There’s an old proverb: “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” But what if physically taking even that single step is even more difficult than you ever thought it could be?
This month’s theme is about our journeys. My journey into the world of health and infertility started long before I even thought about having a baby, though I didn’t know it then. While I didn’t struggle to get pregnant, I did struggle with a serious neurologic disorder.
While every woman’s journey is different, I wanted to share my story, and I hope that in some small way, it might help you see your journey in a new light.
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I was a competitive tennis player as a kid and when I was 19, I noticed that I could no longer hold onto the racquet when I tried to serve. It was shocking. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t really know what to do. So I buried my fears and just stopped playing tennis.
What I felt scared me.
There were other signs, too: I was exhausted all the time. I was a Type A workaholic finishing two degrees in only three years, so I chalked my fatigue up to that. Instead of pursuing treatment, I chose to do nothing – and my weakness got worse. I finally went to a neurologist but he told me I was just “too stressed out” and that nothing was wrong. By that point I was using a cane.
Something was so very wrong.
At 22 years old, I was finally – officially – diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Strangely, I was relieved to finally have an explanation for why I couldn’t walk. My doctor immediately wanted to put me on medication to slow the progression of my disease, but I just didn’t feel good about it. I wanted to find an approach somewhere between “wait and see” and a lifelong commitment to pharmaceuticals.Funnily enough, I wanted a diagnosis, but not the treatment.Click To Tweet
Like so many women struggling to get pregnant, I was stuck in “analysis paralysis.” I just did not know what to do. My treatment plan was “wait and see” and I continued to get worse. Luckily for me, a very good friend finally took charge and forced me to see her acupuncturist, and he changed my life. What he said made so much sense to me. He said:
“Your disease has always been present but your constitution has been stronger than your disease. After too much over training and academic work, you got exhausted and your disease got stronger than your constitution, so now your MS is running the show. We need to strengthen your constitution, so that it is stronger than your disease and you will likely go into remission. You need to sleep, eat the right foods for your body, take herbs to fix the underlying issues, and manage your stress.”
I realized that to some degree the advice that everyone was giving me was the truth, but what was missing was the “big picture” to help me to better understand how all the parts fit together. More importantly, I needed an expert to help me to identify the systems (like digestion for me) that were malfunctioning and make a plan to get them working better so that I could recover.
Within the first month, I started getting a little stronger. Within a year I had very few symptoms left. Within two years, I was virtually symptom-free. I have been in remission for almost 20 years now and proudly surf all over the world. I was so inspired by my own recovery, I quit my job and went back to school to learn how to build programs to empower women with their health and fertility.
As with any major health challenge, be it MS or cancer or infertility – the process is similar: the fear, the unknowing, the waiting, the stress. Recent research shows that being diagnosed with infertility is as stressful as being diagnosed with cancer. The difference is that when you’re diagnosed with cancer, all your friends bring you lasagna. When you’re diagnosed with infertility, your friends tell you to relax, lose weight, or eat more pineapple (or whatever weird thing is the babymaking trend of the moment).
But something else is wrong. Long before you finally went to the doctor and she told you that you were infertile, you knew something was wrong…As with any major health challenge, be it MS or cancer or infertility – the process is similar: the fear, the unknowing, the waiting, the stress.Click To Tweet
Every time your period came and PMS turned you into a lunatic, or your cramps were so bad that you thought your uterus was going to implode, or you saw more blood than was humanly possible to lose – you knew something is wrong and that it HAD to have something to do with you not getting pregnant.
Your doctor told you, “No, it isn’t related, you just have bad luck. Take some Advil and rest.”
But something inside of you can’t make peace with that, but you have no idea what else to do.
You can read a thousand articles about optimizing your fertility, but it is crucial that identify the right solutions for your particular problems. There is no magic pill, but when you clearly identify the underlying problems and address them in a holistic manner, you will be amazed by how your cycle and fertility can be transformed.
So my recommendations to you are simple: take baby steps. Listen to your body. Get to know your cycle – and maybe even start tracking because there may be some treasures of information hidden there that can help you along your journey. I wish my own path to discovery wasn’t so fraught and I hope your road to resolution is a smooth one.