced INO, let me tell you, you definitely don’t want to. It’s crazy, scary, and insane. If you think about it, your world is just your perception, and perception comes from how you see. Literally. Your eyes are the way you see your life. Your eyes are your memories. Your eyes are SO unbelievably important to life. So much so, that when you start to notice any change in them, your world is completely turned upside down and backwards.

Literally, at that time, it felt like I was walking sideways. With INO, the nerve fibers that coordinate eye movement in a horizontal  direction are damaged. That results in the eyes not moving together. When I would look to the left, things were ok and pretty much, my perception was normal. I could even look exactly straight ahead without an issue. However, with any glance or look to the right, the world bounced.

For days once this started, I had no idea what was happening or how to pinpoint it. I tried recording myself while moving my eyes back and forth, but I couldn’t tell what was wrong. Once I saw the eye doc and he recorded it and showed it back to me – with my heart pounding and me completely wanting to run out of the room – I could see the issue. My left eye would not carry over to the right, but it would stay in the center while my right eye moved  over, bouncing to try to get the left eye to catch up. This graphic kinda helps explain what I’m talking about.

Optic Neuritis is an inflammation that damages the optic nerve – which is the key component to transferring visual info from your eye to your brain. It can often cause pain in the back of the eye, color distortion and visual loss. Most notably, I had a brightness in my right eye that would come and go without a rhyme or reason. This persisted for months and months after the flare, and eventually became the only thing that would remind me on a frequent basis about all of it. This was most notably seen from the MRI, but the doc could see some inflammation through a scope he used to exam my eyes.

Four days ago, I set foot into his office again, for this check-up. The smell of the office made me want to run out of there faster than my feet could take me. It brought back every bit of anxiety and fear that I had experienced a year ago. The smell, the look of the people working there, the hallway where I broke down, hyperventilating. It was all too close to my vivid memories.

When I set foot into the patient room with all the special doctor tools to look and examine, I started second-guessing eating breakfast before this appointment… I was about to be sick. I busted out my most favorite essential oil in all the land, Valor, to help me put my warrior face on and be confident, even though I was scared to death. I sent a text to my husband, telling him how freaking scared I was and he said “You got this, a warriors fear nothing” back to me. It was then that I changed my mindset and was able to control my fear… and the Valor had a chance to kick in too.

After him asking me all the standard questions, “How do you feel? Are you seeing a neurologist?” To which I answered, no, but told him that my whole life has changed since the last time I was here. He looked at me, puzzled, and asked what I was doing. I told him I changed everything I eat, everything I do, and everything I think in order to heal my body. That I owe it to my kids and my husband and my family to fight and never stop. Those meds that the neurologist wants to prescribe do nothing except “modify the disease” and slow down the progression… but if you actually get to the root cause of disease and stop it, you can create healing. He gave me another look, and this time it was of approval and interest. And he said “good for you”.

He gave me an eye exam. Had me read letters back to him, one eye at a time, getting smaller and smaller each slide. I was able to read them. All of them. My eyesight is 20/20.

He looked at the lens of my eyes and checked the pressure. He said they looked completely normal and the pressure was within normal range.

He had me move my eyes and follow his finger – the test that I failed just one year ago. Up and down, side to side. All the way to the left. All the way to the right. Mobility was perfect. He said I had gotten back all mobility – which I already knew… but it’s nice to have it validated.

The last thing he examined were the nerves at the back of my eyes. Using a special tool, of which I have no idea what it is called – it shines a bright line into my eye and he directed me where to glance – and my heart was pounding heavily.

Then the words “the nerves look good. No notable inflammation that I can see. They look normal.” came out of his mouth.

Normal.

After a year of trying, striving, working, praying, dedicating and putting together all that had broken, I cried happy tears. I could hardly contain myself. He walked out of the room and tears just started streaming out. Normal is all I wanted and it’s what we’ve got. Tears of joy kept streaming out that day, all day. When I called my husband, my parents, and my sister, each time I got to tell them and I could hear the amazement and joy in their voices, and each time I cried more from happiness.

