Saturday, December 14, 2013

Learning To Pause Helps Me Cope With MS Symptoms

In an effort to live a full, productive and enjoyable life, I’m finding that I need to learn to read my body’s signals and rest.  Resting is an activity I’m learning.  You’d think it would be easy.  Just stop what you’re doing and watch TV, sleep or whatever.  If only it were that simple.
I was moving slow this week with low, low energy.  For the past few days everything has been taking an inordinate amount of effort.  Just showering, grooming, dressing and eating breakfast today were cause to lie down for an hour to recharge.   I thought I would go to work a couple hours later than usual in order to budget my energy.  I took a short walk – just two blocks! – to get a latte, and while waiting I realized my body was tingly numb from the waist down.  Okay, I get the message.  I need more than a couple hours extra rest this time. 
I called my boss, told him I’d be taking the day off and explained my Pause Approach.  My intent is to take breaks in my schedule intermittently with the hope that I won’t reach a point of having a full exacerbation leading to a week or more off from work.  Oh, and possibly temporary or permanent damage to my health and mobility.  Funny how my focus is on work first!  Perhaps that’s why I struggle with learning to pause…
I’m learning the importance of sharing my experience with people that care about me or rely on me.  I know sharing a health diagnosis with employers isn’t always the right path for everyone.  For me though, it’s been an opportunity for support.  My coworkers and bosses have been highly supportive of my efforts to attend to my health.  Whether it’s because they care about me or just want me back at work at 100% quickly really doesn’t matter to me.  I do suspect it’s the former though.
My friends and work colleagues express worry when I don’t go to work.  They’ve said they know I must not be doing well if I miss work.  I’ve found their worry adds a layer of stress for me.  I feel pressure to assure them I’m okay and to get better soon so they’ll stop worrying about me.  So I’m proposing to them that I will proactively let them know whether I’m just doing what’s best for my health as normal maintenance or whether I’m experiencing something new and noteworthy.
Today’s efforts to practice and maximize Pause Approach effectiveness led me to create the following guidelines for myself:
  1. Look into yourself.  What do you need most right now?  The answer will be different from moment to moment.  Check in frequently.
  2. Rally the troops on standby.  Let people know who care that you’re managing your health and this is a normal part of your life.  Promise to let them know if there becomes cause for worry or a need for assistance.
  3. Reduce input.  Focus on one thing at a time.  Limit technology as it can make your eyes tired and tax your brain. 
  4. Wear comfortable clothes, but still get dressed and groomed if possible.  You’re not sick; you’re maintaining your health!
  5. Move your body.  Stretch, do a single yoga sun salutation if possible.  A slow sun salutation can stretch most muscles in the body, raise your heart rate and lift your spirit.  It takes energy, but the physical and emotional reward is tremendous.  If you don’t feel up to much movement, just move from the bed to the sofa or a chair.  Any movement helps!
  6. Don’t move your body.  Lay down.  Close your eyes.  Meditate.  Make yourself so comfortable that there is nothing else you’d rather be doing in this moment.
  7. Nap only if necessary.  Maintaining a regular sleep cycle is important, and napping can disrupt nighttime sleep for days to come. 
  8. Open the drapes or blinds.  Let in the daylight.  Rest somewhere other than bed if possible.
  9. Stick to regular routines for meals and snacking if possible. 
  10. Do something productive.  Journal, learn something new, research a topic, declutter, organize, write a thank you note, or make a healthy dish.  Limit it to the level of your energy, and don’t push too hard.  Intersperse these activities with doing absolutely nothing.
  11. Be responsible and responsive.  Know your work and social commitments so you may cancel or postpone them proactively.  Or go in to work for an hour or so and do the absolute minimum that can’t be postponed or canceled.  Leaving colleagues and friends scrambling to cover for your commitments will understandably cause frustration and resentment on their part, guilt on yours, and more tension in your life.
  12. Seize opportunities to pause.  An unscheduled hour or two during your work day may be ideal for taking some personal time off from work.  This may help reduce the instances of needing to take a full day off from work and the impact to your colleagues.
  13. Congratulate yourself for having the strength and good sense to listen to your body’s signals and adapt your schedule to accommodate them!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Body Buddy: Rethinking The Feeling My Body Betrayed Me With MS

I’m doing the best I can.  I may not be doing EVERYTHING I can, but it’s still enough. 

