Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Love of My Life

My wife and I have known each other for about 13 years now. We have had some very rough times and we have had some really great times, and I can truly say that I would have it no other way. My wife's Multiple Sclerosis has been a very interesting adventure in our marriage. There have been times when I wondered if she would be able to physically walk or pick up our daughter, and there have been times when she seems as healthy as ever. One thing that has rang true through all of this is that we truly are best friends.

I am a very distracted person. I like change, and I like new challenges on a regular basis. Our marriage has been a series of ups and downs and my desires for change have not helped to keep things steady. We have moved a lot, and I have struggled to find a career that really fits me. The amazing thing to me is that my wife has supported me the whole way. She asks questions and gives her opinion, but she has always supported me 100%. Recently we were asked to go back into ministry work at a children's home, which means another move and quite a bit of life change. We will be caring for three third grade boys, a sixth grade boy and a sophomore girl. We will be moving about 10 hours from our family, and we will be making a major shift in our daily lives, but we know it is what we want to do.

As excited as I am about going, my wife is more excited. She loves this kind of work, and is willing to do whatever for us to be caring for these kiddos. She amazes me with how willing she is to care for others when I know that some days she struggles to just care for herself. We are already beginning to pack and get things ready, and I know this is going to be another adventure for our family. Our daughter is stoked about the move, and I am so glad that I married the woman I did. Thirteen years ago I wouldn't have dreamed of all the adventures we have already had and I can't wait for more. I truly married the love of my life and we couldn't have a more loving daughter. Sometimes we get too caught up in MS to see that we have already beat it, and I guess the last few weeks have shown me all over again that disease or not, we can and will live our lives to the fullest!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dr Pepper-holic

I don't know how many people out there remember the old Dr Pepper commercials. The ones where they promoted drinking a Dr Pepper at 10,2 and 4. I sure do. My grandfather lived off of Dr Pepper and would religiously drink one at least 3-4 times a day. My wife also has this love of Dr Pepper, and can become quite cranky when she doesn't have one. Quite a few years back, she quit drinking any "cokes" and went through the whole sugar and caffeine withdrawals. Those were not fun days, but she felt so much better after it was all out of her system. Now, she will drink one and then wonder why she can't go to sleep at bedtime.

Cokes have a very real affect on my wife's MS. If she gets back in the habit of drinking them, I notice a change in her mood and a growing problem with insomnia. And when she quits them again, my daughter and I both notice the changes in her personality. This is one of those things that she really struggles with. The 23 flavors of Dr Pepper seem to call her by name and every once in a while I find one stashed somewhere that she was drinking or find one placed at the back of the fridge out of sight. She knows that she shouldn't be drinking them, and I give her fits when she does give in and has one. It has kinda become a game between us over the past few years, but we both know that cokes can cause real issues with MS.

Regular sodas have so much sugar in them that they can't be ignored when a person is trying to improve their health. Diet sodas are even worse. We know of a MS patient in Texas that was stuck in a wheelchair before he quit drinking diet sodas. He had been wheelchair bound for years and then started a diet and supplement regimen and was playing golf within a year. If I remember right he was even featured on Good Morning America. It was pretty incredible to see the transformation. One thing they found out was he had been drinking diet sodas continually throughout the day. The doctors felt like the artificial sweetener was the cause of many of his MS issues. The strength slowly started returning to his limbs and he began to slowly exercise and work his muscles until he was finally able to live a regular life.

I have seen too many cases like this to ignore them. I joke with my wife that the Dr Peppers are what's causing everything, but we both know they are just a piece of the overall puzzle. We know for a fact that she has less insomnia, better emotional control and is in a better overall mood when she is not drinking sodas. Even knowing those things, I know they are one of her weaknesses and she tries to enjoy them in moderation. I would almost bet that today she will have a Dr Pepper and that those 23 flavors will be calling out to her to drink more.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Stress and MS

I have been reading some new material by the Rocky Mountain MS Center that we received when we went to visit them. One of the books is a collaboration of multiple doctors that is supposed to be a field guide to Multiple Sclerosis. The first of the book went through the usual explanation of what MS supposedly is and how it affects the body, then they go into different treatments and theories behind what you can do about MS. As I was reading through it, one paragraph really caught my eye. The authors were talking about how stress affects MS and if you could bring on an attack by too much work, stress, exercise etc. Their conclusion was that even though many MS patients and their "supporters" believe that these things directly affect their MS, the doctors didn't believe that MS could be aggravated by those things.

I almost put the book down! For the last 12 years I have watched as stress, exercise, work, child rearing, etc. has caused numbness, fatigue, visual issues, tingling, bladder issues and a host of other symptoms. How do I know that these things caused the attack? I watched every step of the way, and at this point in our marriage, I can tell you the progression of how it affects her. For instance, a few years ago she began to exercise regularly so that she could run a marathon. A few months went by without any problem and things seemed to be going well. One day she woke up with numbness in her side and her body began a downhill slide for well over a month. I have story after story of her having an attack because of physical and emotional stresses.