Tears from happiness and joy don’t come often, but man do they feel good.

The fight still continues. My body is still healing every single second. But this all shows that every bit of that healing is working. If I can do it, anyone can do it. There is hope for healing an “incurable” disease. I am not saying that I am healed after one year, but I am saying that living a healthy life and striving to heal works. It is all worth it.

 

Becoming a Warrior

You are a warrior.

Those are the words my husband whispered to me as I was coming to, after the fog lifted a little.

You are strong and capable of overcoming hard things. Life isn’t guaranteed to be easy, and sometimes it will throw some massive curve balls your way, and those curveballs can be insane and throw you for a loop and that is when life stops right before you. It is in the mess where you see what you are made of. It is in the mess where you find out who you really are. This is where you become a warrior.

When I first found out that my life was changing and I had no control over these changes, I felt like I would hide it and keep it a secret forever. I wanted to bury the information that I had just found out and keep it hidden deep within my soul so no one would ever know.

I wanted life to continue as it always had… but that was not possible anymore. My life was pretty much perfect before this, or essentially awesome, anyway.  I couldn’t come to terms with the impending and immediate changes that were happening. I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe there was something I could have done to keep this from happening. To make my body healthier, by actually paying attention to myself… was this my fault? With three kids and a husband and a house and a home business, I was always on the back burner, and that was my choice. I never stopped. And if I did, it wasn’t to eat or make sure that I was finding a moment to breathe… it was to pass out from exhaustion.

After a lot of thinking, healing, contemplating, considering, and heart-to-hearts with God, I now feel led to share my story. I don’t want to remain silent when my story could help someone. Anyone. This is part of my reason for starting this blog. I want to have a place to help people. A place to help myself. And here it is. From the beginning to the now, and all that is in between. I’ve always been one that was more private and shy and to myself… so this is going way out of my comfort zone. But with discomfort comes growth and healing and I’m ready for whatever walking through this door will do.

So let’s do this.

A year and three days ago, June 17, 2016, I was told that I have Multiple Sclerosis. It was a tumultuous week leading up to the “diagnosis” when I couldn’t see, my eyes were a complete wreck, and worsening daily. Ultimately, I found out through an MRI and a physical exam that everything was going to be different and I was no longer in control… or so I was told.

I went through some very dark times, when the future felt so unknown and scary… and the worst of those days just happened to be the day that I saw the neurologist who was supposedly there to help me by shoving disease modifying drugs down my throat. “Here, read this info and tell me which one you want to start on. Oh, and once you start, you’ll be on this forever.” He told me that. Really. And I could hardly see his face, let alone read. That just happened to be the last time I stepped foot into his office.

I’m married to the best man in he world, hands down, and you’ll read a lot more about him in my posts. Because of him, I never ever felt alone, despite wanting to hide and crawl under a rock on most of those early days. He was the one to first tell me that I am a warrior and worthy of a good fight. He helped me see that I owed it to myself to fight. He was my filter, telling me what he’d read on the internet and things he’d found to start trying. I was too afraid to research, for fear that I would find the worst, most depressing story and it would destroy me. He is my rock. He helped me realize that I’m strong and capable and I soon began to believe it too. I became the warrior that I have to be to fight this.

Then we found Dr. Wahls and the Wahls Protocol. Check her out at http://terrywahls.com She is an author and an MD. She reversed her Secondary Progressive MS through diet and exercise. She went from a tilt-recline wheelchair to biking in 9 months after she changed her diet. So, that’s what I did. It’s a strict diet, and was so damn hard in the beginning… but now, a year later, it is my normal and I am so thankful that the human body is adaptable and capable of massive amounts of healing.