I’ve been experiencing some additional MS symptoms lately.  It’s completely understandable given I’m experiencing more stress than usual.  Still, when healthy habits lead to feeling better it’s easy to blame myself for not living a perfect, healthy life when symptoms emerge. 
When I was diagnosed with MS, I felt like my body had betrayed me and I could no longer trust it.  I thought I was super healthy, and suddenly my body went numb.  Doctors told me I had an incurable disease that I’d had for years. 
In my research of how others coped with MS, I often heard people approach it as warriors fighting a daily battle against their disease. I can appreciate the analogy and it makes sense, but it never resonated with me.  Fighting myself feels exhausting. And what am I fighting?  I have a super active immune system that thinks the insulation on my nerves (myelin) is an invader and needs to be destroyed.  My immune system is fantastic at destroying other invaders.  It’s just confused with myelin some of the time.  Bummer.
It occurred to me to think of my body as my buddy who is great at some things and sucks at others but I love her just the same.  My body didn’t betray me.  She is doing the best she can.  She held up magnificently for a long time, and she continues to do amazing things.  My neurologist says with my MRI scans he would expect me to have some disability.  At this point I have symptoms I notice but no one else does. I think it’s awesome that my body has compensated to get the nerve messages to parts of my body blocked by lesions.
It’s taken me time to shift my thinking from feeling betrayed to trusting myself again.  Now I think being healthy and having an incurable disease are not completely opposite ends of the spectrum.  They can both be true in one body. 
My body has been doing the best it can all my life.  Some of my habits help it, and some challenge it. Some activities and foods don’t support optimal physical health, but they nurture my mental health and feed my soul.  Sometimes I’m coping and sometimes I’m nurturing.  I think stressing out about not doing more can be more harmful to my health than the occasional indulgence.
So I may not be doing everything I can, but I’m balancing all aspects of my health in order to lead a fulfilling, active and hopefully long life!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Transitioning From Vulnerability To Strength

It’s been a long, long week.  By Friday evening, I was physically and mentally drained beyond the point of being suitable for public interaction. Saturday morning I was in a funk. Feeling tired, beat up and vulnerable, I aimed to take care of myself. 

I started with my stomach by batch cooking meat pucks for the upcoming week while listening to music and running loads of laundry.  My stomach was sated, an obligation was completed, and I had more energy.  Still my head wasn’t satisfied.  I took our recyclables to the transfer station and stopped for a latte.  At home I cleaned the bins and basked in the sun for 20 minutes.  I would have thought it would make me feel better, but I was getting more agitated and needed an attitude adjustment.  I gathered my gear and went for a hike. 

I chose a difficult hike in an effort to push myself physically.  I was cautious to take frequent breaks and not go too fast.  Still, five minutes into the hike I was breathing hard and mentally pitying myself.  A friend of mine has said the limit on self pity is five or ten minutes a day.  Then let it go and get on with it.   Unfortunately I wasn’t letting it go.  I kept climbing the mountain.  Hike eight minutes, rest two minutes.  Repeat.  20 Minutes in I started feeling a bit better. I alternated nine minutes hiking and one minute resting for the duration of the ascent.  Reaching the top at 59 minutes I was slower than my best time but not even close to my worst time.   My body felt a huge sense of accomplishment but my head hadn’t caught up. 

I thought back to a Ted Talk I watched this summer.  In “Your body language shapes who you are,” Amy Cuddy teaches us that changing our posture for two minutes can change how we see ourselves.  It’s a powerful presentation, and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to feel more confident.  Watch her talk to understand why it works, but I’ll give the spoiler alert here.  Just standing in a Wonder Woman stance with hands on hips for two minutes in private can change our body chemistry and lead to others perceiving us as more powerful. 

