Friday, May 24, 2013

This deserves its own post

From this month's treadmill journal:

Friday May 24, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:18:20.
Actual time: 1:42:00.

8 laps, 4 laps. First 2 miles: 52:05. Another milestone. I'm pretty amazed that I was finally able to do 2 miles without a break. After 6 laps, I didn't think I had enough left to do more than another half a lap or so, but then I flipped a switch in my head and told myself I could keep going. At some point during the next lap, I imagined VRW was there with me. She wasn't doing anything; she was just there. And as unimportant as that may seem, just thinking about her is what got me through the last lap and a half, similar to how her actual presence always seems to make me do things I shouldn't be able to do. I think that was a defining moment in my attempt to beat MS because it made me realize that it really does make a difference sometimes to believe you can do something you realistically shouldn't be able to do. Also, it provided a little more support for my suspicion that having certain people in your life can help you heal and recover. These feelings will stick with me and help me overcome even more obstacles as I continue.

2 miles is 8 laps. If you haven't followed my walking journals, the farthest I have been able to walk without a break before today was 6.4 laps, and that was way back on April 20. Since then, the best I've done is 6 laps, and that has only happened twice. Usually I can't walk more than 4 laps before having to take a break, although I do make it 5 laps occasionally.

I wonder if this improvement is a result of playing my drums, because I just started playing my drums a week ago. If you're not aware of this, playing a drum set uses a lot of leg muscles--particularly hip flexors--which is precisely why I started playing my drums after nearly 10 years of inactivity. I haven't been using my left leg (for the hi-hat) as much as I'd like to, but I've been working my right leg a ton (on the bass drum pedal). Since my left leg is my bad leg, I might start playing left-footed (which means I'd use my left foot for the bass drum pedal and my right foot for the hi-hat pedal).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Music as medicine

I recently added 45 CDs of music to my phone, joining the 24 albums that were already there from downloads. I hadn't listened to most of these CDs in years, but I decided to put a lot of them in my phone since I've been listening to music through my phone almost all day every day lately. As you may have guessed, I was getting sick of listening to the same 24 albums over and over.

As I've listened to a big chunk of my old music library, I've experienced music in a new way. That is, many of these songs have tempted me to play along on my drums, which I used to do very well. However, nowadays I can't play drums for shit. So although I remember very vividly how it once felt to play along with many of these songs, right now I wouldn't be able to hack it.

It's been years since I've had any interest in playing my drums, so the fact that I've wanted to play them at all is a big story in itself, particularly considering this motivation seems like a direct result of the Wahls diet. Just feeling motivated to play my drums feels like another huge step forward in the life of someone who had lost almost all motivation to do anything just a few months ago.

I'm not sure exactly when I last played my drums, but it must have been nearly 10 years ago. Consequently, I've long since lost whatever chops I may have once possessed. Also, thanks to the MS lesions in my brain and spinal cord, my limbs no longer do what my brain tells them to do. That includes both my arms and legs, but especially my legs. Still, I remember how it feels to play a whole bunch of the 500-ish songs I've just started listening to for the first time in forever, and I feel driven to make my arms and legs do it again.

So I picked up a pair of sticks Sunday and started playing on my snare drum for a few seconds as I took a break from the treadmill.

"Playing" is not really the best word to describe what I did to the drum. In fact, for that moment, I was probably the worst drummer I've ever heard. Even though it felt like I was playing a decent double-stroke roll, the sounds coming from the drum were hideous. I didn't think about it very hard; instead I just quit. But as I think back to that moment, it's confusing because I don't know if the hideous noise was a result of lost chops or lost neurological function.

So anyway, I feel like I might start trying to play my drums soon. Probably just a bass, snare, hi-hat, and ride cymbal (and maybe a crash cymbal, too). Playing the drums, regardless of whether I suck, should be a great way to exercise both my body and my brain, which hopefully will help me re-wire my brain and effectively reverse the course of my MS. Constant use of my feet and legs to work the bass drum and hi-hat pedals should do wonders for my hip flexors and lower leg muscles, particularly because it's natural for me to play eighth notes on the hi-hat with my left foot while I play the ride cymbal with my right hand.

Also, I think just listening to music all the time, particularly through earbuds, is good for me. It forces me to tune out the rest of the world and stay focused, and it probably nudges my brain to work more like my brain is supposed to work. It makes me think in a way that seems good for me. Listening to music through earbuds is kinda like doing puzzles/sodokus in a way (because I'm always trying to figure something out), which I guess you can probably only understand if your brain works like my brain.

If I start playing again, regularly, I envision it making a huge impact on my life, my prospective recovery, and how I deal with MS. Wish me luck.

Update (later the same day): Looks like I'm gonna have to wait to start playing those drums again. My snare drum has a busted lug, which I expected to replace with a lug from a different drum. However, the lugs from the other drums don't fit through the hole in my snare drum's lug casing. So I'm gonna have to make a trip to the drum shop (Columbus Percussion) before I can start playing again. Boo.

Update (May 17, 2013): I got a new lug a couple days ago, along with a new pair of sticks and a good practice pad (12" RealFeel). After playing on the pad a little bit, my playing doesn't sound anywhere near as horrible as it did a few days ago. I can tell the full message from my brain isn't making it to my hands, but it's not too bad, so it will be interesting to see how my playing progresses.

My legs and feet are a totally different story, though, and that's where I probably have the most to gain.

I haven't tried playing my drum set yet, and here's why: A mouse found its way into my bass drum and died. To create a dead-mouseless environment and begin playing the drum, I must first remove one of the drum heads, then get rid of said dead mouse, vacuum the mouse turds, wash/dry the pillow I use to muffle the drum, and finally put the head back on and tune the drum.

So in a couple hours I should finally be able to start playing my drums, which I'll probably limit to a bass drum, a snare drum, a hi-hat, a ride cymbal, and maybe a crash cymbal. If I play regularly enough in the near future, my usage of the bass drum pedal and hi-hat pedal will probably become a phenomenal workout for my hip flexors, as well as for many of my leg muscles. And that's just the beginning of how I think playing my drums might help me combat MS.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

3 month update

Sorry I never posted a thorough one-month or two-month update. You may be wondering: After following the Wahls diet for three months, are there any signs that I may be reversing my MS? Or do I at least feel better than I felt before starting the diet?

I can't say the diet has led to any clear reversal of MS symptoms (yet), but I can say for the first time in 2-1/2 years that I'm clearly doing better. Most notably, my brain works much better now than before I began the diet. It's like I'm not even the same person. As you'll read below, almost all of my most serious issues have improved at least a little bit, and a couple of them have improved in life-changing ways. Furthermore, NOTHING has declined. And of course, I have no side effects to deal with because I choose not to take any prescription poison for MS.

My psychological, emotional, cognitive, and general mental improvement has been phenomenal, in more ways than I'll ever be able to explain here, and it just keeps getting better. This improvement began within a few days of starting the Wahls diet, and this improvement alone is reason enough for me to stick with the Wahls diet indefinitely, even if I never see the physical improvement I'm hoping for.

To attempt to show how I feel I've improved, I'll revisit the ways MS has affected me most over the last couple years, as listed in a blog post I published the day I began this diet. I will list each of those things and discuss whether or not I've experienced any improvement over the last three months.

Throughout the remainder of this post, bold text represents an issue that seriously affected me for an extended period prior to February 1, 2013. The normal text following the bold text explains if or how things have changed.

Here we go.

I almost always need a cane when I walk, even around the house. --> Within a couple weeks of beginning the diet, I stopped using my cane around the house, and I still don't use it around the house. I really don't know if this is a result of the diet (and exercise) or if it's all in my head. Regardless, if I hadn't begun the Wahls diet, I'd almost certainly still be using my cane around the house (and falling and breaking bones).

In a few words: I'm doing a little better.

I get worn out very easily if I do any kind of physical activity; even cooking. --> This has improved. I'd say the improvement is mostly a result of the diet, but I think regular exercise has contributed as well. However, if not for the diet, I would not have the motivation or energy to exercise.

In a few words: I'm doing a little better.

My balance is crap. --> My balance is better. This is a direct result of exercising, which is a direct result of extra energy and motivation, which is a direct result of the diet. (See a trend?)

In a few words: I'm doing a little better.

I don't have much feeling in my feet, and I've also lost a noticeable amount of feeling in my hands. --> I'm pretty sure there is more feeling in my feet now. I estimated on February 1 that the feeling in my feet was about 50% of what it used to be, and now I'd say it's about 55% to 60%. I can't say I have gained any feeling in my hands, although it does seem a little easier for me to write than it was a few weeks ago. It's hard to tell for sure with my hands because my hands have never been very bad; just bad enough to notice something isn't right with them.

In a few words: I'm doing a little better.

My legs feel like they weigh a couple hundred pounds each. --> They don't feel that way now. They still don't feel right, and sometimes they feel heavy, but they certainly do not feel like they used to feel.

In a few words: I'm doing a little better.

Difficulty going to the bathroom. --> As I mentioned in the previous post, I can now stand in front of the toilet and empty my bladder without having to grab walls and fixtures to hold myself in place. This is clearly a result of stronger hip/core muscles, which is a result of exercise, which is a result of greater motivation and energy, which is a result of the diet.

