Thursday, September 18, 2008

New symptom. New opportunity.

Living with a disease like multiple sclerosis, or many others for that matter, can be very unpredictable. One day you feel strong, the next day you don’t. One day you are asymptomatic. The next day you have a new symptom that won’t go away. Diseases are just like life. Every event, every instance falls into one of three categories:

The things we control
The things we influence
The things over which we have no control

I choose to exercise as much influence and control over my disease as I possibly can. Let me explain what I mean by that………

A few months ago, my right hip started to give out. Typically, when this happened I fell down….and I don’t like falling down! I went to see the chiropractor to get an adjustment. I went to the orthopedist and got an x-ray and an MRI. I went to see my neurologist and my physical therapist, too. Since nothing showed up on the x-ray or MRI, the consensus was that the weakness was caused by a weakening of the hip muscles…..caused by MS.

So here is what I did about it: I started exercising my right side. I exercised it at least four days a week. In time, I started exercising my left side too. Now, I exercise five to six times a week. Do you know what happened? My hip got stronger and stopped giving out and I stopped falling down.

About two months later, I started having lower back pains. I saw the chiropractor and the acupuncturist and that helped for awhile. But then, a few weeks later, the pain was back with a vengeance. It was so bad that I could not stand up or walk. I could barely move. At home, I normally use a walker to get around, but for a few days, I used a wheelchair in the house. The chiropractor came to my home. So did the acupuncturist. I was able to move, but only a little. I saw my neurologist and my physical therapist. Again, the consensus was the same: the disease was progressing.

The physical therapist explained it best: my quadriceps (the muscles of the thighs) had become so weak that the way I walked was putting a great amount of stress on my lower back, which wasn’t that strong either. “THAT’S GREAT NEWS” I said. “That’s something I can do something about.”

So I did something about it. I added exercises to my workout to strengthen my ‘quads’, lower back and core. Guess what is happening? I am getting stronger. These new symptoms may be the best thing that has happened to me in these past few years because they have put me in control of how I manage this disease. I am getting stronger, more disciplined and more determined to not allow this disease to overtake me, at least not yet. In fact, the physical therapist calls the exercises we do today “pre-gait exercises.” Pre-gait means “before walking.” Am I going to improve my walking? You bet. Will I be able to walk without a walker? We will see. What I will do is the best that I can.

We may not always have the ability to do something about what is happening with our bodies and our diseases. We can be defeated or energized. We can do all we can to combat what is happening or we can do nothing at all. We can focus on all the abilities that we have lost or focus on all the abilities that we still have. One thing is for sure, we always have a choice in how we respond.

New symptom? Bring it on. Teach me how to respond to it, manage it, beat it and be stronger. It is not easy. But it is my disease, my condition and it is my job to do as much as I can about it for as long as I can……which I plan on doing for a very long time.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.


  1. Michael, I think your message is valuable for daily living in general. I find myself endlessly complaining about the things I can't control instead of focusing on what I can control.

    Though not as debilitating, I have rheumatoid arthritis and when I have a flare, it's easy for me to feel sorry for myself. I'll try to keep your wise words in my heart and in my mind. Keep up the good work...and keep reminding us of what is really important in life...sincerely, Eileen Gelon

  2. Michael;

    From every adverse situation there comes a benefit. Always look for the good. The glass is always half full never half empty.

    Your condition and your positive attitude toward your condition is very inspirational. Thank you and much success

  3. Michael -

    Your words truly are inspiring, but not just your words - you! I've never seen you without a smile or a kind word.

    Your ability to see the new opportunity in a challenge - or to see the bright side, as they say, is a amazing and it is a gift! To yourself, and to those around you. I'm sure you touch many more lives than you will ever be aware of!

    I was just telling someone the other day that there is a lot in this world we can't control, but what we can control is our response!

    I love how you approach your life without anger, blame, resentment, etc. Your positive outlook surely serves you better!! Thank you for your inspiration. I actually needed that today! Debi Wilson

  4. Hi Michael, as always your latest post is insightful and inspiring. I exercise to help control my diabetes. In the last month I have been unfocused and lazy, putting what I can control health-wise on the back burner saying I'll go to the gym tomorrow. You've kicked me in the butt (great "exercise" for your knees! ;) with a smile. Thanks for being you and sharing your sunshine. *HUGS* Lisa

  5. Mike-
    Your blog is truly inspiring. I read whenever I need your positive inspiration. It is like reading a good fortune cookie - you make it part of your life. Because my wife Marcela & son Noah are sick today with the flu, I imagine their struggle to get well, and I am forwarding your blog to them so they can take care of themselves and feel positive - it will really make a difference to them. I am so happy to have you as an inspiration in my life.