A discussion with girlfriends who have also seen the talk revealed that we feel stronger when we do warrior yoga poses. Alone at the summit, I took to doing some yoga poses.  For me, Dancer pose combines strength, balance and beauty. 

Dancer pose was the final step I needed!  I descended the mountain in a fabulous mood, feeling stronger and emotionally balanced.   I’m ready for the world again!


Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Latest Kitchen Love

The box seems to promise loads of fun!
I've fallen in love with my latest kitchen gadget purchase - the Japanese Turning Slicer!

I hoped making zucchini noodles would satisfy my hankering for pasta while staying true to the Autoimmune Protocol. Cutting out so many foods can make it difficult to not feel like I'm depriving myself.  It helps to consider the texture, flavor and beauty of a meal so that I'm not tempted to eat foods that negatively affect my health. This week it was fun being creative in the kitchen and thoroughly enjoying the decadent and satisfying results!

The Turning Slicer looks
strong and happy!
I bought the slicer through Amazon and anxiously awaited delivery.  The Turning Slicer came in a whimsical Japanese box with illustrated instructions that crack me up whenever I see them.

My first try involved making zucchini and carrot noodles, with the carrot sliced smaller than the zucchini. Using the slicer was super easy once I understood how to position the blade correctly. I cooked the noodles in the wok stir fry style with ground turkey.  It tasted good and satisfied my pasta fix, but the zucchini noodles started to break down against the heartiness of the more sturdy carrot and turkey.  Next time I try zucchini noodles I think I'll stick to making it like pasta in a flavored water separately from the rest of the dish.
Ground Turkey, Zucchini & Carrot Noodle Pasta 
seasoned with Fresh Garlic, Rosemary, Sage, 
Thyme, Salt & Coconut Oil.

Ground Turkey, Asparagus, Parsnip & Carrot Noodles
with Fresh Garlic, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Salt & Coconut Oil
My carbon steel wok is huge and
another favorite in my kitchen. 
The next night I tried parsnip and carrot noodles instead.  Cooked in the wok the texture was a perfect al dente.  It's exactly what I was seeking, and I'll make it again.
Beet & Kale Salad with Green Onion and a  Dressing of 
Coconut Aminos, Coconut Vinegar, Maple Syrup, Olive Oil and Salt
Served with a Turkey, Pork & Kalamata Olive Patty and Avocado
Next I tried a cold beet salad and called it a success when both my non-beet loving family and I judged it delicious!

Sunday breakfast was a great time to try sweet potato hash browns, and I was happy with the results.

Sweet Potato Hash Browns
Sauteed in Coconut Oil and Seasoned with Salt
Served with a Turkey, Pork & Kalamata Olive Patty and Pear
According to the instruction booklet, there are Five Merits of the TURNING SLICER

  1. Fifty servings in five minutes
  2. Improves luster and taste 
  3. Five horse radishes can be served as six 
  4. Excellent durability
  5. Easy to use

I agree it cut veggies in record time, made the texture of the vegetables complement the meal, and was easy to use and clean. I can see how it would stretch vegetables to serve more people, but I'll take their word on needing five horse radishes stretched.  The Japanese Turning Slicer has earned a visible, easily accessible spot in my kitchen.  Two thumbs up!


Friday, September 6, 2013

Pushing And Accepting Limits

Autumn is here.  I know it in every cell of my body because I've slowed down to a stop.  I knew it was bad as I sat on the edge of the tub brushing my teeth with my Sonicare debating if I could finish the task lying down.  Coming to my senses about the potential risk of choking and ridiculousness of the internal debate, I willed myself through the rest of the two minute exhausting endeavor.  I then took a 15 minute break lying down before embarking on washing my face before bed.

This experience occurred at 8:00 pm on a Monday evening after working an eight hour day, doing 20 minutes of Zumba, and eating leftovers for dinner.  The weekend just prior wasn't extremely busy.  I had dinner with friends Friday night, enjoyed lunch with girlfriends Saturday, and had rested at home Saturday night and all day Sunday.  It was only Monday night, and I still needed to make it through the rest of the work week.

