Saturday, July 11, 2020

From Disheartened to Determined

In Kelly Turner's Radical Remission docuseries, she shares that there are ten common actions taken by those who experience the radical remission of a condition or disease. One of those actions is taking charge of one's own health. Of those she interviewed, this step is often described as an epiphany moment; a change in perspective; an elevated level of determination. 

Through the challenges I faced with my back last year, I experienced this epiphany moment as an elevated level of determination to heal. I'd had problems with my back for a couple of decades, including a back surgery in 2008, but the level of pain and debilitation I endured last fall was a new lowpoint. It took a few months for me to fully understand and accept the seriousness of my condition. 

The aggravation of my back symptoms began at the end of June 2019. I was working with a chiropractor and doing my best to calm this flare up. I had preplanned a train trip to Portland to visit my oldest daughter in September. As the date approached, it became clear that my body wouldn't be able to handle the trip, so I postponed it a month. Surely I would be healed enough by October to make the trip...or so I thought. As the new travel dates got closer, I had to come to grips with the fact that I wasn't better. 

On the October date that I would have gotten on the train, my back reached its absolute low point. I was dealing with frequent back spasms and a collapsed lumbar. My lumbar was in the shape of an "S". I couldn't sit for more than 20 minutes, and couldn't stand or walk for more than 45 minutes. I had to lie down for 15 minutes every hour. 

Walking had to be done slowly and carefully, so I didn't bounce. I drove the 1/4 mile to work that I usually walked. I shifted to one-day-at-a-time mode. All activities and tasks beyond day-to-day maintenance were shelved. Crafts, writing, movie theaters, and even my poor garden had to be ignored. Traveling was limited to the city of San Luis Obispo.

I cut my work hours from full-time to part-time. My husband set up a bed for me in my office, to allow me to lie down on my back every hour. I arranged the computer to allow me to continue working while on my back. I'm seriously grateful that my employer was so supportive and accomodating with this arrangement. 

My bed setup at work.

I hate taking medication, but I regularly found myself staring down the bottle of ibuprofen...and periodically succumbing. It didn't provide a lot of relief, but it sometimes helped take the edge off. The pain was exhausting and difficult to bear. It was at this moment that I understood how someone could get hooked on pain relievers, especially when no other option seems available.

I didn't know why my back had declined so much and so quickly. There was no incident that triggered it. I had noticed a slight increase in symptoms at the end of June, and here I was in early November almost bedridden. I couldn't see a path forward to get out of this. I was deeply disheartened and my optimism diminished. 

In that low point, I dug deep within me and found a glimmer of determination and confidence. It was just a glimmer, but there was potential to fan some life into it. I knew my diet was on the right track, as I had healed so many symptoms over the prior two years with it.  Clearly, though, there was something going on that I wasn't addressing.

I decided right then and there that healing was going to be my highest priority. Everything else would be secondary. Symptom relief was not enough. For years I'd been striving to be able to say I used to have a back problem. Now I was going to achieve it. 

Stretching and strengthening were essential. I had to learn which exercises were the most beneficial and how to do them right. I had previously been straining my body by trying too hard and not doing the exercises correctly. Recommended exercises and stretches would be done every day, even if my abilities were limited and the exercises needed to be gentle. No excuses.

I was going to be even more focused on the healing aspects of my diet. Every bite of food I ate and beverage I drank needed to have a specific healing purpose. Since there was no injury or incident that caused my back troubles in the first place, the cause was most likely a variety of Shingles that liked to feed on toxins, heavy metals, and troublemaker foods. It was time to starve this little bugger. My focus would be on getting the toxins out, avoiding foods it likes to eat, and consuming antiviral and healing foods, beverages, and supplements.

I kept my eye out for options that could help turn my condition from declining to stabilizing to healing. Things like meditation, acupuncture, epsom salt baths, and infrared sauna all helped to calm my symptoms and give my spirit a boost. When they no longer helped with my forward progress, I moved on. 

My chiropractor realized that manual adjustments were actually aggravating my low back, so we swiched to having him give me a monthly 90-minute chiropractic massage. That change has been seriously beneficial. I'm so glad he has skills in both!

Day-by-day, week-by-week, I slowly started improving. Each sign of forward progress, no matter how small, was celebrated. In January I was able to roll over in bed, without having to get out of bed first. In March I was able to sweep the kitchen floor and use a dustpan...all by myself!! I was so excited, I told everyone. In April I was able to drive to a town 30 miles away. At the end of June, I did my first solo farmers market trip in over nine months. 

I still have a lot of healing left to do, but I can see my path now. What a difference that makes! I am so thankful for all the people who assisted and inspired me during the past year, including family, friends, and practitioners. You helped to make the road a little less bumpy.

I give special thanks to Anthony William and Scott Kolofer. They have provided me with skilled care, support, compassion, and knowledge that has pulled me out of the depths of despair and helped me find my path to healing. By helping me to understand the real causes behind my problems and teaching me how to better care for myself, they are increasing the odds of my being able to achieve my goal of a long and healthy life. I am deeply grateful to them both.

During my lowest point last Fall, I started to question whether or not my goal of living to 120 was realistic. This was the first time I'd ever had that thought. Now I'm back in the game. 120 is totally possible. Anyone who doubts me on this can just keep up and see if I make it. 

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