Another issue I have with urination is getting it to start, then maintaining a consistent flow. Not always, but very frequently. This is why, as I mentioned in the previous post, it is important for me to be able to have a hand available to aim, instead of having to use both hands to hold on to walls and fixtures. Also, it's hard for me to hold it. I get very little warning when I have to pee. As soon as I start feeling it, it's best for me to take care of it.

In a few words: I'm doing a little better.

Long-term optic neuritis in my left eye. --> Unfortunately this has not improved. There have been times when I thought it may be improving--when maybe it seems better for a few days--but it always ends up letting me know it's still around. This is the one area that I feel may eventually show clearly whether the diet is helping my body repair itself physically, considering inflammation of the optic nerve cannot be helped by exercise. So if I ever report that my optic neuritis is gone, that will be the day you'll want to start taking me really seriously, because I've been dealing with this episode of optic neuritis since March 2011, and I'm certain it's never going to fully heal on its own.

In a few words: I'm not doing better, but I'm not doing worse.

Horrible, unnatural-feeling mood swings. --> The mood swings are gone. This change is clearly a result of the diet, as the change was drastic and almost immediate. Specifically I'd say the change was a result of my twice-daily smoothies, because when I go several consecutive days with only one daily smoothie, my mental state regresses a little. This has happened a couple times, and I've corrected it each time by making sure I consume two smoothies each day.

In a few words: I'm doing life-changingly better.

Constant mild pain in my upper legs, hip muscles, and lower back. --> I still notice this occasionally, or maybe even regularly, but it's nothing like it was before. Or maybe my attitude has changed enough to make it seem less noticeable than before. Also, it's now probably caused by sore muscles from exercise.

In a few words: I'm doing a little better.

Cold feet. Purple, with small raised white spots. --> This kinda fluctuates, so it's hard to say if I've seen any improvement. The white spots are mostly gone right now, but it won't surprise me to see them again next winter.

In a few words: I may be doing a little better.

Knees sometimes give out unexpectedly. --> I've probably made a lot of progress in strengthening the muscles that keep my knees from giving out, but I still don't feel 100% confident that I can trust my knees to be there for me when I'm not using my cane. Fact is, my nerves are responsible for my knees giving out, not my muscles. The muscle is there. It just doesn't always get the message from my brain to do its job.

In a few words: Not necessarily better, but definitely not worse.

Difficulty navigating stairs; mostly down. --> Strangely I'm drawing a blank when I try to recall if navigating steps has become any easier. Since I can't say for sure, I guess I have to be safe and say there has been no noticeable improvement.

In a few words: Not necessarily better, but definitely not worse.

Low energy and motivation. --> As I've already indicated in a few places above, this is another area where I've seen dramatic improvement. I was useless on January 31, but within a few days of beginning the Wahls diet things were already changing, as is evident in the fact that I wrote eight blog posts over the first two weeks of February. After two weeks on the Wahls diet I had the motivation and energy to start walking on the treadmill almost every day. This energy and motivation has fluctuated a bit over the last three months, but I'm starting to understand things well enough to keep it in check and recognize when I'm doing things that decrease my energy and motivation.

In a few words: I'm doing considerably better.

Rarely feeling full after eating. --> This is frustrating and hard to explain or understand. Even though it seems like this could be very MS-related, I have the feeling it's not.

In a few words: Still giving me trouble.

Shaking. --> If you asked me to list all the MS-related issues I experience regularly, I doubt that shaking would make the list right now. There are times when I get shaky, but I don't think it is very common anymore. It seems to happen mostly during physical therapy, when my physical therapist has me stand on unstable surfaces that force me to use muscles I almost never use, or after I've exercised and my muscles are sore and tired.

In a few words: I seem to be doing considerably better.

Excessive scalp regeneration. --> Even though I don't consider this MS-related, I was hoping the diet would make a difference in this area, but it hasn't happened yet. There have been times when I thought it was improving, but it hasn't.

In a few words: No improvement.

Toenail fungus. --> Although toenail fungus may be totally unrelated to MS, my toenail fungus seems to be improving. Probably because I've been eating very little food that feeds fungus. It's tough to know for sure if my toenail fungus has improved because it takes time for healthy toenails to grow in and replace unhealthy toenails. I should have a better idea in a few months.

In a few words: Seemingly better, but the jury is still out.

Bump/sore in my inner gums. --> This is not better, but it also has nothing to do with MS. I only mentioned it because I hoped the diet might help.

In a few words: No improvement.

If you made it this far, then I suppose I can trust you to read the next several paragraphs, which are very blunt and contain a lot of personal information that's not real easy to share with anyone, much less total strangers. (VRW: If you see this and it upsets you in any way, please let me know. I certainly did not intend to upset you by writing this stuff, but I recognize that some of it could be upsetting to you.)

Not much sex drive, nor much feeling in "my thing." --> If you must know, I can get it up, just as I could get it up three months ago. Still, it doesn't respond like it once did because my nerves just don't deliver the full message from my brain (or something like that). Also, considering all the other MS crap I'm dealing with, sex has not been one of my top priorities for a while, which means it might actually work better than it seems to work. Fact is, I don't have anyone, and I'm probably never going to have anyone, so it kinda doesn't really matter. Interestingly, though, there is someone who has found her way into my heart over the last couple months, and I think she could probably do wonders in this department if she chose to. And even though I haven't told her how I feel, I think she knows. Strangely, it even seems like she feels something for me, too. But I know the score, and my score is 0 (zero), particularly because one of us is bound to a code of ethics, which prohibits any kind of personal relationship with the other, even though a personal relationship would probably be real good for both of them. So considering I have no real prospects in this department, it's tough to speculate how well I might be able to do the job. And I guess the only real point I had to make in this paragraph, in no uncertain terms, is that my dick doesn't feel numb like it did three months ago, and that's a good thing.

In a few words: Probably a little better.

Note: I'd like to be loved and I'd like to have somewhat regular sex with someone who loves me, seeing how I'm human and everything, as well as the fact that I've been deprived of those things most of my life. I'm absolutely certain that genuine love and a sex life with someone who loves me would be very good for my emotional health as well as my physical health. Y'know, the kind of thing that gives your body reason to wanna walk again and be able to work. But it doesn't necessarily have to be romantic love or a sexual relationship.

Almost every week during the hour I spend in physical therapy, it's clear that simply being around my therapist is very good for me. My body works better when I'm around her, and I'm pretty sure she is aware of it, considering: 1) there has been at least a couple times when I've been able to walk very well around her, without my cane, and 2) the genuine surprise I've shown after being able to walk like that. Her PT guidance is the best I could hope for, but that's only half of what I get from her during our weekly sessions. I also get an hour with someone who seems like a potential dear friend who seems to understand me like maybe no one else can. I feel like I can tell her just about anything without feeling remotely awkward. I love being around her, regardless of whether there is any prospect for love or sex with her. Being around her makes me a better person, and being around her helps my body heal. And although it's very hard for me to allow myself to believe I possess anything she needs in her life, I truly feel like maybe she does see something in me. I need to figure out a way to become friends with her when it's all over.

I don't need love or sex in the same way most other people need them, yet I absolutely need both of these things in a totally different way. It's tough knowing I'll probably never receive either love or sex for the rest of my life, but I try to find reasons to believe someone may someday see something in me that I cannot allow myself to expect anyone to see. I make believe my physical therapist will become my friend after I run out of physical therapy sessions, and that maybe her friendship will grow into something bigger than friendship. But I do nothing about it because... that's a whole other post right there. Yet, even though I am emotionally rock solid, I sit here with tears rolling down my cheeks as I write this because I know there's nothing I can do except need what I can't have, then try to make myself believe I don't need it. And even though I can handle this pretty well most of the time, this is a huge obstacle, because, as I said, everyone needs to be loved at some point in life. And in my case, finally feeling loved may be the biggest factor deciding whether or not I ever recover from MS.

I tell you all this stuff with full knowledge that my daydreams may sound pretty ridiculous, perhaps unethical, and maybe impossible. But I've already accomplished things that most people thought were impossible, and sometimes ethics only get in the way of their ultimate objective (especially in the modern medical community, where they seem to be more concerned with appearing professional and ethical than they are with helping people heal). I have a pretty good track record with doing impossible things, and there's a reason for that. It will happen again, but only if I expect it to happen, and only if I get a little help in a few important areas.

This all seems hopeless right now, but I'm gonna figure out a way to get what I need, because maybe my life depends on being loved. Maybe this shitty disease is exactly what I needed to finally force me to figure out how to get what I've never known how to get. And honestly, I think I'm now much more worthy of being loved than I ever was when I could do things like walk across a continent in under 7 months, or pay for things.

Obviously I'm dealing with a lot conflicting emotions and whatnot in this department.