Clearly, I needed to do something to feel better. 

These are the times when I want to treat myself.  Coffee, chocolate, ice cream, and crackers taste great and soothe me emotionally.  Unfortunately, they don’t make my body feel better or help with fatigue.  I need to take care of myself, but what does that mean for me?  Eating even better than I normally do, avoiding alcohol, resting, reducing exercise, and budgeting my energy help. 

Unfortunately, taking care of myself at times feels like I’m a parent grounding myself from going out, doing fun things, or enjoying regular food.  And the two-year-old in me wants to push my limits as far as I can while hoping I won’t have to pay for trying to live an active, normal life. I resent feeling this way and am working toward thinking of taking care of myself as a treat. 

It’s funny that things I love to do can seem like punishment when I’m not physically able to do something else.  I love to read, nap, watch movies, prepare and eat healthy food, and relax.  But when I know I physically need to take it easy, I’m frustrated it means I shouldn't go out with friends, go hiking or biking, have a drink, or do too many tasks around the house. 

I've found I can make the most of my limited energy by approaching everything in intervals.  With exercise I've learned I’m able to bike hills but not a long, steady non-stop pedaling ride.  With hills I can work hard riding up and rest while coasting down.  It’s counter-intuitive, but the flat ride with no breaks is brutal for me.  With my work week, I need to include downtime.  Lunches and breaks alone and away from the office recharge me to make it through the afternoon.  Housekeeping fits in when I do it in small chunks of time throughout the week.  A load or two of laundry gets done every day.  Tidying up is done throughout the house each morning and night in a few minutes rather than saved up to all be done on the weekends.   And a full day with no commitments is a must every week. 

This Friday night, I approached needing to rest as treating myself.  I came straight home after work, ate a light dinner of leftovers, did a short Zumba workout, and showered.  While journaling, I did laundry. And instead of eating chocolate or ice cream and drinking a martini, I sipped on mineral water while snacking on a ripe peach.  I know I’m going to feel better in the morning, and I’m excited for a Girls’ Day Out tomorrow!



Sunday, August 18, 2013

Happy It’s Not Worse. Seriously and Sincerely.

Good or bad, I don’t think anyone deserves the life they get.  Yes, my attitude makes my life better, worse, harder or easier, but to have life treat you as you deserve…I don’t buy it.  No one deserves tragedy.  I don’t care how rotten you behave, certain things no one can ever deserve.

On August 18, 1987, my three sisters, my mother and I were in a head-on collision while driving home from a vacation.  Passing through Butte, Montana, at six o’clock in the morning a woman in a van entered the highway going the wrong way.  She wasn't drunk; construction at the highway exit had left the off ramp confusing.  She turned left one road too early, feet away from the correct on-ramp, and she accelerated to over fifty miles per hour.  Our car was set at sixty miles per hour with cruise control.  We hit each other head on with no brakes pressed.  Have you ever noticed how the headlights of cars driving toward you in the dark on the highway look like they’re in your lane and headed straight at you?  They do, but we know divided highways are safe, those cars aren't in our lane, and they won’t hit us.  In an instant, everything changed.  One day of shy of 17 and the least injured of all of us, I grew up fast that year.  Taking my sisters and mom to doctor appointments, cooking and caring for them while finishing my senior year of high school and cheer-leading left me stressed and grateful.  Yes, grateful.

Things can always be worse.  I’m grateful no one died that morning.  I’m grateful we all recovered.  With surgeries, rehab and time, our wounds healed to the point that others wouldn't know how hurt we were.  I was told a photo of our car was used by the Montana State Department of Transportation to encourage people to wear their seat belts.  Given our accident occurred in the days before airbags, our seat belts are likely what prevented deaths that morning.  Please buckle up!
Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra after head-on collision
Today when I’m in stop and go traffic, I’m grateful I’m not in the car ahead that’s not running and blocking traffic.  I’m grateful I’m not in the car wreck ahead where people are hurt and will now split their life between before the accident and after the accident.  I’m grateful I’m only running late and everyone I know and I will sleep safe at home tonight.

