My son is a Crossfit trainer... Last week he attended a training camp in Bolder CO. At the end of training, one of the trainers was closing out the training and she said, "Crossfit is not for the elite but all walks of life." ...at this point she went into speaking about you! ...My son told me it was like God Slapped him in the face. You see, his step Mom, my Wife, has MS and she is mostly confined to a wheel chair. This has happened within the last 5 years. It pains me to see her like this. I love her with all my heart and will do anything for her. Maybe I am being selfish, but I would love to be able to dance with her again.
My question is where do we begin? ...
Please help me help my wife.
God Bless you.
As for the writer's question, "Where do we begin?"... I will do my best to share what has worked on my journey towards healing. I have to start with saying that I had no real plan. I had no idea that Crossfit would be the beginning of this healing journey. As I shared in my story, I really had no hope that Crossfit would last for me. Don't get me wrong, I knew I would like it. From everything my husband told me about it, Crossfit sounded like something I would love. But, I thought it was too late for me. I don't know why I even showed up that day to watch and ask questions about it. Was I trying to torture myself with just the idea of it? A dream that would never come to be? But there I was... and here I still am. As of today, I have been doing Crossfit for almost exactly 2 1/2 years. Thank you Lord (and of course, IN YOUR FACE MS!!!).
I had no confidence when I walked in those doors. I was actually embarrassed. But I went through the on-ramp classes that introduced the movements and goals. And I spent the first year of Crossfit waiting. Waiting to get sick again. Waiting for the ball to drop. Waiting for the dream to end.
I could barely air squat. Picking up a barbell was downright embarrassing. Jumping? Oh dear Lord why was I doing this? I felt so stupid... but I kept coming back. The people were so genuinely encouraging. And then I began to hear other people's amazing stories. And a few months in, as I was waiting to be sick again, I was introduced to the Paleo diet.
You see, for over 12 years, I was struggling with relapsing/remitting MS and literally getting crippling sick every 3 to 5 months. Things were getting worse each year and three months before I started Crossfit, I was walking with a walker and being told to prepare for a wheelchair full-time as it looked like I was headed for Progressive MS. But faith, Crossfit and Paleo changed my life.
So here are my steps on where to begin that have worked for me.
1. Prayer. Hey, I am Christian and I am not ashamed to give God complete glory for directing my footing in all of this. Praying for God's healing and guidance did not come in the way I expected, nor did it happen in the time I expected. But He answered. He always does. I wanted God to "magically" heal me. He could. He's God. But God had another plan. His plan included me participating in the healing process. This wasn't "let go (do nothing) and let God (do everything)"... this was "Trust God and get off my butt and do something." As a mom of 6 kids, it wasn't like I was sitting around watching soaps and eating bon-bons. But I wasn't taking the time to be informed. I was just letting the doctors tell me what to do... and I gave in. I figured, this was my lot... suck it up. But then, things changed... and I had no clue that God was at work preparing to change my life when I walked in the doors of Crossfit NWA in April of 2011...
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.-Psalm 28:7
2. Information. Whether you have relapsing/remitting MS or Progressive MS (or any auto-immune disorder), watch this video By Dr. Wahl, who had Progressive MS and WAS confined to a wheelchair: MINDING YOUR MITOCHONDRIA. She also has a website that I recommend HERE. And yes, I do take the vitamins, etc., that she recommends.
3. Determination. I literally took my health into my own hands and did my own research because nothing else was working. I made hard, out-of-my-comfort-zone changes that have made a huge difference. These changes included researching the Paleo diet and throwing out everything in my eating habits that did not measure up to Paleo standards. I set my mind on the reality that I could choose to contribute to my healthcare by watching what I eat, keeping my stress level in-check and staying active. For me, staying active is Crossfit. And it is absolutely true that anyone can do Crossfit. It is infinitely scalable. I have witnessed, time-and-time again, people who are not supposed to be able to do Crossfit, doing Crossfit. You know... like me.
4. Diligence. Changing habits is hard and your health is not going to change overnight. Find your motivation. What's mine? If I eat this crap food, I might loose the ability to walk again. What is yours? I don't know, but find it and stick with it. Let it haunt you. Let it motivate you. And then decide, day-after-day, to stick with it.
5. Crossfit, to survive, but also to thrive. To survive means "to carry on despite hardships; to persevere and continue to exist as you remain functional or usable." But to thrive is that step beyond. It means "to make steady progress; to prosper and flourish." If Crossfit isn't your thing, find something to keep you active. I do genuinely understand that even though anyone can do it, it is not for everyone. Even after I had bone surgeries that landed me in a wheelchair, I did Crossfit. And there is seriously nothing quite like the community and accountability in Crossfit. I've seen videos of people doing Crossfit with missing limbs. There really are no excuses. What I find both humbling and hilarious is that if you google "no excuses," in the images, you will find a picture of me in the wheelchair with both legs in casts doing Crossfit. It was a picture posted on the Crossfit mainsite in 2011. I am wearing a bright blue shirt and doing a strict shoulder press.