Oh, and here's a very important bit of information: None of the improvement I've just written about has anything to do with an invisible person in the sky. If I was relying on invisible people in the sky to help me out here, instead of busting my ass, I would simply have nothing to say (or I'd be dead or well on my way to dying), just like everyone else who relies on invisible people in the sky to heal this kind of illness. And I'm pretty sure Terry Wahls doesn't rely on invisible people in the sky, either. For whatever that's worth to ya.

Treadmill & exercise journal: May 2013

I will update this post each time I exercise this month.

Friday May 3, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:20:40.
Actual time: 1:57:00.

As of today, 3 miles is the new norm, rather than 2 miles. I'm surprised my body made it the full 3 miles today, because it didn't want to do anything. I took a break after 1 mile and after 2 miles. This was not fun at all, but I'm sure it'll pay off.

Saturday May 4, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:23:45.
Actual time: 2:12:00.

The only good thing I can say about today is that I managed to walk the full 3 miles, which is actually pretty impressive considering how I felt. My body didn't want to anything (again). I could only do 2 laps to start, then 2, 3, 2.5, and another 2.5. So 4 breaks, compared to yesterday's 2 breaks. I'm walking mostly at about 2.1 mph, which may actually be harder than walking faster, as it seems to make me use more muscles. Maybe my body is still trying to get used to the extra mile I've added, because I'm hurting right now. Hopefully I'll be performing a little better within a couple days.

Sunday May 5, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 55:42.
Actual time: 1:20:00.

OK, I'm going in the wrong direction. I haven't been able to walk nearly as far before having to take breaks, even though I've been walking slower than before. Everything else seems wrong, too. Maybe my body just hasn't adjusted to the longer walks yet. Maybe I just need to take at least a few days off to let my body recover. I'll probably do that.

Friday May 10, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:17:07.
Actual time: 1:50:00.

6 laps, 3 laps, 3 laps. Felt much better than the last couple days of walking, even though my expectations were low when I started. I need to stop worrying about how long it takes me to walk and start taking longer breaks whenever I feel like I need them. Looks like the extra day or two off turned out to be a good decision.

Saturday May 11, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:22:24.
Actual time: 2:11:00.

4 laps, 3 laps, 3 laps, 2 laps. I'm no longer worried about improving my time or taking fewer breaks. All it did was stress me out, which is exactly what I don't need right now (or ever). I'll keep timing myself, though, because it might be good to be able to look back and see trends.

Sunday May 12, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:26:50.
Actual time: 2:20:00.

4 laps, 3 laps, 3 laps, 2 laps.

Monday May 13, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:13:34.
Actual time: 2:11:00.

3 laps, 2 laps, 3 laps, 4 laps. I have Queensryche to thank for getting me through that last mile (Suite Sister Mary).

Tuesday May 14, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:12:05.
Actual time: 2:13:00.

4 laps, 3 laps, 3 laps, 2 laps. Fifth consecutive day of walking 3 miles. Hurting. I probably won't walk again until Saturday. I'm hoping all this hard work followed by a few days off will show in my endurance next time.

Saturday May 18, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:15:59.
Actual time: 1:52:00.

4 laps, 4 laps, 4 laps.

Sunday May 19, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:16:32.
Actual time: 2:09:00.

4 laps, 3 laps, 3 laps, 2 laps.

Monday May 20, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:18:08.
Actual time: 1:55:00.

5 laps, 4 laps, 3 laps. After walking, I high-stepped another half-lap at 1 mph. Doesn't sound like much, but that was very hard work and required several breaks. My hip flexors couldn't take more than about ten consecutive steps. Short distances of high-stepping might be more useful than walking 3 miles.

Friday May 24, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:18:20.
Actual time: 1:42:00.

8 laps, 4 laps. First 2 miles: 52:05. Another milestone. I'm pretty amazed that I was finally able to do 2 miles without a break. After 6 laps, I didn't think I had enough left to do more than another half a lap or so, but then I flipped a switch in my head and told myself I could keep going. At some point during the next lap, I imagined VRW was there with me. She wasn't doing anything; she was just there. And as unimportant as that may seem, just thinking about her is what got me through the last lap and a half, similar to how her actual presence always seems to make me do things I shouldn't be able to do. I think that was a defining moment in my attempt to beat MS because it made me realize that it really does make a difference sometimes to believe you can do something you realistically shouldn't be able to do. Also, it provided a little more support for my suspicion that having certain people in your life can help you heal and recover. These feelings will stick with me and help me overcome even more obstacles as I continue.

Sunday May 26, 2013
Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:18:10.
Actual time: 2:01:00.

4 laps, 4 laps, 4 laps.

Tuesday May 28, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 48:29.
Actual time: 1:29:00.

4 laps, 3 laps, 1 lap. I planned to do the usual 3 miles, but since my left knee locks every time I take a step, all this walking is starting to punish the hardware behind the knee. Don't know if I'm gonna continue doing all this walking. I have a lot to think about before I make the decision to get back on the treadmill.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A couple recent small victories

Over the last couple weeks I've started noticing a couple positive changes in how I function physically. The first thing I noticed is that I've suddenly become able to take a leak (standing) without having to hold onto walls and other fixtures to keep from wobbling. The other change is that I've unintentionally begun showering much more frequently than I had been.

It may seem strange for me to share details about my peeing proficiency, but you surely have no idea how difficult it had become for me to do little things that used to be easy, like taking a leak without worrying that weakness or spasticity might suddenly cause my body to shift one way or another, thus causing me to momentarily miss my mark. Sometimes you have to be able to manually aim your tool in both a specific direction and at a specific angle if you want to get the job done right. Which is simply not possible if you're using both of your hands to hold on to walls or towel racks. Until the last couple weeks, I had to worry about these things every time I used the bathroom. (OK, almost every time.)

Regarding my showering habits: I must admit that up until the last couple weeks, it had been a long time since I showered more frequently than about twice a week. Since I rarely have a reason to leave the house, and since there's no one in my life who has a reason to get very close to me, I usually don't feel like it's a big deal. I shower when I feel like I need to.

So why do I feel this is worth mentioning?

Because I really don't know why I started showering every day instead of every 3 days or so, but it feels right. Interestingly, this behavioral change began shortly after I resumed walking on the treadmill. It began a week after I started driving myself to physical therapy instead of relying on my mom to drive me.

I'm just trying to connect the dots, since there seems to be dots worth connecting. And right now the dots are telling me that once you make the effort to do things that require a degree of energy, motivation, and dedication that you don't feel like you possess, you naturally become even more motivated and more able to do even more of these things. It's the snowball effect that I've probably mentioned somewhere during the last few months.

And why am I analyzing this?

Because it may not seem like much to you, but it's pretty big to me. Because I intend to walk normal again someday, or maybe even run, even though the "experts" know I will never be able to do either of those things; even though the "experts" know I'm only gonna get progressively worse until I finally die at least ten years ahead of schedule. And when the day comes that I do walk normal again, without a cane, I'll be able to look back at posts like this and remind myself of how the seemingly insignificant victories were actually huge; that big change only happens as the result of many small changes.

I guess the fact that I've driven myself wherever I need to go since early April is another small victory. Before early April, I don't think I had driven at all since mid/late-January (2-1/2 months). Even though I probably could have driven myself during that period, I had kinda become afraid to drive. Some of that fear was realistic, considering my optic neuritis and the occasional inability of my legs and feet to respond quickly to driving demands, as well as the fact that my car has a standard transmission and I don't have what I consider adequate control of my clutch foot.

But some of the fear was what I'm inclined to think of as unrealistic. When your body stops working, like mine has, it feels like your life stops working along with it. And when you start feeling that way, life starts omitting you from everything, keeping you on the outside looking in; causing friends and family not to be able to relate to you or interact with you like they always had before your body started falling apart; when you were the badass who had just finished walking across a continent. It makes you feel worthless and unable to complete even the easiest tasks. It leaves you functionally friendless and very lonely. That's scary, and if you don't make a real big effort to change it, you just get worse and worse, like I did, and it becomes even harder to claw your way back to a new reality, in which you only need to fear things that are actually worthy of your fear.

Regardless of what kinds of realistic or unrealistic fears I may have faced over the last few months or last couple years, this much is true: Mom has not had to drive me anywhere since I began driving myself, and this is yet another of the little victories that are adding up and helping me become a real person again.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Treadmill & exercise journal: April 2013

After going 6 or 7 weeks without walking on the treadmill, I got my lazy ass up and back on the treadmill today. Hopefully this will be the spark that gets me motivated to keep exercising. I think it will be. I'll update this post after each time I exercise during April.

Tuesday April 9, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 49:00 (2.45 mph).
Actual time (including breaks): 1:27:00.

Now that was some work. It makes me better appreciate the improvement I made during the last couple weeks of February as I walked on the treadmill almost every day. I really didn't know what to expect of today's exercise, regarding how long it might take me to walk the usual 2 miles, considering I feel like I've been walking better for the last week or two than I had for the previous 2-1/2 years, while also considering the fact that I hadn't done any walking as exercise for a while.

In addition to the treadmill exercise, I also tried out the Nordic Track bicycle-like thingy my mom bought recently. I pedaled for 8 minutes, doing a distance of about 1.35 miles (I think). Wow, that really seems to work the hip flexors and glutes, which is something I need to do a lot.

