I’ve never had a cardiologist but I do now. Yes, I’m okay. But I needed to have one because of a ‘blip’ on a recent EKG. Why was the EKG performed? Back in May I came to a scheduled visit with unusually high blood pressure. I had the data to prove that the blood pressure was normally low and this was a blip on the radar – but it was enough to trigger a little more investigation because the same ‘blip’ (high blood pressure at the beginning of doctor visit) showed up at the last 3 visits! Nevertheless, I’d like to share some of what I shared with the cardiologist.
I’m sure you realize by now that I’m not your average MS patient. I manage MS VERY WELL. I used to eagerly speak with other MS patients that ne’er do well friends and family thought I could help/motivate in some way. I’d give permission to share my contact information, and then I’d wait for that MS patient to call. I’ve only had 1 person react positively to our discussion. We connected on many levels. Eventually however, even she couldn’t and/or wouldn’t follow through on what I suggested/recommended. (Her husband had purchased my time to work with her one on one at a company auction/fundraiser).
It occurred to me that the same thing was happening over and over again. If I was brutally honest, I was scaring the MS Patients I was talking with. Why was I scaring them? Because I was challenging them to push past their discomfort. People LOVE talking about their discomfort but usually HATE the discussion that suggests they ‘get over it’. Always in the back of my mind was the following thought… as an athlete I know that you can only be as successful as your weakest skill and/or performance. Let me explain a little more.
As an athlete (for me it was track & field), you come to live with discomfort of some kind nearly all of the time. Whether it was the horrific soreness of all muscles when the season’s initial conditioning begins or whether it was the muscle, lung or whatever discomfort from your personal best (“PB” – that’s what my dad called it) performance. There is discomfort. Think of the discomfort you might feel when warming up for a leisure or training run (sorry I have running analogies). The lungs pound and swell. The nose and mouth are open and dry sucking in wind and oxygen from all directions. The pounding of the ankle, knee and/or hip joints. Its discomfort, but its necessary! Absolutely necessary if you’re going to get into shape for the season! And as you continue to train for the season, those specific discomforts begin to minimize – and may give way to new discomforts at new levels of conditioning! And you start all over again, but at another level! Now allow me to be clear.
Yes, sometimes it hurts at the extreme end or was uncomfortable to say the least, but as an athlete there was always a team, a coach, or a school or league depending on you to get better and ultimately get to your absolute best! KEY – someone (or a family of someones) was depending upon you to get past your discomfort so that you can perform and/or deliver your best performance! I believe this is what doctors should be doing!
Imagine what kind of relationship and progress an MS Patient could make if the doctor expected them to push past their discomfort (initial boundary for pain and discomfort) so they could be as productive, active and/or healthy as possible?! This is when I realized that my message wasn’t really for the dozens of MS patients that I had spoken to. It was actually for the MS doctors and nurse practitioners. If the people who are guiding and directing care, had a little ‘athletic/coaching’ mentality about their relationship with patients, imagine how many patients might be in much better shape and better prepared to better manage their disease progression.
Please don’t misunderstand these thoughts. I’m not telling anyone they have to be an athlete. What I am suggesting is that there is a little athlete mentality that might be VERY USEFUL in your relationship with the doctor or yourself when living with MS (or other chronic illnesses). Let’s explore this concept a little more close to the MS home….
Let’s use the dreaded muscle pain/brittle muscles symptom that plagues so many MS patients. Those damned brittle-like muscles that are so painful can reduce a person to no movement at all just to avoid the pain of the brittle muscles! I can tell you as a track and field athlete that I know what severe muscle pain is. I remember what it was like 30+ years ago for the first two weeks of conditioning for the upcoming season. I could barely walk – I mean BARELY walk. I remember the short, measured steps that I was forced to take to get down the hall to the shower or to get to the dining hall or class. I remember feeling like my muscles were going to snap off the bones at any moment. I remember the dread I felt as I limped/walked to class and then to practice to endure another round of daily punishment (fondly referred to as practice).
I remember the 2-3 hours of prepping required prior to practice in order to get the muscles ready to ‘perform’ at practice. Yes, just for practice. What was the ‘prepping’ you might ask? Of course it depended on your pain but it could be stretching sessions with the team athletic trainer, ice BATHS, heating pads, ice massages, water workouts before the track work out, deep tissue massages that were anything but relaxing, or physical therapy type sessions. Whatever it took was what you did – period. You were on scholarship and you didn’t have a choice. The only option was to walk away and quit, lose your scholarship and pack your bags for home.
What’s on the line for you at your home or work? Will it require an hour or two of ‘prepping’ prior to the huge task of preparing and serving dinner for the family? Will it require you to leave your desk at work for 15 minutes every 2 hours (or every hour) to get some motion in the muscles? Will it require that you prepare for and endure a good bit of pain, in order for you to prepare the dinner, sit with the family and appear genuinely interested in someone other than your self and in something other than your own pain? Sometimes the pain doesn’t go away – so how do you still function with it? Or do you cease to function?
Tough questions and even tougher answers. I know some people would like to throw their cane at me or run me over with their electric scooter! I’ll take your anger and I’ll take your frustration. I’ll even take your pain. But you can’t deny that something or someone is more important than you or your discomfort. And because its more important, you do what you have to do – even if it hurts or you don’t like it!
So that’s the message for today. PUSH PAST YOUR DISCOMFORT so you can achieve what’s really important. Whether family and/or a job, push past your discomfort so you can PERFORM!
Or you can sit and wallow in your pain – the choice is yours.