Andrea Engel, RN, LMT, CPT

Aesthetic RN, Ashiatus massage therapist, health coach near Rhinelander, Wisconsin.


Probable Multiple Sclerosis – I Inspire Me (2013)

Probable Multiple Sclerosis/I Inspire Me

Today, as I was enjoying the crisp and brilliant fall day from the seat of my road bike, I felt that this is the time to tell my MS story. I hope that by sharing I might inspire others, as that appears to be my calling in this life.

In fall of 2001, I woke up one day just like any other. My feet were “asleep”. You know that pins-and-needles feeling that you get when you lay on your arm? It was like that. Except it did not go away. Over the course of the next few days, it spread upward.

Me in 2000

Let’s rewind just a little bit here. At 5’1” I was about 165# and gaining. I had very little self-control when it came to food choices. I recall many times when I’d bake something for my husband and small children, and proceed to eat it all throughout the day. Not only did I make poor food choices, but I was very sedentary. I had never been physically active. Now, as a mom of three small children, I felt exhausted all of the time. I had very little self-esteem.

The tingling went on up to my waist. Believe me when I tell you, everything was numb from the waist down. Everything. Not only that, but my sense of depth perception was off. I was working part-time as a school bus driver, and one day I backed into a pole due to my depth perception. I quit the job at that time. I had a hard time walking and had to pay a lot of attention, because I wasn’t sure about where my feet were.

This was quite alarming, and I have to thank my mom for helping me through the battery of tests that I went through. Some of it is kind of a fog to me yet. I seem to recall a nerve conductivity test (EMG?), being on steroids, and being scared to death of my future. The definitive test was the MRI, which revealed two active brain lesions. I was started on daily injections for a medication to slow the progression of the disease. I do remember having welts on my welts. I remember looking at mobility options. Mind you, I was in my late 20’s at the time. I prepared myself for the possibility of needing a service dog for stability. I struggled to carry my toddler around and feared losing my balance with him.

Looking back, this was just the wake-up call that I needed. I was obese and unhappy. When  a friend of mine challenged me to see who could lose the most weight by a certain date, I turned to the Atkins diet. I removed grains from my diet. Slowly, my symptoms went away. I started to exercise, first by doing Tae Bo in my living room. It felt good to get my heart rate up! I quit the daily injections and committed to getting my health in order. I called it a healthy denial. I wanted to give MS the big FU.

Followup MRI showed a healing of the lesions which had been active, so I continued to do what I was doing in the way of diet and exercise.
The only time I’ve had a recurrence of symptoms was in 2009. I had reintroduced grains into my diet, thinking I needed them to fuel my new love of cycling. I was under a lot of stress at the time. In 2010 I gave up grains again in an attempt to alleviate irritable bowel symptoms. I have had zero relapses of multiple sclerosis since.

My own theory on it is that for me personally, grains cause systemic inflammation.  It turns out there are many other sources of carbohydrate for fueling my body. This is only my experience, and I realize it does not apply to everyone. It is simply my observation over the years of what works for me.

I fell in love with bicycling in 2007. In 2008 I decided to try our local mountain bike race. I had never been athletic or competitive in my life, so it was a huge step for this former gym-class-skipper. I won my class. I’ve been racing ever since. It has been a growing process, but since I have detached myself from the outcome or awards in my races, it is pure joy. When I think about where I came from and what I have overcome in my life, just the fact that I am out there doing it is a win. That’s all I need. My life is so much richer and fuller in every way since I had my wakeup call.

This may explain to those close to me, why I seem impulsive at times. This also has a lot to do with why I push myself physically and test my limits.

My message is this: There are no guarantees on tomorrow!! You can do and be anything you want to in this life. Now get out there and do it!

“Your adversity is your greatest teacher.” – Paul Chek

24 hour solo mountain bike race, 2013

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