Thursday April 11, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 49:22.
Actual time: 1:19:00.

The 8-minute improvement here is a good sign, particularly because I'm still very sore from exercising Tuesday. Aside from finishing 2 miles in 8 fewer minutes than it took me Tuesday, it felt much easier to walk today. I think I should be able to complete 2 miles with only two breaks next time, rather than three breaks, which should decrease my total walking time by possibly another 10 minutes.

Yesterday at physical therapy, my therapist seemed thrilled to see me in so much pain. (I was really hurting.) That is, I think it made her day to realize one of her patients is not only doing the "homework" she assigns but also doing much more. I'm sure most of her patients only do their exercises during their scheduled time with her.

Friday April 12, 2013
Distance: 1/2 mile.
Walking time: 12:30.
Actual time: 12:30.

And then there are the days when your body just says "Fuck you, buddy!" That was today for me. I gave it a try, but it just wasn't happening. I don't get it; that should have happened yesterday, but I did great yesterday. Maybe I'm sick or something.

Sunday April 14, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 50:03.
Actual time: 1:26:00.

Today's time is not indicative of how I felt while I walked. I really wanted to stop after half a mile just like I did Friday, but I forced myself to keep going, and somehow I managed to finish 2 miles. I was in a lot of pain the whole time. It was not fun, and I hope my decision to keep walking through the pain will pay off next time I get on the treadmill. This difficulty might be a result of slacking on the diet a few times lately, which isn't gonna happen for a while.

Monday April 15, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 52:10 (2.3 mph).
Actual time: 1:19:00.

I felt pretty good for the first three laps today; much better than yesterday. The last five laps were very rough, though. Still not as bad as yesterday, but rough nonetheless. Hopefully I'll feel a little more improvement tomorrow, but these last several days have taught me not to get too hung up on trying to meet goals that just aren't attainable sometimes. Sometimes the best you can do is good enough.

Tuesday April 16, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 51:46.
Actual time: 1:16:00.

This was a little easier than yesterday, but it's still tougher than I would have expected if you'd asked me a week ago. Similar to yesterday, I was able to begin by walking a hair over 3 laps before taking my first break. I felt good through that part, but everything after that was pretty tough. Maybe my breaks are too short to allow me to recover; I don't know. I'm just gonna keep walking on the treadmill almost every day and keep hoping I'll see more improvement than I've seen lately. I've been through this enough to know it will happen if I let it happen. I'll be taking tomorrow off since I have physical therapy.

Saturday April 20, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 51:14.
Actual time: 1:05:00.

Today was amazing. Before today I couldn't walk more than 3 laps (o.75 miles) without taking a break, and then everything after that was really hard. But today I started out by walking 6.4 laps (1.61 miles) before taking a break. That's more than twice as far as I could walk without a break before today. Before today, I would have had to take two breaks and then still walk another lap and a half to equal this distance. And that would be about time for my third break. (Actually, I usually have to take my third break after about 6 laps.)

Including my recent walking, as well as the walking I did in February, this is the first time I've been able to walk 2 miles with only one break. Since resuming my walks this month, excluding today, I've had to take three breaks every time I've walked a full 2 miles. Even in February, when I'd been walking almost every day for two weeks, I was never able to walk more than 3.75 laps before taking a break. So needless to say, I'm blown away.

Additionally, I didn't have to hold on to the treadmill with both hands while I walked today, which I did have to do prior to today. Instead, I held on with my right hand and swung my left arm in a natural walking motion, which takes a lot more work than holding onto the treadmill with both hands, as I had done previously (because I had to).

I actually intended to take it easy today and see if walking a little slower might help me walk farther before having to take a break. But after several minutes I ended up increasing my speed to my usual 2.4 mph or so. This is really amazing to me. Can't wait to see how I do tomorrow and in the coming days.

Since last Sunday (6 days ago), I've cut 21 minutes off my total walk time, even though my actual walking time was nearly 2 minutes longer. In other words, I walked slower today than I walked 6 days ago, yet it still took me 21 fewer minutes to finish 2 miles. That's entirely because I only had to take one break, rather than three breaks.

Also, it occurred to me later that I didn't notice any foot-slap while I walked today, which is something that has been going on for longer than I remember.

Sunday April 21, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 50:58.
Actual time: 1:09:00.

Much tougher than yesterday, even though it only took 4 minutes longer. It felt like a lot more work, too, but it was still a lot easier than everything prior to yesterday. I could only do 4.5 laps to start today, and that was really pushing it. Had to take a second break, too, after about 6 or 6.5 laps. Still pretty sore from yesterday, so this was to be expected.

Monday April 22, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 52:12.
Actual time: 1:04:00.

After about a mile today I thought I might be able to do the full 2 miles without a break, until I hit a wall over the next lap. Not a big deal, though. I took a break after 5 laps, then gave myself another very short break after 7 laps. Very good day of walking, but still nowhere near as good as what I did Saturday (even though today's overall time was a minute faster.)

Tuesday April 23, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 51:47.
Actual time: 1:09:00.

Saturday April 27, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 52:12.
Actual time: 1:01:00.

Didn't feel quite as good as last Saturday's walk, but definitely better than every other day so far. I did 6 laps before taking a break, then did the final two laps without another break. Before starting I felt like it was going to be tougher than every day in over the last week. I'm very happy it turned out not to be.

Sunday April 28, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 50:44.
Actual time: 59:00.

Started with about 5.5 laps, then took a break and finished the 2 miles without another break. Nice to have finally done it in less than an hour, but this walk didn't feel as good as yesterday or last Saturday. After walking, I also pedaled a bit; 2 miles in 11 minutes.

Monday April 29, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 50:27.
Actual time: 1:02:00.

This was a little tougher than I'd hoped, but it's not a big deal because I worked pretty hard yesterday and I was still a little sore from it. After my standard 2 miles and a nice break, I walked another mile at 2.1 mph, with no breaks. I think I'm going to raise my standard walking distance to 3 miles after tomorrow (Thursday or Friday, probably).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Not quite 2-month update

No, I haven't quit the Wahls diet, nor have I continued cheating on the diet (until about 6:00 pm today, when I munched on some tortilla chips and a handful of dark chocolate chips). That's the first time I've cheated since the episode I described in the previous post, excluding one other time a few weeks ago when I used maybe 2 tbsp of butter to flavor up some crab meat.

As of today, I've decided to allow myself a little snack (or noncompliant meal) every once in a while. Not just because I deserve a treat now and then, but also because a treat pulls me out of my tunnel vision and allows me to see the bigger picture more clearly. It breaks up the monotony and lessens the extreme pressure I've put on myself. The pressure to never cheat, and the resulting stress, is probably worse for my body than cheating occasionally, so I'm making a minor change to the rules.

OK, so after almost two months on the diet, is the diet helping me physically?

I still can't say for sure that it is helping physcially, but I think it is, even though I've had some rough times since my last post. Here are some things that indicate the diet is making some kind of physical difference:
  • I haven't used my cane around the house for the last five or six weeks.
  • I've been able to carry small loads of firewood from the porch to the fireplace, which I don't think I could do before.
  • It seems like long, hot showers don't wipe me out like they used to. I used to be pretty much unable to walk when I got out of the shower; I felt like I could easily hurt myself just trying to walk 15 feet from the shower to my bed, where I almost always have to rest for at least several minutes after taking a shower. I didn't even have the strength to fasten a towel snuggly enough around me to be sure it wouldn't fall off during the short walk to my bed. Although I still have to relax after showers, I haven't felt any kind of danger in a while (considering I have to walk near the top of the stairs on the way to my bedroom). I'm still pretty exhausted when I get out of the shower, but I don't think it's anything like it used to be.
  • When I curl up my toes (similar to making a fist, but with my feet), I can feel my toes and control them better than I've been able to for at least a couple years.
  • I may add more to this list as things occur to me.
I haven't walked on the treadmill at all this month, but I did begin physical therapy a couple weeks ago. I intend to resume walking on the treadmill soon, and I'm curious to see how this inactivity may have affected my speed and/or endurance.

Early this month I wasn't eating enough, I guess because cooking and preparing food had become tiresome and monotonous. Basically I was drinking only one smoothie each day (in addition to my usual fish or other meat for dinner), instead of the two daily smoothies I had been drinking in addition to my dinner (and sometimes another small meal). My very large smoothies contain coconut water, coconut oil, flax seeds, turmeric, blueberries, strawberries, banana, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, sometimes a handful of pecans or walnuts, and a heavy dose (about 3 oz) of either kale or spinach (because I quickly got sick of eating leafy foods in their natural state). As you can see, I get basically all my leafy foods, color foods, and sulfur foods via the twice daily smoothies. But as you can probably guess, I'm not getting the full "three cups" of those three types of food. I'm probably coming real close to meeting the "three cups" of each food, but I'd say I'm probably closer to 2 cups. Although I know I need to do better, I also know this is much better than eating strictly deep dish pizza every day, like I was before starting this diet.

