Yep, that was me 20 years ago! What in the heck possessed me to do a bodybuilding show anyway?? Well, Geof had done some shows before we met and we decided to do one together for “fun”. Haha, yeah right! I had a 2 1/2 year old and was looking for something to make me really commit to getting in the best shape I had ever been in. It was 16 weeks of prep- the working out didn’t really bother me much, but the food restrictions were a serious challenge!! I have always liked my food, and junk food at that! Ask my high school friends that called me “Pop Tart” because that was my daily snack before cheerleading or volleyball games!;) Even worse was that we trained out of a gym with a Pizza Hut next door, and the smells would almost drive me mad! Especially when a staff member would walk by me with a pizza box while I was on the elliptical!
Since my first show, I have always tried to stay in shape and not do the Yo-yo thing with my weight. I have been a trainer since 1997 as well, and have stayed on track with some sort of physical activity and exercise. I think that is why it was even more of a shock when I was diagnosed with MS. People, even my neurologist, would say, “wow, you don’t look like someone who’d get MS!” (and my doc quickly told me that it didn’t matter how in shape I was as far as getting it, but that it would make it easier to fight it!) Well anyone can get MS. And often those with MS don’t look like they have any issues at all. Living with MS, people often times think that I should look a certain way or walk a certain way. MS is often labeled a “silent disease”. Many people with MS look no different from someone without it because some of the symptoms, such as blurred vision, sensory problems, muscle spasticity, bladder problems, vertigo, headaches, fatigue, and chronic pain, are not visible. I am truly blessed and fortunate that I don’t have horrible, debilitating symptoms, and that I don’t have the progressive form of the disease. In fact the majority of MS patients have Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS), and not the type that continues to progress and deteriorate the patient. My symptoms are on the inside, invisible to others, and I often don’t complain about them or mention them. And I often don’t know if my symptoms are caused by age, allergies, working out, or MS!;)
From the get go, I was determined to fight my MS without any “poison” (this was my view!) and medication side effects, and do it all with diet and exercise. But when the hubby pointed out that I literally could wake up one day and not be able to walk or see, it made me think about how much I really didn’t want to play roulette with my body and my brain! But I started with my diet…I knew diet would be very important, but as I researched diet and the role that food can play in inflammation, I realized just how important it is. I had to try the autoimmune diet. That was a tough 30 days! But I did learn some things- like when I took out all of the milk in my once or twice daily lattes, my headaches got noticeably better! (Now I just save the dairy for occasional ice cream and good cheese). MS is an auto immune disease- keeping inflammation to a minimum is of utmost importance. Not only do stress and injury caused inflammation, but foods we eat can as cause it well. Do your research and pay attention to your nutrition! It isn’t always easy – you can take the time needed to try different elimination diets, or start with allergy testing to point you in the right direction, but do it! It is very important in keeping inflammation down and your body will thank you, whether or not you have MS!
The first year after I was diagnosed, I was in a clinical trial and was using Copaxone , the oldest, and basically least affective, medicine for treating MS. Many people have been fine on it and have not seen any worsening, but my symptoms were actually getting worse. I was getting a lot more joint pain, extreme muscle fatigue, and just a general, all over, crappy feeling. After the trial ended my neurologist gave me a great analogy – he asked if I had cancer and was given choices of several types of medication, would I choose the one known to be one of the least affective or would I want to try the medication that shows the most chance of curing the cancer? Hmmm….let me think about that??! He likes to go after the disease with the “biggest guns” possible to get lesions to stop multiplying in the brain and to keep the disease on a non-progressive course. The more lesions one gets, the more chance of symptoms, not to mention more brain damage. A typical MS patient will have 7 times higher brain volume loss than an average person! This explains a lot with me!;) After talking with the hubby, I decided to go for a medication that can have some serious side effects, but we also trusted my doctor and his expertise in the field. My MRI 2 1/2 years ago, showed a lesion so large that they thought I had a brain tumor on my pons. That will really make you scared about your future! EEK! I’m proud to say that my MRIs the past 2+ years on Tysabri, have all improved, with no new lesions and even many lesions shrinking!
Even though I pay attention to my diet, I do not regret my decision to go big on medication – except for it’s $22,000 a month cost – thank goodness for insurance. BUT, and this is a big BUT, I also have to make myself keep moving and exercising, even when I don’t feel like it. This is difficult since I really don’t LOVE exercise- I do it to stay in shape and I know I need to do it for my health. Sometimes when I am extremely tired or my muscles feel extremely weak, I have no problem leaving the studio and going home! There were many times the past few years (and a lot of the time presently!) that I really did not feel like working out at all. I often had to force myself to “suck it up buttercup!” Yes this is my motto – whether it is for clients or myself. If there are body parts that still work and don’t hurt, I can find something to do. I will try to stretch and do some bodyweight stuff and/or just get out and walk a bit. It is better than just sitting on my booty and watching Days of our Lives (even though I still watch it after almost 40 years!) I often tell clients, “doing it half-assed is better than nothing at all!” I know that sounds bad, but when we only have so much to give, I believe it’s better to give what we’ve got and not settle for just giving in and doing nothing. Then I will allow myself to rest or take a brief nap. Ahhhh…
My hope is that I can reach as many people with MS or other chronic diseases, and impart to them how important diet and exercise are. It isn’t always easy. We may hurt, have horrible fatigue, or have little time. But doing SOMETHING is better than NOTHING! You can do it- never give up on your body and health. We only get to use it once!