Today, a year later, we’re celebrating and rejoicing. From that second meeting with the neurologist, 2 weeks after the “flare”, my husband and I decided we were in this thing for the long haul and we were fighting and never giving up. We weren’t going to lie down and let this “diagnosis” rule our lives and take over our thoughts any longer. We decided, together, and with a ton of research and reading, that MS isn’t a death sentence. We decided to fight. To give it everything and anything it takes to win. And winning is what we’re doing.

I say we because this definitely isn’t all me. He’s my partner in everything, and in this too. He fights when I struggle, he wipes my tears. He holds me when I need to be held. I told you he is that good.

What a difference a year makes. Right now, I feel better than I ever have in my life. I’m stronger, healthier, and happier. I am more patient, and I have zero brain fog – which I didn’t even realize I had until I knew what it was… and to think of the years I could’t remember what happened last weekend and thought it was normal. That is not normal, friends!

A few tears have streamed down my face as I remember those fear-filled moments just one year ago, but I then think of how far we’ve come, and how much more we have to do. I know I am on the path to wellness, and I trust this process. I’m healing my body with every step and every bite of food I eat.

If you had asked me a year ago, what I thought life might be like in a year… I would have been too afraid to answer.

MS is a diagnosis. It doesn’t run my life. It won’t ever rule me. This is my life, and I choose to live it and love it as much as possible. I am a warrior and I am worth the fight.

 

 

An Essentially Awesome Life

So what is An Essentially Awesome Life? We all have one, right?

Life is NEVER perfect. It always has some kinks along each path… those kinks can be so deep that they feel permanent, and they can be just a little detour in this crazy journey we are all on.

My life, like yours (likely) is just that. Essentially Awesome. Not absolutely amazing and stellar. Not the best thing on Earth. Not perfect. No one’s is, or so I’m told… and even with the highlight reel of Facebook and Instagram, I try to remind myself that I am normal and my imperfect life is much better than it would be if there were never any hiccups to overcome… like those sites make everyone’s lives out to be… But, my life is essentially the best life I could live. It is essentially awesome. And that is where the title came from for my blog. I hope you like it and understand a little more about its meaning.

Even with the craziness that being a mother of 3 sometimes entails, a wife and a homemaker and a business owner… and that struggle of trying to be perfect, know so much, and not feel completely overwhelmed by it all. It’s still Essentially Awesome.

I am convinced that it is absolutely the hardest thing in the world to be a human being. Seriously. We all have SO MUCH on our plates. Jobs, businesses, relationships, children, laundry (OMG THE LAUNDRY), religion, friends, exercise, health and food! And that’s just scraping the surface. And we’re supposed to know what is good, bad and ugly in the world, take notes and remember everything too! It is hard. But it’s still Essentially Awesome.

I hope you will join me in celebrating our awesome lives together, as we discover new awesomeness around every corner.

This is me

This is me. I’m kinda unique… like you. Maybe one of the things that makes me most unique is the  crazy intense insane amount of things in my head. I have lots of ideas and information and I decided to share them here. For you. To see if I could help anyone on Earth feel a little more normal.

I’m Jessica, and it’s nice to meet you. If we already know each other, then I’m blessed by you. I am happy to have you in my life, and I hope we talk often and laugh together a lot. I hope we talk about the craziness of motherhood and owning businesses and health and healing. I hope we commiserate in each other’s misery over zero free time, insane amounts of scheduling and having to make meals for our kids 3x a day every.single.day. The struggle is VERY real.

As my first EVER blog post, I wanted to invite you all to check me out. I will share things here that you may have never known. I will share about my life, my struggles, my desires and my loves. I will share a little piece of me. I may even share my favorite recipes, my favorite things in life that make life a little better and easier and more fun. I don’t know. I don’t really have a super huge plan… but for once, I think that is ok. I feel drawn to write and talk about life, and I’m here to do just that.

My biggest wish is for you to read this and relate to me. To say “OH YEAH!” she is so on to something with that. So, my essentially awesome life, is sometimes REALLY awesome, and sometimes it’s not. And that’s life. I’m excited to share it with you.