Being too lazy or too occupied to make two daily smoothies seems to have made a huge negative impact on my mental state. I began thinking a lot about that girl I mentioned early last month, which led to me writing long, semi-obsessive emails to her. (But most of this is probably because she suddenly and unexpectedly initiated a series of friendly emails from afar, which caught me off guard and tempted my heart a little more than I could handle.) Also, I abruptly lost the motivation to continue my near-daily walks on the treadmill. And as you may have noticed (if anyone actually reads this blog), I also stopped updating the blog, even though I had been updating almost daily for a couple weeks prior to March. So it looks like this malnutrition episode did some damage.

Note: I also wasn't putting mushrooms in my smoothies for at least a couple weeks because I'd like to keep from eating foods that feed Candida. Unfortunately, mushrooms were my main source of sulfur, and I'm not really comfortable eating many other sulfur foods yet, aside from garlic. Consequently, I've resumed adding mushrooms to my smoothies.

I can't say for sure that my setbacks were entirely a result of my decreased smoothie intake, but it does kinda seem that way now that I've resumed drinking two daily smoothies for the last week or so. That girl is no longer in my head, and after 8-1/2 years I'm starting to not really care if she ever talks to me again, which is very good because honestly she probably doesn't deserve the huge space in my heart I'd reserved for her for so long. I haven't gotten back on the treadmill yet, but I feel like I may be about to. With physical therapy two afternoons a week lately, as well as the stretches and exercises I'm supposed to do at home, it's harder to make time for the treadmill.

Or maybe my setback was caused by discontinuing my near-daily treadmill exercise. The setback probably wasn't caused entirely by getting off the treadmill, seeing how my brain experienced its most positive change at least a week before I ever started using the treadmill. But I imagine lack of exercise/walking probably played a role in my step backwards.

Realistically my setback was probably caused by the combination of at least a few different factors, including living in a very unhealthy environment. Long story short: I live with my parents. I wouldn't live here if I only had the ability to walk normal (without a cane) or do other minor physical feats most people take for granted, and the only reason I'm allowed to live here is because my parents are just human enough not to force me to be homeless. Also, it often gives Mom a perfect opportunity to let me know just how worthless I am by reminding me that they let me live here when they could just throw my crippled ass out on the streets (which would probably make me happier). They've treated me like I'm a total idiot my whole life, and this treatment will never end, no matter how many amazing things I accomplish. And they both deny treating me this way, of course, even though my dad hates me and has never even kept it a secret. They honestly believe I'm too stupid to be able to figure out things like that, because they decided when I was a kid that I'm absolutely stupid, and no evidence to the contrary will ever change their minds. Even if it was plain as day that my brain could make them a lot of money (which it is), my parents will always see me as a fucking worthless loser.

My dad beat me up when I was a kid and started fights with me after I grew up. There have been many times when he has started fights or vicious arguments with me, then called the cops and lied to them about what happened, specifically in an effort to put me in jail. And some of his lies are direct results of what he learned about the law when he's done this shit before. For example, he learned that if I was a resident of the house, even if I don't own it, the cops couldn't take me to jail over what happened. So the next time it happened, he lied and told them I didn't live here, specifically in an effort to put me in jail after he instigated the whole damn thing. I stay the fuck out of his way and out of his life as much as possible specifically because I know communicating with him will likely lead to this kind of thing. But that's not good enough for him. He gets off on making my life as miserable as possible.

How fucking sick in the head does someone have to be to do that? I don't have kids (and it's beginning to look like I probably never will), but I could never do that to my own kid (or even anyone else's kid, or anyone period, including my sadistic dad), first of all because I would love my kids, even if they didn't have the same interests as me. As far as I'm concerned, I would be obligated to not do that shit. Not because I've been taught that it's the right thing to do, but because I have a brain and a heart that figured it out on their own. Hate is not tough love, and "tough love" isn't any kind of love. "Tough love" is a poor excuse to take out hatred or anger on someone who doesn't deserve it. Love is love, and kids who grow up feeling loved don't have to say the kinds of things I've unfortunately had to say here about my parents. Kids who grow up knowing they're loved don't end up with multiple sclerosis.

How could anyone hate their own kid? And why the fuck would anyone even create a kid if they didn't have every intention to love the kid or at least treat the kid with any kind of decency? These are the kinds of questions I've had going through my head since I was a kid, and I'll never have any acceptable answers.

My dad reminded me today how much he hates me, using no uncertain terminology. Shortly after that, my mom told me I got MS from smoking other people's cigarette butts; that MS comes from a cigarette-butt virus, and implicitly that I gave it to myself through my own stupidity (because it's easier for most people to believe absolutely ridiculous shit like that than it is to look inside themselves and at least try to recognize that maybe they've done wrong and could actually make a huge positive difference in someone's miserable life by trying to right the wrongs they've done to that person). Yet whenever I call either of them out, they deny treating me like I'm stupid and worthless, then they go on to treat me like I'm the stupidest, most worthless piece of shit to ever walk the face of the earth. Then they deny it again.

I'm not looking for sympathy or even empathy here. I'm just telling it like it is, because maybe my story will someday help someone else not have to go through this misery that I don't fucking deserve; that has caused me a lot of tears, and will continue to cause me extreme mental and physical pain until it finally kills me.

People need love. I need love. I don't have love and pretty much have never been actively loved by anyone except maybe animals. As a result, I don't know how to be loved. I don't know how to recognize being loved, either. And if I do recognize what seems to be love, I turn into a monster in the eyes of the person who seems to love me, because I don't know how to be loved.

My body quit working two weeks after I finished a ridiculously painful, hunger-filled 3,463-mile walk across the United States. I don't think that's coincidental. I think my brain finally just gave up after realizing none of the amazing shit I've accomplished in this world is ever gonna get me anywhere. I've known it my whole life, but still I kept trying to show my parents and everyone else that I'm worth something, because I'm worth a lot, in any of several unrelated fields. I walked across a continent basically to make a statement, saying I can do anything I say I can do, and here's proof, because there is essentially nothing harder than what I did. But almost no one noticed. No one cared. I didn't need a lot of people to notice or care--I didn't do it for attention, unlike everyone else who does half-ass versions of what I did--but I did think someone would notice and recognize that I have something very valuable to offer. Nope.

And that's probably the biggest reason why I have MS. Also, it's really not good for my health to live this way. This alone is probably the biggest obstacle keeping me from making a "miraculous" recovery, and it will continue to be, no matter how hard I try to take care of myself through diet, exercise, and other stuff.

In other news, I really like my physical therapist, and I think this regular interaction with her is very good for me, regardless of the physical therapy part. People need to be around other people sometimes, and I've led a pretty damn reclusive life for a long time now. And it's not just being around someone that makes such a positive impact on me. It's a result of being around her specifically. There are just certain people who seem to belong in your life right from the start, and she seems like one of those people to me.

Something that took me by surprise a few days ago is that I've lost over 10 lbs since beginning the diet; maybe even closer to 15 lbs. Looking at the scale, it confused me at first because I really wasn't expecting to see more than about 5 lbs difference from my starting weight. Although I was a little heavier than I like to be when I began the diet (160-165, rather than 150 or less), I didn't really need to lose weight, and I wasn't trying, either. I don't know if this weight loss is unavoidable with this kind of diet or if it's a result of me not eating enough.

Although I was hopeful that my optic neuritis was improving, I don't think it has.

Oh yeah, I still haven't worked organ meats into my diet. I've only eaten organ meat a few times, and it's been a while, so I need to get with it in that department. I also need to expand the list of foods I'm eating because I eat pretty much the same thing every day. In defense of my eating patterns, though, I do put a lot of different foods in my smoothies. But I still need more variety in my diet.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My first diet "relapse"

I'd been meaning to write a one-month update the last few days, but I don't know if I'm going to.

I had my first dietary relapse today. Up until less than an hour ago, I had been 100% with the Wahls protocol since February 1.

Here's how my relapse went: First I poured enough chocolate chips into my mouth to completely fill it, then I ate two bowls of Corn Flakes with milk. I didn't eat anything yesterday because I've been getting frustrated that my mom seems to be ignoring everything I say about what I need to do, particularly regarding NMES. It's stressing me out, and that stress is just as destructive as cheating on the diet. I can't improve with all this stress, so I decided to make my first meal in two days something I might sorta enjoy; something that takes 10 seconds to prepare.

Am I gonna keep cheating like this? I don't know, but I doubt it. If I do, I won't keep it a secret.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Organ meat

I finally got around to eating organ meat last night. In addition to my grilled chicken breast and romaine, I also ate what I guess was three chicken livers. As far as I know, it was the first time I've ever eaten liver (or probably any kind of organ meat). Although I didn't particularly enjoy eating the liver, it really wasn't too bad. It's not like it made me gag or anything. Hopefully that means I'll be able to make myself like it after eating it a few more times.

Regardless of whether I think I'll be able to make myself enjoy eating liver, I'm gonna have to keep eating it at least once a week. Especially considering how well I've disciplined myself since beginning this diet. It's my 20th day on this diet and I still haven't cheated. I think I'll probably cheat sometime next month, though, at least to see how my body will react. But who knows? Maybe I won't.

