When I was 24 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Wow! it was the first time I realized that I could have a serious condition that would last for the rest of my life. No one ever stops and thinks “yeah; I’m going to get cancer, lupus, arthritis or some other major life changing disease some time in my life.”
I first noticed strange things happening when I was in high school. I had head rushes that were almost like grains of sand pouring down in front of my eyes making everything go black and making me feel dizzy. I felt like I was carrying a load of bricks everywhere, and summer heat made me feel like I was walking on a mattress everyplace I went. I figured I just needed to get in better shape so I worked harder. I felt like this helped a lot.
Later in my life I was living on my own without a car. I walked everywhere. I was highly athletic and I loved playing sports and running. I was also an enthusiastic dancer. Despite my energetic lifestyle I could feel myself loosing energy and becoming more and more clumsy. It just didn’t make sense to me.
When I was 22 I made the decision to serve a volunteer mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I moved to Utah and began working as a hair stylist in a full-service salon to save money. I started noticing that it took longer for me to finish most of the services that I performed. I didn’t want anything to change my plans, so I pushed my health concerns to the back of my mind. I completed my physical hoping that the doctors wouldn’t find anything wrong and I sighed a breath of relief when they didn’t.
I finally received my mission assignment and accepted it gratefully. I was very excited and enthusiastically began to spend my hard earned money towards the clothing, supplies and vaccinations that were required. Not long after receiving my vaccinations, something strange began to happen. Fall was here and as the weather cooled, my feet began feeling strange. Not necessarily sore, but more numb. I figured this was because I had been standing too long on my feet. I started massaging my feet each day and I bought shoes that would give my feet better support, thinking this would resolve the problem.
I was usually very easy going and laid back, but for some reason I began losing my patience to the point that I felt so angry that I was ready to breathe fire the moment someone even slightly bothered me. My mother could barely tolerate me. She told me that she often felt was walking on eggshells because she never knew when I was going to explode. What was happening to me? I felt like a really angry person and I didn’t even know why.
The day arrived that I walked into the Missionary Training Center. It was an easy day. I remember that my family saw me off and soon I was in my room unpacking until dinnertime. I was feeling very lonely and missing my family already. The next day I started into the regular training routine: I was up and getting ready for the day at 6:30am and by the end of the day we were satisfactorily tired and glad to go to sleep.
One morning as I was walking through the brisk morning air, I noticed that my legs felt icy-hot. My head was pounding with pain. “Maybe I just need breakfast,” I told myself. I was having more days of feeling achy than not, but I chalked it up to the rigorous training schedule. I didn’t know how else to explain it all. Not even breakfast seemed to help much.
Excitement began to build in the dormitory due to upcoming transfers, as many of us were getting very close to going out into the “mission field”. The night before my transfer date, I was awake all night packing and imagining the great journey I was going to experience. I was up into the wee hours of the morning. I knew I was going to be tired the next day especially since I had done this type of thing before, and I knew I didn’t handle late nights very well. I tried to get some sleep once I was on the plane but sleep wouldn’t come.
Once off the plane we went straight to the mission office for an orientation. I found myself totally unable to concentrate and couldn’t even stay awake while they explained mission rules — I was really wishing I hadn’t stayed up so late by then. I managed to pick-up enough information to know what was expected of me, and then we headed off to the mission presidents home for a social gathering were we had a nice lunch and talked more about mission life. I ate quickly; just being glad I didn’t fall asleep on my plate. I smiled and nodded a lot since I barely knew what was happening around me. Finally we met our companions and were off to our apartments to unpack and then out to our appointments. All I wanted more than anything was to crash on my bed and catch-up on some sleep.
The next morning was no easier. I felt like none of the sleep I had that night made any difference. To top it off, my senior companion was such a work-a-holic! Of course with my new and unwelcome temperament, I basically gave her a piece of my mind. I tried hard to be nice. She let me go home and sleep, and I slept all day. When I woke up I felt better but not refreshed. I figured that sleeping all day wasn’t really that helpful. I prayed that night that I would wake up in the morning refreshed.
In the morning I felt refreshed and managed to slightly adjust to this new rigorous schedule, however I found it hard to wake up at 6:30 in the morning even though I had been waking up early for a couple of months by now. Every morning came the same way from that day on. My body just felt extremely compromised. I felt confused. The following days never seemed to get any better no matter how much rest I got. “Shouldn’t this get easier?” I asked myself.
P-day is a short way of saying preparation day. When we get finished with cleaning and other preparations for the week we often would go do something fun. One P-day my companion and I decided to jog to a P-day volleyball activity. I loved to run but I found myself walking most of the way; I was too tired to run. Other things also happened that were unusual for me. I had occasions that I would be running and my ankle would give way for unexplained reasons. I knew it could happen at anytime. At another P-day activity we were playing soccer. I loved playing soccer. I wasn’t ever on a team or anything but I knew how to kick a ball! This time, as I ran forward to kick the ball I missed completely and fell on my back. I really felt stupid. At the time it seemed like everyone thought I was just one of those girls who was not very athletic, and that I was making up excuses for my mistakes.