Dr. Swank used to tell us that we had to make sure my wife rested everyday and would recommend laying down for at least an hour a day. I have watched as family stress has brought on physical pain in my wife. My wife is very emotional and when she gets upset, it can cause her to physically hurt and to sob uncontrollably. Movies can make her tense and make her body tighten up and hurt. To this day, she will do other things while we are watching a movie so that she doesn't get too involved in the action or suspense. I have watched her have muscle spasms and leg pain from walking too much or from stressing out at Christmas time in the mall. I have felt the knots and tightness in her neck and shoulders after a stressful day that will often lead to numbness or tingling in her arms and hands. I have watched her loose her eyesight after a stressful activity like rock climbing.

I am not sure where these doctors came up with this theory, but apparently none of them have MS or have someone with MS in their immediate family. It is so hard to watch the newly diagnosed MS patient walk into a neurologist office to be told these types of things. Do we have all of the answers? No. But, we have figured out how to keep my wife functioning at a very high level and living a good life. She just walked into our office a minute ago, and she looks great! She had some numbness earlier this week, but we were able to make it go away with chiropractic and rest. Today, she is working on her new desk she bought, just enjoying the challenges of owning her own business. I guess I wonder where we would be if we listened to all of the "MS specialists", Neurologists, MD's and other doctors that wanted her on the MS drugs and steroids. I feel like I know what our lives would be like. We would be stressed out about how to pay for the drugs, my wife would be messed up from the side effects of the drugs, and she would probably be in a wheelchair by now. That seems to be the course we have seen from others around us that have taken that route. Not all of them have turned out that way, but a majority have. I am just not convinced that in a majority of these cases, they could have dieted better, taken supplements, done other alternative care and had a better life without all of the side effects caused by the MS drugs.

Her mom took that route and has been in a wheelchair most of her life. She is completely crippled up at this point, barely able to function. Yeah, MS won't kill you, but it will take your life away. I wish we could help her, but she is adamant about doing things the MS doctor way, so we have to sit and watch as she gets worse each year. To anyone out there that has MS, I would say educate yourself. Listen to your body and make informed decisions based on your bodies needs, not on what the drug companies tell you. Make sure you don't discount the affects a good diet and supplement program can have, and never ever discount the affects alternative health care can have. We have been blessed in our lives to find good doctors that are more interested in helping figure out what is causing the problem than giving a drug to help with a symptom. Can stress cause MS attacks? In our experience, I would have to say YES!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ups and Downs of MS

For most of my life I have been a mountain top and valley kind of person. I don't seem to ever be in the middle, where everything is just OK. My wife is kinda that way too, and we seem to either be 100% or nothing at all. We are not status quo kinda people, and when you deal with MS, you can have ups, downs and sideways on a daily basis. Right now we are going through one of those sideways times where we are just overwhelmed with life.

Her health has been all over the place lately. Some days she wakes up and feels great and others she wakes up and feels like garbage. Yesterday she woke up with her right side feeling very heavy and tingling in some places. I think it all started with a really bad headache Saturday night, and her body decided to give up on her yesterday. She slept for about 10 hours yesterday, and recovered some, but she will need to go to the chiropractor today to make sure her body doesn't keep going numb. Stress is high right now which is not good for MS patients, and her business is taking off more than we expected which has added a lot of pressure.

So, we find ourselves at a crossroads with her business, her MS, and our other life stuff. We could easily push her business into a very profitable operation, but at what expense? I think this is definitely one of the most frustrating parts of Multiple Sclerosis for me. When things start to go good in certain parts of your life, the disease seems to put a cramp in it, and since we are 100% type of people it really frustrates us. She has an interview today for a new employee, but if we hire someone then we have to press on and grow the business. If we don't hire someone then we have to scale back so that there is not as much pressure on her. It really is a good problem to have, but it is not an easy decision to make.

One of the hardest parts of living in the highs and lows is contentment. I am very rarely content with anything. I think that is why I have been successful at helping small businesses grow and become profitable. I see the problems and know that it can be better, and then I just figure out how to do it. It doesn't seem hard to me, and once I have it on the right track and figured out, I get bored and want to move on. I guess in some ways I have treated my wife's MS the same way. I have done the research, figured out what we need to do for optimal health, and we have done those things for certain times in our lives. The problems comes in long term. Once she starts to get better and life smooths out, I get bored with it and decide we need to do something new and of course more stressful. Not good for MS!

So, today seems to be starting out as a "up" day, but we will see. This week is like all of the others, it is already packed full of stuff and I am not excited about much of any of it. My wife's health will probably be all over the place this week since she has so many things going on, and we will buckle down and do what needs to be done for her to live a normal life. If we would only do those things more consistently, then we could live at a higher level of health and success than what we are. I guess that is why the largest section in the book store is self help. Everyone is struggling with these things whether they have MS or not, and most of us are trying to find that elusive side of the mountain where things are OK.