There are some things I'd like to say about whether or not I'm improving physically, but I'll probably wait until the beginning of next month to say anything about that. Yes, I think there have been some physical improvements, but right now that doesn't matter. The one thing that really matters right now is that this diet has made a huge impact in my brain. I think more clearly and I have more motivation to do things I should be doing, in addition to many other positive changes. That alone is worth the effort it took for me to do a 180 and follow this diet strictly, without making any bullshit excuses like "I have to ease into the diet so I don't go through gluten withdrawal."

If you're gonna do it, then do it. If MS is kicking your ass like it has been kicking mine, and if you can't take it anymore, then you'll do it. No more talking about it. No more excuses. Just do it. Your brain will thank you after as few as three days. And once you know how it feels to have a profoundly healthier brain, you won't allow yourself to make excuses for eating gluten or dairy or whatever it is that you've convinced yourself your body is addicted to. Once you know how it feels to make yourself better just by eating right for a few days, you will have the motivation to take the next step and the next step, and so on. Just like what you've read in my last ten blog posts.

Take it from someone who, in 39 years of life, has never eaten right until this month. If you want to feel how you've always thought people are supposed to feel, just do it.

One last bit of insight: Smoothies have been the key for me to consuming a lot of the foods I probably wouldn't otherwise eat, while also keeping me from eating foods I shouldn't be eating. Even though I like strawberries and blueberries, I wouldn't be eating many of them if I had to eat them in any way other than in a smoothie. And there's no way I would consume mushrooms at all if not for my twice daily smoothies. Nor kale. Nor carrots. Nor flax seeds. Nor turmeric. Nor other things I haven't started adding to my smoothies yet. So if you need something to help you ease into this diet, start with smoothies twice a day. That alone will make everything else much easier.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Walking journal (treadmill), February 2013

I'll update this post after every time I walk on the treadmill, to show the progress I'll hopefully make with my exercise. Also, there's no way I would have started exercising if I hadn't first begun the Wahls diet. Before beginning the Wahls diet I had no interest in exercising and no energy to do it.

February 14, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time, excluding breaks: 49:22 (2.4 mph).
Actual time: 2:13:00.

February 15, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 50:02.
Actual time: 1:33:00.

Already a little sore from yesterday's exercise, particularly in the right hip flexors, today's goal was to complete 2 miles in less than 2 hours. So to have done it in 1 hour and 33 minutes (40 minutes faster than yesterday), I'm pretty blown away. Especially because I had a difficult time motivating myself to get up and do it. My body didn't want to do it, but I ended up pushing myself much harder than I originally intended. The hardest part about exercising like this is making the decision to get off your poor crippled ass and start doing it. Each day, once I motivate myself to start walking, it's easy to keep doing it.

I want to make it very clear that my time improvement from yesterday to today is quite an anomaly. If you have progressive MS and are just starting to exercise, don't expect such a huge improvement on just the second day. And if you don't see an improvement, don't be discouraged. It'll probably take a little time to get your body working again. However, if you do see similar improvement, then consider it a bonus. It'll just give you more motivation to keep exercising. But realize that right now I'm hurting pretty bad because I pushed myself harder than I should have. I'll probably keep pushing myself this way, though, because that's just how I am.

Also, the main reason I was able to walk 2 miles in 93 minutes today is because I had something to hold onto with both hands the whole time. There's no way I would have been able to walk 2 miles in 93 minutes if I had been walking down the street, rather than on a treadmill; with or without a cane.

February 16, 2013
Took the day off.

February 17, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 50:22.
Actual time: 1:29:00.

February 18, 2013
Distance: 2.5 miles.
Excluding breaks: 1:02:35 (2 miles at 50:04).
Including breaks: 1:46:00 (2 miles at 1:22:00).

I may have been wrong about what constitutes great treadmill music. As I listened to Radiohead's In Rainbows while walking today, I was sucked into the music, and it completely took my mind off of walking. That's good. (My point is that Radiohead is nothing like System of a Down or the other hard rock/metal bands I've said give me energy to keep walking.)

February 19, 2013
Distance: 3.25 miles.
Walking time: 1:20:11 (2 miles at 50:02).
Actual time: 2:22:00 (2 miles at 1:15:00).

Normally for the first two miles I walk four legs of half a mile each, which means I take three breaks over the first two miles. Today, though, I only took two breaks (first after 3/4 of a mile, then after another half-mile). This is how I was able to finish two miles today in seven fewer minutes than it took me yesterday. Also, I pushed myself really hard today. Consequently, hours later I'm feeling it in my lower back.

February 20, 2013
Didn't walk today, then dropped a piece of firewood on my right big toe. Don't know if I broke it, but it doesn't feel good. Hopefully it will feel better within a couple days, but right now I have the feeling I won't be able to walk on the treadmill for a while.

February 21, 2013
After sleeping on it, I'm pretty sure I didn't break my toe. I think I may be able to get back on the treadmill today, but I haven't been on my feet enough yet this morning to judge how the toe is doing. I'll surely update later (which I did below).

Distance: 3 miles.
Walking time: 1:14:24 (2 miles at 50:02).
Actual time: 2:06:00 (2 miles at 1:13:00).

Thankfully the toe clearly is not broken. Still hurts, though. It will probably be back to normal before long. Today I started off by walking 7/8 of a mile before stopping for my first break. The time it takes me to walk 2 miles keeps going down (because of fewer/shorter breaks), but I really don't feel like the improvement has shown up much in my walking when I'm not on the treadmill. I still have to lock my knees with pretty much every step, or else I risk falling. Hopefully I'll start seeing some improvement in that department soon.

February 22, 2013
Didn't walk.

February 23, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 48:15.
Actual time: 1:09:00.

The main reason I've been walking less the last few days is that I've also been chopping some wood. (If you saw me doing it, you'd probably call it something other than "chopping wood," but the end result is that I have plenty of kindling to get fires started.) Chopping the wood has been more of a workout than walking a few miles, so naturally I have less time and energy available for walking on the treadmill. One bonus of chopping wood is that it's making me use my lower back muscles, which I assume will aid my ability to stand up correctly and do things that require being on my feet and having good posture.

February 24, 2013
Didn't walk.

February 25, 2013
Didn't walk.

February 26, 2013
Didn't walk.

February 27, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 48:08
Actual time: 1:10:00

February 28, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 48:02
Actual time: 1:06:00

I'm getting real close to being able to do 2 miles with only one break, at 2.5 mph. However, I can barely move when I'm done doing it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What a difference three years makes

Today is an interesting day and an important date in my life. On this day three years ago, I began a coast to coast walk at the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California, which I completed 210 days later (September 12, 2010) at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, on the beach near the Cyclone roller coaster. Today, on my 14th day of the Wahls diet, I think I'll start walking again. Except this time it's gonna be on a treadmill, without a backpack, and today I probably won't be able to walk more than a quarter of a mile at a time. Today the only reason I'll even be able to walk as far as a quarter mile straight is because I'll be able to use the "arms" of the treadmill as an aid to maintain my balance.

Speaking of balance: I think lack of balance is probably the biggest crippling factor in MS. And it all starts in the hips. You may think your legs are responsible for your ability to walk, but they're not. Walking is mostly a function of the hips. If, like me, your hip muscles and lower back muscles are unable to hold up the top half of your body (and keep you balanced), your legs won't work. But if you have something to prop up the top half of your body and keep you balanced (like a cane or something else to hold onto), thus freeing your hips to focus on their interaction with your legs, walking becomes much easier. At least that's how I see it.

A lot has changed in the three years since I began my walk. Beginning on February 14, 2010, even while recovering from a concussion for a couple weeks (after tripping and slamming my head on a tree root while carrying 68 lbs of gear, which was more than half my body weight at the time), I quickly transformed myself into an unstoppable machine, both physically and mentally. Through the first 30 days the walk, I walked 600 miles. That's 20 miles a day. But 7-1/2 months after I started my 3,463-mile walk--almost immediately after I finished the walk--that machine broke and has remained broken for the last 2-1/2 years.

A large bump on my head the day after I fell and
slammed my head on a tree root.

So after almost two weeks on the Wahls diet (with no cheating), has anything changed? Have I improved? Have I declined? Have I stayed the same?

My brain is definitely better. Those horrible mood swings I was experiencing a few weeks ago are gone. I'm more focused, too. For example, I read Minding My Mitochondria in basically a day, even though the font makes it harder than hell to read. I've done a lot of reading on the internet, too. And heck, just look at how much I've written on this blog since I began the diet. I couldn't have done that before beginning the diet. I simply didn't have the motivation or the clarity of thought to do it. So this is all good, and it most certainly is not a placebo effect.

But am I any better physically?

The answer to that question is not so clear. There are times when I feel like my physical condition has improved a little, mostly in terms of improved balance, but there are also times when I feel it hasn't changed at all. So I'm really not sure if the occasional feeling of improved balance is real or if it's in my head. Also, my optic neuritis has not improved. Fortunately, I also can't say I think my condition has declined in any way. However, I have felt tired a lot over the last week or so.

Even though I haven't cheated on the diet, have I continued to consume the full 3/3/3 cups of green/sulfur/colored foods?

