If you are sitting at home feeling helpless and defeated because you are suffering from some condition you think you can’t overcome or learn to live with, please read this story. Obviously, some conditions can’t be changed but you can learn to live with them, and to have a vibrant life with them. You are YOU, not your condition. You are stronger than you think, you have more in you than you can imagine! And many conditions can be changed, improved and even reversed if you take the steps to make the change happen!
My Humble Beginnings
I started my wellness journey in November of 2006 weighing in at a paltry 450+ pounds. This story has been told many times: you can read the rest of my wellness journey here. Today is a different part of that story that has not been shared with my friends and readers. It’s time.
I want to tell you how cycling (the greatest form of exercise for total health, just in my opinion!) gave me my life back. It started in March of 2012 and was a whopping 1/2 mile bicycle ride! Truthfully I was beyond elated that I could do it. The two years prior to my first ride was a living hell, as I struggled overcoming a form of temporary paralysis called Guillian Barre Syndrome (GBS). Overcoming obesity was very easy compared to overcoming GBS.
In May of 2010 I was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré Syndrome. GBS is a form of temporary paralysis that affects the Central Nervous System (CNS). In addition to causing a severe weakening of the muscles in the arms, hands, legs and torso, it can also affect pulse, heart rhythm and blood pressure. I was admitted to the ICU and spent four (4) days there because my pulse, heart rhythm and blood pressure were going crazy. They wouldn’t stabilize. The doctors told my wife Gwen they did not know if I would survive. Eventually they stabilized enough to move me out of the ICU. GBS kills a small number of those it touches every year. God had other plans for this man!!
Doctors do not know the exact cause of GBS, but it is suspiciously tied to a bacterial infection that can come from a particular family of bacteria found on chicken and it can be caused by different viruses. They also know there is a correlation with the ingredients in vaccines and GBS. GBS was the worst experience of my life. It leaves you feeling helpless and hopeless. I had to relearn to do the simple things we do to live everyday; like walking, tying shoes, eating, buttoning a shirt, bathing, putting clothes on. Hopefully you get the picture. Additionally the pain caused from nerve damage was unbearable during times. I am grateful there are medications that help relieve that pain. I could not have lived with it. It took me three years to recover 95% of my normal functionality. GBS was the biggest battle of my life and I was determined to overcome it! Truthfully, I was very angry that I had worked so hard to get the weight off, get in great physical shape and then to be robbed of all of it in a 3 week period. I was determined it wasn’t going to keep me down! I am a fighter and it took everything I had and God’s help to overcome GBS. I was not going to just sit back and just become a statistic of GBS.
Two Years Later
Gwen and I had bought a couple of run around town bikes a year or so earlier, but we rarely took them out to ride around our beautiful little South Carolina town. Our town is small enough to think of it as Mayberry like, very quaint and friendly.
After two years of recovery from GBS I was walking but my strength and balance were still poor. I wanted more from my exercise- I wanted more from my body! Prior to GBS I was in great shape and spent a lot of time walking, hiking and exercising at the gym.
I decide to pull the old bike out and see if I could even ride it. I was very nervous because my balance was still not very good. GBS greatly affects the small muscles that are so essential for balance. As I took the bike out of the shed and dusted it off, I remember mumbling “Okay Lord here we go, I pray you give me the strength and balance to keep this thing upright!” As I pushed off- picture the first time you remember seeing a little one beginning to ride a bike. I was all over the place, handle bars swaying left and right but I was upright and moving forward. It was struggle to keep the handle bars straight because the GBS left me with some hand tremor and arm weakness but I made it 1/4 mile to the end of the street. I stopped with tears in my eyes and said a thank you to God and turned around and headed home.
I can do this! Yes I can do this!! Something inside me said this is the recipe for my full recovery. I knew that the body adapts to the demands being placed on it. I needed to demand more of the nerves in my arms, hands, legs and feet to improve my condition. If I am not showing my body that my nerves need to function better by putting them under demand, they are not going to improve as quickly or maybe not as much or maybe not at all. My body needed to be told what it needed to fix. Cycling was going to send the message.
I continued riding the bike around town with Gwen at my side. One mile, two miles, three miles. I was ecstatic!! The addiction to cycling was happening. Later that month I bought us both Giant touring bikes and we rode those until I had to have a little more speed. I saw people speeding by us with ease and I wanted to push my body more. When I would mention getting a new bike, Gwen would just look at me and smile. She saw my competitive spirit returning and that meant I was healing!
Over the past four years I have moved through 4 bicycles, upgrading each time to meet my body’s physical improvements! Each year my ability to ride longer and tougher routes has increased. In 2015, I road my bicycle over 6,000 miles, climbed numerous mountains, did dozens of rides over 60 miles long and even did a 100 mile long ride. I participated in over a dozen charity cycling events. We even participated in a charity event called A Ride to Remember, (riding 252 miles across the state of South Carolina in 3 days in the middle of the summer) to support the Alzheimer’s Association.
Out of the horrific condition called GBS, a team of more than 30 cyclists (who ride together every chance we get) has blossomed. We cover all adult age groups and sectors of life. We focus on peddling our bikes to help others in need. We all share the same passion for cycling and enjoy this great sport. Our team is called Team Vive. We celebrate life and every moment it brings.
You are strong, you are able, be determined to get your life back, get up and do something to improve your condition, DO NOT LET YOUR CONDITION DEFINE YOU! Your attitude about life ends up telling your life story. Make it a great one!
To A Long and Healthy Life!
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
The contents of the email or written communication are not medical advice and should not be considered as such! This blog is for informational purposes only. Please consult with your physician or health care provider if you have medical issues and before changing your diet or lifestyle or taking herbal or dietary supplements. Never start an exercise program with getting your doctors approval. Never quit taking medications unless advised to do so by your doctor. Only your health care provider, personal physician, or pharmacist can provide you with advice on what is safe and effective for your unique needs.