I have also unexpectedly gotten to compete in the Crossfit Open two years in a row along with other Crossfit competitions. The most memorable and all-time favorite competitions for me was this past summer with my 18 year old son, Brandon. We were a two-person team competing RX just before he headed off to college. Brandon finished in the top 10% in the world in the Crossfit Open this year, so it was quite humbling and very special to me that he would compete with his mother. What was even sweeter was that it was his idea and not mine.
A personal milestone competition that also means a lot to me is the annual Crossfit Springfield's HOA six person team competition coming up in less than a month.The first one I went to was in the fall of 2011. I was a spectator who could barely stand up because I had just gotten out of the wheelchair from bone surgeries. I watched this competition and thought how I wished I could do something like that... never really thinking it would ever happen. But in 2012, I got to compete at HOA and on the 3rd day of competition in the last WOD, every team had to climb a wall after finishing some very tough movements. I climbed that last wall, but to me it wasn't just a wall to climb to finish a WOD (workout of the day). It was symbolic of the barriers I have had to break through and climb to get where I am today, by the grace of God. This will be my second year to compete at the HOA and I am so blessed that God would be so gracious in allowing me to actually live this dream.
But it doesn't stop there. Remember when I wrote above that when I first started Crossfit, I could barely do an air squat? ...I am so excited that as of today I can now do a 175 lb front squat; a 265 lb dead-lift; that I am 13 seconds away from a sub-5 Rx FRAN; I still suck at double-unders, but I am doing them and I won't give up trying; I can climb a 10 foot rope 6 times in 2 minutes; I can do bar muscle-ups and ring muscle-ups; I can bench press 150 lbs; I can do 35 pull-ups unbroken; I can do Pistols (one-legged butt-to-heel squats) and can Overhead Squat 135 lbs. No, this isn't Crossfit Game impressive... but for a 125 lb, almost 45 year old woman with 6 kids battling MS ...all of this was unexpected icing that went and continues to go far beyond what I ever thought possible.
In 2012, my MRI showed no active lesions. In the summer of 2013, my MRI showed one active lesion so I made some changes to my eating habits and vitamins and became even more diligent. And I feel amazing! And if I look back on the MRI's since 1999 when I was diagnosed and my brain became covered with irreversible damage from the multiple lesions that have scarred my brain from before I started Crossfit and Paleo, I would say this path I am on is a win-win.
And no, I am not on any MS medications. I threw them all out in 2011 after I went Paleo because I just had to see for myself if it would work. This is not something I recommend. That's definitely a personal decision, of which I have no regrets.
For those with MS or a loved one struggling with MS (or any auto-immune disorder), I can't promise what has worked for me will work for you. I can say that it was worth the risk and I am not the only one who has experienced substantially positive, life-changing health benefits. It isn't easy to change your habits. But for me, the initial challenges and risks have proven to be far more valuable than I ever thought possible.
You see, God answered my prayer in His time and on His terms. I'm actually very thankful He didn't answer in the way I expected. Why? Because what He has done, not only for me physically, but also spiritually is far beyond anything I ever expected. I just wanted to walk and be active with my family without the fear of being confined to a cane, walker or wheelchair. But God... He had other plans. Apparently His plan includes things like handstand push-ups and doing Crossfit with my family.
God heals. I do believe He heals miraculously; sometimes wanting participation from us (as in my case), sometimes through the God-given skills of doctors and sometimes rather dramatically and seemingly mysteriously. I have experienced and witnessed God's healing hand and believe whole-heartedly in the power of prayer (Philippians 4:6-8; John 15:7; Romans 8:26; James 4:3; Luke 12:6-7; Psalm 34:17-19). Regardless of how He heals, He alone should get the glory. I used to be a strong cessationist, but now see that God cannot be confined to a box.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
God knows us, He created us, watches over us, cares intimately for us in every detail of our lives (Psalm 139), so, here is my prayer for the man and his wife who contacted me:
I genuinely plead for God's healing hand upon your wife. I pray that you two will not only dance together again, but that you will give God glory and proclaim what He has accomplished in your lives to others. No trial is too difficult for God and no prayer is too hard for God to answer, so as you wait for His perfect timing to heal your wife's body in the way He sees fit, I pray you stand in His truth, fully trusting that He will do this great and mighty work of healing. I also pray that you offer up continual thankfulness as God does hear and does answer. With great expectation as we boldly approach God's throne of grace on your wife's behalf, asking, seeking, pleading and persistently knocking (Luke 18:1-8; Matthew 7:7-11), we place our confidence in the Lord, knowing that He will provide this family with divine strength and wisdom to direct their footing in the way they should go as You, God, work all things together for their good. It is in God alone we seek refuge. Bless this family Lord and please restore health and strength as they commit their way to You.