Yeah, I'd say I'm either getting all that stuff or I'm coming really close, in addition to eating plenty of fish or chicken every day. However, I haven't eaten any seaweed or organ meats yet, unless shrimp counts as organ meat. (I read somewhere that it does, but I'm inclined not to believe it.) I gotta get with it in that department.

Anything to add?

Yeah, it seems like I've had very cool, interesting dreams since beginning the diet. I'm really not sure right now (because you know how dreams always seem to quickly disappear from memory), but it seems like I've spent a lot of time in a very cool dream world. Also, as of the last couple days, the constant hunger seems to be going away. Monday I ate three full meals, two smoothies, and several ounces of steak my mom didn't finish, but Tuesday and Wednesday I almost had to force myself to eat a second meal because I felt full. Once I decided to eat these meals, though, I didn't have any trouble scarfing them down.

What have I learned during this three-year span since I began my walk?

One thing I've learned (beginning after my body stopped working but before I even considered the possibility that I might have MS) is that exercise helps. A year and a half ago I could barely walk. Then I walked 350 miles through New England, with about 40 lbs on my back (in the span of about a month). It wasn't easy, and even after gradually building up to 15-20 miles a day, my body mechanics still weren't the same as they'd been for most of my life. Still, I felt a lot closer to normal than before I began the walk. Unfortunately I don't know if that improvement would have continued after ending the walk prematurely, because after walking 350 miles I spent the next 16 days rotting in a Rhode Island jail cell. By the time I got out, I wasn't the same person.

* * * * *

I wrote the remainder of this post later in the day, after going downstairs to use the treadmill.

5:00: After lunch I wasn't sure if I'd actually do it, but I finally got my ass downstairs and onto the treadmill. It wasn't easy, but I started off at 2.3 miles an hour, expecting to be able to make it about a quarter of a mile before having to take a break. I ended up doing half a mile before I could barely pick up my left foot, after 13 minutes and 8 seconds, with Motley Crue's Shout at the Devil jammed into my ears. 2.3 miles an hour is one full mile an hour slower than my cruising speed of three years ago. My arms actually got a workout from holding myself up. After this, I took a pretty long break.

Here's the deal with walking music: Many different kinds of music are good when you're walking around all over New England, dodging cars and cops. But one kind of music seems to be most useful when you're stuck on a treadmill in a lifeless basement, trying to force yourself to walk several miles to nowhere. (I didn't have music when I walked across the United States.)

Good treadmill music is music that makes you want to hit things. For example, anything from System of a Down (but especially Toxicity), Motley Crue's Shout at the Devil, and other music I don't have in my phone (like perhaps Megadeth or Metallica's Ride the Lightning). On the road, that stuff is good, too, but the music that reminds me most of my walk around New England is Radiohead (Insomniac, Kid A, In Rainbows), Frou Frou, Appetite for Destruction (GnR), Blizzard of Ozz (Ozzy), Comfort Eagle (CAKE), and other stuff like that.

Did someone say 'hit things'? Maybe next time.

Horrible walking music: U2's Joshua Tree (even though 'Where the streets have no name' is my theme song).

End digression.

5:55: Finished walking another half-mile, then took a break. Excluding the time I rested, I walked one mile at 25:41. For this second half-mile, I bumped the treadmill up to 2.4 MPH. I'm surprised to have walked another half-mile because when I used the treadmill regularly last fall, my foot drop (or drop foot) would kick in sooner with each subsequent session.

6:25: Finished walking another half mile, then took a break. Total so far is 1.5 miles in 37:47 of walk time. For this last half-mile I set the treadmill to 2.5 MPH, with SOAD's Toxicity giving me some extra energy. I probably don't want to go over 2.5 MPH for now.

7:00: Walked my last half mile at 2.6 MPH. At this speed, the last lap was killing me, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, so I did.

I did two miles in 49:22 of walk-time (or 2 hours and 13 minutes of actual time). Not bad. (Actually that's a lot better than I expected.) However, in two weeks I bet I'll be laughing at what I've done today.

Now I'm gonna go resume my old habit of doing crosswords, sudokus, and crypto puzzles, which I'll continue to do every day because these puzzles are good for the brain.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Minding My Mitochondria

[Edit: I'll eventually rewrite this post because the current version may seem more critical than I intended to sound. The message I ultimately want to convey is that Minding My Mitochondria is a fantastic, helpful book.]

My copy of Minding My Mitochondria arrived in the mail today. If you're not already aware, Minding My Mitochondria is Dr. Terry Wahls's self-published book about how she used diet to overcome a number of crippling effects of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.

My first impression of the book: Misspelled words. (But read this entire post because the most important stuff is at the end)

Even though I haven't opened the book yet, I've already noticed three misspelled words. In fact, the second word on the back cover is misspelled, along with at least two other words on the back cover.

What does this mean? It doesn't mean anything, necessarily. Still, it's sloppy work--very sloppy work--and it's the kind of thing that would have taken almost no effort to correct before publishing the book, considering the misspelled words are neither big words nor homophones. Rather, the misspelled words that I've noticed so far are "practicle," "electical," and "strenghen." And these three misspelled words occur within the span of 63 total words. These specific misspelled words do not fool spell-check. Furthermore, they're on the cover of a book that cost 38 dollars!

The remainder of this post may seem harsh and overly critical. That is not my intention. I'm just sharing my first impression of the book, as well as some concerns my first impression elicited.

To me these misspellings are a sign of extreme carelessness and a rush to publish. And yes, it does make me wonder if I can trust the words I'm about to read. Not necessarily because I expect the information in the book to be wrong, but because the information may be presented in a similarly careless manner as the cover; because poor communication might render good information functionally useless, or even counterproductive. The misspellings suggest pretty clearly to me that this book is a rough draft.

I don't want to say these things, but they are legitimate concerns. In fact, before I even had the book, I already had an issue with the imprecise way the specifics of the Wahls diet are expressed (i.e., measuring food volumetrically rather than by weight). This kind of stuff matters to people who are serious about trying to replicate Dr. Wahls's results, and I'm growing more frustrated every day because I can't do it if I can't interpret the information that's being presented to me. No one can.

What I've just said may sound selfish, but it's not. I know Dr. Wahls is trying to help people like me. I know she wrote this book more to help people than to make money. But the effectiveness of her communication is at least as important as what she's trying to communicate, and her communication seems extremely ineffective sometimes.

If you go read every blog post I've ever written, throughout three different blogs, I'm sure you'll find a few misspelled words. But that's out of tens (or hundreds) of thousands of words, and I've never asked anyone for money in exchange for my words.

There's a reason why you won't find misspelled words in the things I write, and that reason is because it matters to me that my communication is presentable and as easy to absorb as possible. Usually whenever I publish a blog post, I read the post over and over to make sure it says exactly what I want it to say, using correct spelling and correct punctuation. I feel like if people are going to take the time to read what I have to say (which they don't, mostly), it's my responsibility to present the rhetoric in a way that makes it as easy to read as possible.

I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the same standards from anyone with "Dr" in their name. In fact, most people hold them to even higher standards than they expect from the general population. So I think it's time to raise the bar here, Dr. Wahls. And I mean raise the bar by a lot.

Nothing personal.

Actually, I look forward to reading the book and hopefully finding some of the answers I've had a difficult time finding without the book. Like whether kale is a green food or a sulfur food.

* * * * *

Here's something I noticed as I was getting ready to proofread this post: Apparently my copy of Minding My Mitochondria was printed on February 3, 2013. That's 8 days ago. At the very least, these misspellings on the cover surely could have been corrected before printing another batch of books, right? Is that not reasonable? Because I'm sure someone pointed out the misspellings to Dr. Wahls long ago.

Update (later the same day): Having started reading this book, I see that the text is very large. Regardless, it's difficult to read, probably because the text is in a sans-serif font. The words just don't stand out like they're supposed to. After giving myself a headache from trying to read this book, I flipped through another book, printed with a normal sized font with serifs, and it was a lot easier to read than Minding My Mitochondria.

The font and layout of the text in this book NEED TO BE CHANGED in future editions (which I now know is every new order of the book, as a new one is printed every time someone places an order). Right now it feels like trying to read a checkerboard (with red squares and green squares), and that's just not easy to do. This not my opinion; it's just common knowledge in the publishing industry.

Like so many others with MS, I have a hard enough time reading already because of the optic neuritis in my left eye. Due to the layout of this book, I have to shut or cover my left eye when I try to read it, which solves some problems but creates other problems. If there was more spacing between the lines, maybe the large sans-serif font would be OK. But there's not more space between the lines.


Update (the next day): After reading 50-some pages, I'm much less worried about the misspelled words on the cover (and what they may have indicated yesterday). In other words, the inside of the book is much more well written than its offensive cover. The size and font of the text is still giving me problems, though. If not for the text, I could probably have read twice as much by now.

Update (another day later): After reading Minding My Mitochondria, I have to say this is a good, helpful book. Yes, there are 10 or 20 typos/misspellings throughout the book, and they are a distraction, but it's not too bad. And yes, the font makes it very difficult to read. However, I was able to adapt enough to make it through the book. (Still, these things need to be fixed with any other future editions or new books.)