All five people in the car - my mother, three sisters, and I -
survived this 110 mph impact head-on collision
I can see how this Pollyanna perspective can be irritating.  I don’t mean to diminish the difficulties that we all endure, but unless we’re dead it can always be worse.  My grandfather used to always say that it always works out in the end…unless you’re dead.  I used to half groan with a laugh and dismiss his comment.  But I find myself thinking of his comment every so often and agreeing with him.  Alive in any condition, I can look for joy and appreciate something however small.  My joy or others', they both make me happy.  And knowing things in my life are better than they could be helps me cope with challenges. 

I’m grateful I naturally tend to look at the bright side of things. People with Multiple Sclerosis are susceptible to depression.  And not just because they have a chronic illness.  According to National MS Society depression can be due to life circumstances, but it can also be the result of damage to portions of the brain that deal with our emotions.  Suicide is 7.5 times higher among people with MS than the general population.  The good news is people are highly resilient and severely disabled people are not more likely to be depressed.

Yikes!  Scary stuff, but knowing this helps me plan ahead.  I’m preparing a list of things that cheer me up and a list of things to avoid.  I pay attention to my body so I can tell what is normal and what isn't. I cultivate a posse of friends and health care professionals that know me and are at the ready if I need them.  I’m grateful I have the resources, the interest, and the time to prepare as much as possible for what lies ahead. I'm weaving a safety net to catch me if I need it. And hopefully I'll be able to tell if I start falling.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Variations Of Ideal

The Washington Institute of Sports Medicine in Kirkland, WA offers a DXA Body Scan that will measure a person's body composition of fat, lean muscle and bone.  I recently underwent the scan, and given I wasn't sure what to expect I've been surprised to realize some of my expectations!

They promise the results of the scan will determine your ideal body weight.  Going in I expected a single ideal body weight would exist for every person of my height, gender and build.  That expectation cracks me up now that I think about how different each person is in their body preferences, activities and lifestyle.  I think of athletes that are performing at the peak of their field and how different their bodies are.  Even with comparable height, body fat percentage, and activity level, a runner and a gymnast have very different body types!  One isn't necessarily better than the other, and each athlete would not be able to perform as well in the other athlete's field.  Each athlete just prefers to practice a different sport.

What may be obvious to others was a revelation to me.  My ideal is different than anyone else's, and my ideal will change throughout my life given what I want to be able to do, what I'm willing to do, and how I want to feel.

I subsequently found a posting online by  that displays the body fat ranges using the research of Jackson and Pollock (1985).

I fall smack dab in the middle of average. Not bad, but I'd prefer to be in the ideal range IF it doesn't require a two-a-day exercise regimen, compromise other aspects of my health or demand other drastic changes to my lifestyle.  I still have to work full time, and I want to enjoy myself!

The technician's assessment of my scan results and the ideal weight I provided on my intake form was that ideal for me would be to essentially reduce my body fat by three pounds and increase my lean muscle by the same amount.  Her recommendation was (verbatim and I'm not making this up) "keep doing what you're doing and add 20-30 minutes of strength training per week."  I'm relieved that her suggestion is doable for me!

So I'm committing to adding dedicated strength training to my existing activities and will see in six months or so how my body composition, physique and overall health has changed.  I'll share my results then!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Don't Have To Do The Really Big Waves: Being Active With MS

As I mountain biked down Phil's Trails yesterday, I thought about not pushing to ride faster or harder, but relaxing into the ride, letting my full body lean into the turns, and appreciating the experience. Instead of fighting my body or stressing it, I relished my body's strength, balance and adaptability.

I think of the documentary, "Surfing For Life," about men and women in their 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's who surf every day. I saw it years ago, and it was an attitude and life altering moment. At one point in the film, 88 year old Woody talks about how he took a tumble while surfing and broke his eardrum.  He described conversations with friends, family and his doctor suggesting he was too old to surf anymore. He understood they wanted him to be safe, and he agreed it was probably time to give up surfing.  And then he thought, "I don't have to do the really big waves."

