An old saying that seems to be taken for granted a lot is ‘at least you have your health.’ It doesn’t sound like much until your health takes a blow. Even simply not feeling up to par from a cold or flu can make one appreciate that saying. Think of all the things that get put on hold when we are sick or just not feeling well. I hate getting the flu because it gets in the way of me doing many of the thing that I enjoy and goals that I want to accomplish. Now imagine what it must be like for those who have something more serious to contend with. I can because I’ve been dealing with a couple of serious issues for many years.
I’m not one to complain and rarely talk about my challenges even if it comes up in conversation unless I think my experience can help someone else. It’s not that I’m ashamed of them, I’m just a private person and there are other things that I enjoying talking about more. My two health challenges are asthma and arthritis. The asthma I’ve had since 1998 from second-hand smoke and the arthritis was diagnosed in 2012, a complication from a car accident in 2010.
My car was struck from behind and push into the car ahead of me. I was off of work for a month. It should have been longer to give me proper time to heal, but that was all of the leave time that I had saved up and I had a family to support. It took five months of daily chiropractic visits to get my spine close to straight. When the doctor showed me the x-rays, I was in shock. My spine was in a huge ‘S’ shape and he said that a ligament in my neck was damaged. All I knew was that every muscle in my body, including the ones in my face, were in searing pain 24/7. Even taking the Vicodin and Ibuprophen that the ER attendant gave me didn’t do a thing to help me. They didn’t even make me sleepy, which I’m a light-weight when it comes to meds and alcohol. Those pills should have knocked me out but the trauma my body had suffered and the amount of pain that I was in more than counteracted their affects. Sitting, even on a couch, was nearly impossible. Anything longer than 20 minutes and the pain was unbearable. Returning to my desk job was painful at best but bills must be paid.
After five months of daily visits, the chiropractic therapy helped. I was still having problems sitting and had a mountain of foam padding on my chair at work. That worked for a while until it didn’t. I had tried every kind of medication for nerve pain in an effort to alleviate the chronic pain that was worsening and the numbness in my arms and legs. You’d think that numbness would counter the pain, but this is the kind that brings a pain of it’s own. None of the medications helped. Because my muscles were constantly locked up, my asthma worsened. I tried to exercise, but even walking became difficult.
Before the car accident, I had a ton of energy and strength and could do everything I needed and wanted to in a day with no problem. I was fit and active and all was good, even with the asthma. After the accident, it was like I had been stripped of my super-powers. It’s unreal how one thing can have such an impact and change your life so dramatically. I could only do one task a day and had to choose what needed to be done the most. I’m miles better today than I was then, but things like washing the dishes still give me problems. I can’t sit on hard chairs or go on long car rides because that aggravates my back. For the longest time, I couldn’t even go to the movies because the chairs in the theater were not soft enough. Now, I’m a better but I still have to be careful and not push myself.
At the beginning of 2014, I had to quit my job. After years of dragging myself to work every day, my body just couldn’t take it anymore. I had abused Ibuprophen to the point to where it was causing health issues of it’s own. A couple of times, I had been offered stronger pain meds from my doctors but I refused to go down that path. I had seen many go that route only to find that their pain was worse and that they had become addicted to the pain meds and had to combat the addiction on top of the chronic pain. As for me, when I wasn’t working, I was laid up in bed. That had become my life; work and bed. No fun, no socializing, no doing anything I loved. I love to write, paint, dance, anything artistic and creative but the pain was so intense and draining that I didn’t have the energy or desire to create. Life sucked!
It took a few months of recuperation and just resting before I felt like I had even a little energy. I tried working out on my elliptical but even five minutes on it would have my back locked up for three days. This made me realize that I would have to take things very, very slow and be extremely patient with my body. Not something I’m great at doing. With other people, I have an amazing amount of patience, but with myself, especially when I’ve made up my mind to do something, I’m not very patient. In this instance, I didn’t have a choice.
I started with simple tasks around the house, one per day and resting when I felt the need. Not sitting all day and not having the stress of my work environment helped tremendously. After the accident, I knew my working days were numbered, but it’s still a difficult thing to prepare for. Each year since, I have endeavored to add a little more activity to my day. In 2015, I had gotten to the point to where I could go for walks. At first, it was a couple of times a week, but I kept at it and increase the frequency and length as I was able to do so. Switching to a memory foam mattress and pillow also helped a lot. These changes allowed me to get more rest, something that had been seriously missing for the past few years. That much needed rest helped in the healing process.
This year, I started out walking every day and had gotten to where I could walk ten miles a day at a pace of ten minutes a mile. When that became less of a challenge, I decided to add jogging to the routine. This past Friday, May 12th, I ran 1 and 1/2 miles! Not all at once. My route is seven miles and I jogged 1/4 mile out of the first six and used the seventh mile to cool down. In addition to that, I didn’t have to use my rescue inhaler at all and no pain meds of any kind. I was so excited to accomplish this. The first time I attempted jogging, I felt like I had 1,000lb weights in my shoes and had to use my rescue inhaler afterward. It was not as easy as I thought it was going to be and I was going to have to be extremely patient with myself. That part seemed impossible as the inside of me wanted to run fast and free like a wild mustang. I have never been much of a runner but the there’s nothing like the thought of never being able to do something again to make you want it and I was craving to run. But I had to grow my progress slowly as not to damage the health and fitness that I had just gained back.
I chose a set walking circuit of 1 mile with a terrain that included inclines and declines as well as flat stretches. Speed walking allowed me to rebuild my muscles and work on breath-control. As my body got used to things, I increased the distance, speed and frequency. I also took days off or shortened my workout if I was having an off day. During the winter months, I put on some favorite music and danced around the house to it. That helped work muscles not normally worked by walking and helped increase my overall flexibility. Because I have arthritis in my upper and lower back, sit-ups and crunches are not possible. Dancing, especially to Latin music, helps strengthen your core without having to do floor exercises. When the weather is too bad to walk, I workout with the Wii sports games. Every bit counts. I still don’t use heavy pain meds and rarely use Ibuprophen or Tylenol unless I’m in a lot of pain. I have found that taking multivitamins daily and extra vitamin C and D on the more challenging days is enough. One of my doctors had recommended the extra vitamin D, and it does help with muscle pain, but it’s not the kind of vitamin you can a lot of every day. It stores up in you. Vitamin C does not. I have also found CBD oil to help with the inflammation and in turn, also helps my asthma. It doesn’t get me high and tastes like crap, but even the low-dose over the counter stuff works. I don’t have a special diet, but cutting out complex carbs like bread, rice, cereal and the like has also helped boost my metabolism naturally.
As for my asthma, I pushed to get tested for allergies and getting shots for those has helped tremendously. I also take Dulera and Singulair for it. It has taken time, but they all eventually built up enough in me to get me to where I am today. I’ll never be 100% but I can be better, healthier and more fit, and will continue to strive for that. I’m not the best at blogging every day but I will try to update this one. I hope that my story helps you and if you feel like sharing your story or using this blog as a cyber workout buddy, that would be awesome. Just remember to be kind to yourself, be patient and never give up!