I talked with my mission mom about seeing a doctor. It took a while before she finally agreed, because at first she just thought that I was stressing out about little things. I sort of wonder if she thought I was a hypochondriac or something of that nature. I went to the doctor a few times, but the doctor didn’t find anything wrong with me. I didn’t want to worry my Mother and so I didn’t tell her about my symptoms until things began to get more serious. When I finally did, I just asked her if she would research what these symptoms could mean. I didn’t mention that I was experiencing them, but of course she saw right through it, and she called and talked to my mission mom with concerns that I could have Multiple Sclerosis and if that were the case I should get a diagnosis as soon as possible. My mission mom was skeptical, but nevertheless I went to the doctor once more, and this time I walked out of the office with a referral to see a neurologist.
When I went in for my first appointment the neurologist seemed cool and impersonal and he had a definite dislike for me as soon as he saw that I was an LDS missionary. He scheduled some testing for the next week. I remember the day of my testing very well. When I came in they had me change into one of those horrible gowns. A technician came in. The doctor informed me that the tech. was going to perform the test.
When the test was completed I waited for what seemed like forever. The doctor came in and stated that he couldn’t find anything wrong, so now he was going to perform a different test. This time he said that he was going to perform the test himself, and something about the way he said it made me feel nervous.
A cart with small machine was rolled in. The doctor asked me to lie down on the table. In his hand he held two small prods that reminded me very much of corn skewers, only much sharper. These were attached to long wires that went into the machine. Did I mention that I hate needles? But I was determined to go through with whatever testing was required so I could find out what was wrong and get back to my mission. The doctor jabbed the skewers into the top of the muscle of my arm then pushed a button on the machine which sent a small jolt of electricity that made my arm jump slightly. He repeated this procedure with the bottom of the muscle. He repeated this “test” about three more times and then repeated the entire process on my other arm and also my legs.
The doctor told me that he would send me the results of this test as he handed me a piece of gauze to dab the small drips of blood oozing from the jabs on my limbs. He then asked me if I ever felt sad. I thought that was an odd question but I answered anyway and said, “Sometimes, yeah.” I was thinking, “Who doesn’t?” Then he asked me if I ever considered an anti-depressant. I told him I wasn’t interested. I walked out thinking, “how rude!” Looking back I suppose my reaction could have been caused by my M.S. but I still feel like he could have been more sensitive.
When I got the results from the “test” the doctor was saying that I had some rare muscular disease. I shared this information with my mission mom. Neither of us thought it sounded right so she sent me back in for another examination with the neurologist.
When I went back in to the neurologist I told him what my mission mom had said to me and mentioned that there was some concern that I could have Multiple Sclerosis. He did a few more basic neurological tests and then told me that I would have to get an MRI in order to rule out M.S. When I told my mission mom the information the neurologist gave me they arranged a flight for me to go back to Utah for the MRI since it would be less expensive to do it that way. I made an effort to dress extra nice so my Mom would be impressed with me on my arrival, however, when I came off the plane, I was disappointed that all my Mom saw was that my eyes were blood-shot and that I looked extremely worn out. I was really sad about not being able to finish out my time out in the mission field, but I was just too tired to do the work and they didn’t know what was wrong with me.
Once I was home I didn’t know where to start. I needed to find a neurologist but I wanted to find one that knew what he was doing this time. I also thought I would need to have a referral from a doctor and I had many questions and doubts as to weather or not the doctor would know a good neurologist. I made it matter of prayer. I looked through the phone book and an impression came to me to go to a chiropractor. All kinds of ideas poured through my mind, but acting on faith I made an appointment with a chiropractor that I knew.
A few days later, I found myself in his office. He had a plaque on his wall showing he had and education in neurology, so I thought, ”this is good.” He examined me and adjusted my back and then gave me a referral to the neurological association in Salt Lake City. He said it was “the best neurological center in the nation” as far as he was concerned. I went home and made an appointment and I was in their office a week later. I was prepared again for some very unpleasant poking and prodding similar to what I experienced previously, but instead it was very pleasant in comparison. The doctor used a rubber hammer to test my reflexes. He did do some light pricks In order to test my limbs for numbness, lightly pricking my skin with a small pin. They had me walk around, close my eyes while standing, and touch my nose and things like that. When all tests were done the doctor felt he had come to the conclusion that he had found the most accurate areas for the MRI scans. Approximately a week later I was had my MRI. I don’t remember if they asked me to wear a gown or just to wear comfortable clothing, but I do remember having to lie on a table where they covered my eyes and locked my head in a brace, securing me to the table. Then I was asked not to move (not even to scratch my nose) during the process. I lay very still for nearly to two hours. They had to redo a couple of areas but otherwise, everything worked out fine.
I came back for a follow up the next week and they had found lesions on both my spine and my brain. One of the lesions on my brain was roughly the size of a nickel, and they informed me that I definitely had M.S. I asked if it they were certain, and the neurologist said they were but if I wanted to leave no doubt then I should have a spinal tap. I decided that it would be best to leave no doubt, so they assigned me to their M.S. specialist who performed the spinal tap a few days later. They also took blood to compare results.
A week later I went in for a follow up and received my diagnosis. Unlike many others I was actually relieved to know that I have M.S. because I felt like I might have been imagining all of my symptoms. Now I knew why I felt the way I did and I could learn to manage my illness. Since then, I have learned much more about managing M.S. and I feel comfortable enough that I would like to share what I have learned about managing Multiple Sclerosis with nutrition and supplements. In this series, I will be discussing the recommended treatments for M.S. that insurance companies will not pay for due to their experimental nature and which cost upwards of $8,000 dollars or more per month, and I will also be discussing the more natural rout that I took with my M.S.
I am a person with Cerebral and Spinal relapsing/remitting Multiple Sclerosis. But that is just the beginning of my story.