I enjoy a good glazed donut, cheap beer, and saving lives...or at least that's what my Facebook says...
What do my Facebook bio, MS, and diet have to do with each other? Hopefully everything.
I'll start out by explaining my Facebook bio because it sums up who I am. I enjoy a good glazed donut. Anyone who knows me knows one thing for sure... I love carbs. I don't even really like meat, unless it's in Taco Bell's tacos or McDonald's chicken nuggets…and I'm not entirely sure either of those are in the "meat" category. I like my fruit in daiquiris and my vegetables deep fried.
I enjoy a good cheap beer too. The only alcohol I drink is beer and not the trendy brewery craft kind; the cheap "lite" kind. Lastly, I enjoy saving lives. Being a nurse and a mother are the two greatest honors of my life, and privileges I hold close to my heart. I could write multiple articles on how thankful I am for my career and motherhood but I'll spare you the mushy details.
D-Day. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis July 16th, 2019.
If you didn't take a picture did it really happen? Thanks mom.
I started that day off with a Brain MRI at 7am and by the time I pulled into my driveway; the neurologist called with my results, diagnosis, and referral. I was immediately prescribed Vitamin B, Vitamin D, and IV steroids. Less than a month after my diagnosis, I was seen at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. After additional MRIs, vision screenings, and a spinal tap; I left the Mayo Clinic with a confirmed diagnosis of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.
Autoimmune Diet: AKA Granola AF
I cannot stress how unfathomable me attempting the Auto Immune Protocol diet sounded initially. My very limited palate did not take well to a gluten-free, egg-free, diary-free, tomato-free, unprocessed diet. I have spent hours on Pinterest looking up "vegan meals for picky toddlers"; I am the picky toddler. My grocery bill has at least doubled and everything I purchase suddenly has an expiration date. And can I bring up the judgey-mcjudgers out there who roll their eyes and wait for an explanation for why I am attempting to do this diet?
"Why are you on a diet you do not need to lose weight"
"I feel like everyone is jumping on the gluten free bandwagon"
"You don't look like you have anything wrong"
"Are you sure it's good for you to keep all of that stuff out of your diet?"
My typical response: 'Yeah I am just trying it out to see if I get more energy and less body aches..."
What I really want to say: "Yeah I have lost weight because I have a lesion on my hypothalamus and I am trying to fix this lesion and other lesions by not fueling my body with food that causes more lesions..."
So why give up the donuts and try the autoimmune diet?
My son and I
My hope is that changing my diet is the first step in the right direction for treating/controlling my MS. There is currently no cure for MS and there is also no set treatment. I had a doctor from a local university (NOT mayo clinic) give me a list of medications and tell ME to pick which one I wanted to try... *scratches head*.
Ultimately, I consulted my specialist, Dr. Google Scholar. After much evidence based research (yeah, I said it), I choose to start with the autoimmune diet. The goal behind the autoimmune diet is to avoid foods which trigger inflammation in your body. There are many theories on how inflammation negatively affects your body. In MS, the theory is an inflammatory response is triggered causing your immune system to attack healthy nerve tissue, resulting in permanent damage over time. So avoid all the foods I love, but in return avoid medications. I never thought I would turn my life into a forks over knives documentary...but here I am; it's science damnit.
For those who are also diagnosed and are curious, those who are nosey, or those who just can't sleep... I'll go into a little more detail about my symptoms:
Multiple Sclerosis wasn't a total surprise to me; I was diagnosed with MS years ago by everyone's favorite doctor, Dr. Google. For as long as I can remember, if I turn my head a certain way, I feel an electric shock shoot down my head/neck; Lhermitte's sign. I had chest and leg pains when I was younger that the pediatricians told my mom were growing pains. When those pains continued as an adult, my chest pain was diagnosed as anxiety and my leg pains were diagnosed as sciatica. Since my diagnosis, I have learned those same pains are called an "MS Hug".
My Brain MRI
"Dawson's fingers" a sign of MS seen in my scan
What escalated me to go to the doctor last year? In the beginning of 2019, I noticed when washing my face and when I touched my one-year old's skin, I couldn't feel the skin texture. For example when I wash my face, I can see the exfoliating beads in my face wash, I can barely feel them on my face, but I can't feel them at all on my fingers. That decreased sensation turned into complete numbness/tingling on the right side of my body, inability to lift my right leg up my steps, and intermittent loss of vision. Other major symptoms over the last couple years attributed to my RRMS:
-Intense itching with no rash or explanation: this is a fun one. I remember an old boyfriend actually getting mad at me and me sleeping on the couch because I literally could not stop scratching. It escalated so many times that I went to the doctor and dermatologist; both had no explanation. When I became I nurse I stopped talking about it and stopped asking doctors to investigate it, because I didn't want any weird complaints on my medical history.
-Fatigue/difficulty concentrating: Around the same time the itching started, I started feeling so incredibly lazy. My grades started dropping and I couldn't remember anything. All I wanted to do was sleep. I went from being a morning person to sleeping through my alarm clock. I went from being the most motivated person I know to feeling so lost because I couldn't remember ANYTHING. My mom was being treated for cancer then, and naturally my diagnosis was found to be depression. Medication didn't work and I was told I could not continue in the MSN program I was in at the time. I felt so defeated. Depression diagnosis turned into an ADD diagnosis and nothing really made sense of what happened to me until I got my MS diagnosis.
I remember calling the dean of nursing and practically begging to get back in. I will always remember her saying "studies show students who don't succeed in their first semester will not pass their license exam...we can't allow students in our program who will not succeed on their license exam because it affects the universities passing rates...". Well she was wrong, wrong, WRONG and I will leave it at that...because of the bigger MSN degree holding NURSE and EDUCATOR that I am.
-Back/Leg pain: I fractured my lower back in 2014 while cheering/tumbling at the said university mentioned above. It was easy for me to relate all my back and leg pain to sciatica since breaking my back. Ibuprofen and heating pads work half the time the other half of the time I tie rubber bands around my calves and thighs. When I worked night shift I would wrap the hot hands hand warmers around my back with coban. I found the hand warmer/coban combo to be especially helpful when in labor with my son and only realized it was weird when the nurse was helping me to the bathroom post-delivery and asked me to explain the hand warmers and coban in my hospital bed?
-Other symptoms: Scalp/hair pain, IBS, amenorrhea, and polyuria.
I know there are so many people with and without MS that are so much worse than me. I care for people everyday who are facing so many BIGGER problems. When you are given a diagnosis it reminds you that you are human and you are not invincible. Why did I walk out of the hospital with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis but my patient's brain lesion is brain cancer? I do not understand why things happen how they do. A month after I was diagnosed I was hit head on my an impaired driver on my way home from a work meeting. WHY?? I was literally just told I have MS and now I this?! I'll never forget the paramedic who leaned over my face in the ambulance. "It could be worse".