In the end, the things that stand out most are:
  1. That Dr. Wahls genuinely wants to help people.
  2. Dr. Wahls admits when she doesn't know the answers. Instead of pretending to know everything, she's real. And that's worth a lot to me.
  3. Dr. Wahls comes off as a true expert to me, rather than a typical doctor. Unlike most doctors, she knows what she's talking about, not just what she's been trained to believe. Consequently, she has surely done a 180 in a lot of different ways to reach this level of knowledge, rather than worshiping the pharmaceutical gods and keeping people sick, like most doctors do.
First do no harm.

It's been a long time since I've seen a doctor who followed that advice, and that's probably a big part of why I have multiple sclerosis. It's also why I mostly don't go to doctors anymore. Yes, I do see a doctor for my MS, but only because my mom wants me to. I don't blindly follow the doctor's advice, though, and I don't take any medications for MS. I never intend to, either, because I already know they will do me harm.

Thankfully Dr. Wahls takes those four words seriously. Even though I may express doubts about some of Dr. Wahls's communication skills, I trust her. I know she has her own doubts about some of the things she advises, which is why she's always rewriting the rules. I'm sure if she has read any of the criticism I've expressed, she's taken it seriously and used it as an opportunity to learn.

If you have multiple sclerosis, or even if you don't, I recommend reading Minding My Mitochondria and following the Wahls MS diet.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

An alternate explanation for the cause of Herxheimer reactions

I like some of the things this page has to say, even though I may not have agreed with it before I read it. I especially like the part at the bottom about the pile of manure. Makes sense.

Actually, most of what's said in the first 2/3 of the page seems kinda kooky, but after that it starts making a lot of sense. Regardless of whether the page's rhetoric is on the mark, it's worth thinking about that stuff. (This post is basically just a way for me to remember that page without bookmarking it, so don't take it too seriously.)

Even though I've done some things that are said to cause Herxheimer reactions (like the anti-Candida diet and the Wahls diet), I have never experienced a Herxheimer reaction (or die-off symptoms). That is, unless what happened to me four years ago is considered a Herxheimer reaction. Four years ago I took two courses of antibiotics, which led to a couple months of misery and ultimately inspired me to create this blog. The way I see it, though, that misery was simply a result of antibiotics destroying my insides.

I guess the reason why I was thinking about Herxheimer reactions is because I've been a little more tired than normal the last several days. I thought maybe it could be from a Herx, so I did a little reading about it. Aside from the fatigue, though, I can't think of any other Herxheimer symptoms I've experienced, so I'm inclined to think the fatigue is just part of the MS.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A sample daily menu

Here's everything I've eaten today:

10:00 am - 22 oz smoothie (recipe below).
3:00 pm - 6 oz of grilled chicken breast* and 3 oz/85 g of romaine.
6:30 pm - 22 oz smoothie.
7:00 pm - 6 oz of grilled chicken breast* and 3 oz/85 g of romaine.
7:30 pm - 1 orange
10:00 pm - Large handful of pecans.
*Chicken weight is prior to cooking.

All my ingredients are organic or grass-fed whenever possible.

This menu is pretty typical of how I've been eating for the last 9 days, except I usually eat fish instead of chicken, and I usually eat spinach instead of romaine. One night I weighed my large plateful of raw spinach, and it was about 4 oz.

I'm probably not getting the full 3 cups of color foods or sulfur foods, but I'm definitely getting well over 3 cups of green food, as well as plenty of meat. Since I make a smoothie twice every day, I'd say I'm almost surely getting over a cup of both strawberries and blueberries. Which means if the orange counts as a color food, then I think it's safe to say I'm getting the full "3 cups" of color foods. (Update: Accocrding to page 8 of Minding My Mitochondria, oranges are a color food.)

I'm not sure if kale is considered a green food or a sulfur food. If it's considered a sulfur food, then I'd say I'm getting the full 3 cups of sulfur food each day. But even though I know it does contain sulfur, I think it fits more into the green food category. Hope I'm wrong.

Aside from the smoothies, I only drink water. Here are the ingredients I use for smoothies, including the ingredient weights in both ounces and grams:

4.3 oz/120 g BANANA (1 banana)
4.0 oz/112 g STRAWBERRIES (6 strawberries)
3.5 oz/100 g BLUEBERRIES (a couple handfuls)
1.0 oz/27 g of COCONUT OIL (heaping tablespoon)
2.5 oz/70 g KALE (large handful)
0.3 oz/8 g FLAX SEEDS (a couple teaspoons)
3.3 oz/94 g COCONUT WATER
2.0 oz/56 g MUSHROOMS (probably 2/3 of a cup)
2.0 oz/56 g CARROTS
1 clove GARLIC
A cup or two of ICE

Water can be substituted for coconut water. I use coconut water mostly just to aid the blender, but also to liquify the smoothie a little so it will be more drinkable.

I don't actually weigh many of the ingredients when I make smoothies. I just weighed most of them today so I could share the exact ingredient weights of a smoothie that's very representative of the smoothies I make twice every day. I do always weigh the mushrooms, though, because I don't like mushrooms and 2 oz is about all I can handle in each smoothie.

The smoothie is really good if you leave out the garlic and mushrooms, but it's still not bad even if you include the garlic and mushrooms. The reason I include those two ingredients (particularly mushrooms) is because it makes it easier for me to consume more sulfur foods than I would otherwise eat. Aside from garlic, there are not really any sulfur foods I'm willing to eat in a more normal way. I've never been willing to eat mushrooms at all until the last week, nor have I ever been willing to eat most of the other sulfur foods. Hopefully I'll get more used to those kinds of food as I continue this diet.

I also take some supplements every day:

8,000 I.U. Vitamin D3
100 mg Ubiquinol softgel
1 Schiff MegaRed Krill oil softgel
2,000 mg Cinnamon capsules

Friday, February 8, 2013

Food measurement problem

One of the basic ideas of science is that measurements must be precise and repeatable. If the original measurements aren't precise, then no one can set up repeatable conditions and no one can expect repeatable results. Even if they could get repeatable results without repeatable conditions, the results would have no clear meaning. And if no one can expect repeatable results because no one can repeat the conditions of the experiment, then no one even tries.

Only a week into the Wahls diet, there's one thing that really bothers me about how Dr. Wahls describes the specifics of following her diet (at least on the internet): She expresses food measurements volumetrically (in cups), rather than as weight measurements (ounces or grams). This bothers me because there's no way to accurately measure most types of food volumetrically; particularly the kinds of food that make up this diet.

For example, exactly what constitutes "one cup" of onion? I ask [rhetorically] because a diced onion takes up a lot more volume than the same onion before it's diced. If I'm measuring one cup of diced onion, am I supposed to pack the pieces of onion tightly into the measuring cup? Or am I supposed to eyeball the whole onion and go, "Uhh, that's about a cup"?

Even if I know exactly how Dr. Wahls intends for me to measure, the diced onion will still occupy considerably more volume than the same onion before it was diced. Or if I slice the onion instead of dicing it, it will occupy an even different volume than either the same onion whole or the same onion diced. Also, when measuring volumetrically, every "one cup" of onion will be at least a slightly different amount than every other "one cup" of onion, even if identical prep methods are used for every cup measured.

I'm very experienced in food preparation and food measurement, yet I have no idea what constitutes 3 cups of any of the foods I'm supposed to be eating, because volumetric measurement of food cannot be done with any kind of precision. And this matters to me. The precise amount of any certain food I'm supposed to be eating is something I need to know because I want to do this right. And I probably haven't been doing it quite right yet, specifically because I have no idea if my volumetric measurements are in any way similar to Dr. Wahls's volumetric measurements.

This is important stuff here, and hopefully Dr. Wahls will see this post and use it as a tool to better communicate the specifics of her diet. Or maybe she'll even recruit me to do it for her. Regardless, once I start writing posts about how I apply the diet, I will express my food measurements in weight (ounces and grams), not volume.

Measuring food by volume is one of the least insightful things humans do, especially in an age where accurate digital scales are widely available for as low as $20 and not more than $30. The way one person measures 3 cups of greens might yield the same amount of greens that someone else considers only 2 cups. That's a huge disparity, yet it's a very realistic scenario. So whose measurement is correct? Neither of them, because there is no such thing as 3 cups of greens. And Dr. Wahls needs to address that problem.

Here's some good news.

All of this confusion can be eliminated by simply using weight measurements instead of volumetric measurements. It's impossible to mismeasure or miscommunicate with weight measurements, as long as you use the scale properly. If you measure food by weight, an ounce of spinach is always an ounce of spinach, regardless of who measures it or how much volume it occupies. And 100 grams of onion is always 100 grams of onion. It just works.

Almost every kind of food you buy at the grocery store is priced and sold by weight, not volume. There's a reason for that: accuracy. With almost every type of food, it's simply not possible to measure accurately using volumetric measurements.

If you're serious about using food to heal yourself (or even if you just want to become a more consistent cook), I urge you to buy an electronic kitchen scale. It'll be one of the best purchases of your life.