I loved it.  His approach resonated with me. I realized I can do any sport I enjoy to the level I'm able.  I loved doing gymnastics as a kid and thought I was too old to do it anymore. I found a gym an hour's drive from my house that allowed adults to learn and practice gymnastics at open gym. Their definition of adult is teen and up - funny given most of the attendees were in junior high or high school! It was the only gym I could find that allowed people over the age of 21 to participate. I started going to open gym Thursday evenings from 8-10 pm.

I had a blast learning to do tricks I hadn't been able to do when I was young. It took a year of daily backbend practice and falling to learn to do a back walkover again. I inspired and was inspired by teenage girls. They couldn't believe someone in her late 30's was doing gymnastics with them. After doing a round off back flip one night, a girl said to me, "I hope I can do that when I'm your age!"  I loved that those girls wouldn't grow up believing as I had that we outgrow activities we love.

This week I'm vacationing in Bend, Oregon mountain biking with friends. I enjoy riding last in the group down the single track paths. With less experience and practice than the rest and my own body's limitations, I ride at my own pace and like not feeling like I'm holding up a rider behind me. I figure they wouldn't keep inviting me to ride with them if they minded waiting for me.  And they keep inviting me!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Flying With Room To Fall: Being Active With MS

First swing
Split - Final Position
I’m lifting myself higher and higher, literally and figuratively.  I’m living on the premise that the higher we go, the more room we have to fall.  So if I work toward excellent health, mobility, and balance, I’ll have a longer fall before I’m not in good health, mobile, or able to keep my balance.  With Multiple Sclerosis (MS), the assumption is that some amount of cognition, mobility and function will be lost over time.  The disease modifying drugs will slow damage from the disease, but they won’t stop or reverse damage.  Much like sunscreen will allow you to stay in the sun longer before sunburn, disease modifying drugs will reduce the frequency of exacerbations so that damage will hopefully take longer and better health can last longer.

Waiting to hear "Hup!"
Ready for the catch...
...And caught!
Surprisingly, I’m having a blast lifting myself up!  I’ve always been active, but now I choose activities that bring me joy.  I’m having so much fun that I don’t have enough time or energy to do everything I like.  Gone are the days where I would rise at 4:30 am and hit the treadmill before work or bust my rump to a workout video.  I loved the results and felt good exercising, but it was always a feeling of, “I need to work out.”  Now I enjoy activities with the feeling of, “I GET to do this!” 

It was during an exacerbation when I saw a Groupon for a trapeze class.  Knowing I would feel better at some point, I bought the Groupon without hesitation.  My rationale was if I don’t do it now, I likely never will!  And they’re willing to let me trapeze without years of training or joining the circus! (Seriously, the requirements are that you're over the age of six, under 250 pounds, and not drunk!)

I’ve been four times so far with friends and family, and I have seven more classes paid for and ready to use.  I’m ready!



Sunday, June 30, 2013

Paleo On Steroids: The Auto-Immune Protocol Diet Helps Me Manage My MS

Turkey, Kale, Spinach, and Onion Meat Pucks 
with Garlic, Thyme, Rosemary, and Salt
Wild Alaskan Salmon sauteed in Olive Oil over Kale 
and Broccolini with Dill and Green Onion
I’ve been following the Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP) by thepaleomom.com lately, and I can tell the food choices are helping.  I’ve been less bloated, my throat isn’t sore all the time, and I’ve had less numbness.  This is the first year I haven’t had an exacerbation in the spring even though my life has been more stressful.  I know yoga plays a major role in keeping my head straight, and I think diet is tipping my health to a better level. 

Pork with Rosemary, Thyme, Olive Oil and Broccolini
I’ve taken to calling AIP “Paleo on Steroids” because there are a lot of foods that are Paleo that aren’t allowed on the AIP including eggs, nuts, seeds, nightshades and alcohol. When I’m asked what I can eat, I answer fish, meat, fruits and veggies. And water.

There was a day when I wouldn’t have thought I could give up cheese and crackers, ice cream, bread, or pasta.  Over the years, I tried lots of diets (vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free) but I never felt any better.  After seeing a naturopath doctor and getting a food sensitivity test, I found that a lot of the substitutes I made weren’t right for my body.  And they were foods that are good for others – soy, almonds, and cranberries among others.  The test also confirmed dairy, gluten, and yeast aren’t doing me any favors. The proof foods were affecting me came when I deleted them from my diet and my constantly sore throat of four years subsided.

Trying to find anything premade without yeast, soy, dairy, gluten, nuts, seeds, or eggs and that leaves out my own food sensitivities is nearly impossible.  Fortunately I love to cook and had already incorporated a lot of habits that were easy to modify.  I make green smoothies every morning and split it into thirds to have with each meal.  I bring my lunch to work so I’m not scrambling to find something during the lunch hour.  When I cook, I make extra servings so I can have them for lunch the next day.

Melon and Pomegranate Seeds
Under the AIP, I started making meat pucks as I like to call them.  If I want to be fancy, they’re individual meat loaves or muffins.  I cook a couple dozen at a time and keep them in the fridge.  A bonus is my husband loves having something prepared to eat ready in the fridge. 

Raspberry Coconut Sorbet
Canned coconut milk with frozen raspberries blended
The hardest items for me to avoid?  Coffee and chocolate.  Family visited last week, and I relaxed my food choices and drank lots of coffee and more alcohol than none.  I drank my coffee with coconut milk which is better for me, but I’m kidding myself when I rationalize it.  I definitely feel better when I avoid coffee, but I love it and will use any excuse to have it.

Fortunately, I’ve found easy to make treats that satisfy me. Dried fruit (figs, mango, pineapple slices, pears and peaches) with large shredded coconut is a go-to snack, turkey or salmon jerky are great when I’m hiking, and cut up veggies help keep me from snacking on too much dried fruit. I know dried fruit is just like sugar in my system, but I’ll tackle one habit at a time! 

Stacie’s Banana Pudding
One banana mashed, raisins, coconut and cinnamon mixed 

and heated in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Keep Doing What You're Doing: Coping With MS Through Constant Learning and Adaptation

What do you do when you want to feel better?  Ask your doctor?  Search the web? Read a book? Ask friends? For me the answer is Yes, and more.  Gorge on information, assess it, and incorporate what makes sense for me.

In 2008 I learned I had Multiple Sclerosis, and this information threw my reality for a loop.  I thought I was super healthy, and suddenly doctors were consistent in their diagnosis of MS.  I knew nothing of MS.  My first question was, "Are you sure?"  They were positive it was.  The second was, "Is it fatal?" Thankfully the answer is no.

I sought out and soaked up any and all information I could find on MS hoping to learn what to expect, how to prepare, and how to slow the disease as much as possible.  Imagine my combination of frustration and pride when I would go to the neurologist and his advice was, "Keep doing what you're doing."

Yes, I was doing well, but I wanted more.  I wanted to feel better. I wanted to understand my body and be able to recognize what helped and hurt it.  It was like I had a new piece of equipment and no owner's manual. There's plenty of information out there, but none compiled and complete for me to trust, use and apply to me.  Due to the unpredictable nature of MS and the different symptoms each person experiences, it's not possible to have one universal guidebook that will help everyone.  I just wanted a simple set of guidelines that I can follow and know I'll stay healthy, cognizant and mobile.

I'd still love to have someone else hand over a bound copy of my personal health instructions, but I'd place the odds at less than winning the Power Ball jackpot. I've taken to creating my own. It's a way to capture what I am doing to optimize my health, what measures help me when I have pitfalls, and what I would like to do to improve my health.  So far it's a haphazard go-to guide to remind me what's worked in the past, what is a possible solution, and what keeps me going. It works wonderfully when I remember to look at it.