This post continues the saga of my healing journey following the spinal collapse I experienced 1 year ago. The serious symptoms of spinal collapse began on Sunday June 17, 2007, when I was taken by ambulance to the ER because my legs collapsed under me. I couldn't stand, I couldn't sit, and my back was contracted in uncontrollable muscle spasms. At the ER, their approach was to give me pain medication and send me home when I could walk later that day.
I called a spine doctor then next day, and made an appointment -- 2 weeks later was the soonest they could see me. I didn't know how I was going to survive those two weeks until the end of June. I needed a walker and could no longer walk without support. I had so much difficulty walking up stairs that I slept on the couch at night. I was told to move as much as possible -- that immobility breeds immobility -- so I made sure to get up from the couch in the morning, to walk in the house with the walker, to sit at the table and answer e-mail, and to lie down when I needed to rest.
The hardest part for me was that I had these uncontrollable and painfully intense contractions of my back muscles, called back spasms. Every time I would get up in the morning (which took 30 to 45 minutes to maneuver myself carefully off the couch to a standing position), and every time I would get up from lying down to rest, no matter how careful I was I would eventually have a back spasm. And just like with a sad movie that I cry while watching, in retelling this story now and remembering the details of my life 1 year ago, I cry tears of grief now that I didn't cry then because then I was trying so hard just to survive.
I now know that my back muscles were doing 2 things -- they were trying to protect my spine, and spasming was their way of trying to keep the spine immobile (but I didn't pay attention, since the doctors told me to move). Also, I learned from my oncologist that muscles tend to spasm when they experience extremely high levels of calcium, such as when the bones are breaking down rapidly. The blood registers this condition as hypercalcemia, and in early July 2007 -- just 1 year ago -- my blood showed that I did have hypercalcemia. The breaking down of bones is a symptom of multiple myeloma, and for me the hypercalcemia and condition of my back indicated that I needed treatment.
On the first Friday in July 2007 I went to see my oncologist following an MRI of my lower back and pelvis. Just getting the MRI had been hell, because it meant lying on a hard surface (which gave me back spasms). And at the end of 1 and 1/2 hours when I asked for help getting up, the technicians had no patience for my need to move slowly and they lifted and turned me. My back arched in spasm, and I could barely walk to the waiting room. I was pale as a ghost and didn't leave the waiting room for 30 minutes as I waited for my body to recover from the trauma. Needless to say, I don't want to go there for an MRI again.
So on this visit to my oncologist in early July, he indicated that it was time for me to start getting chemotherapy, and it would start that day with dexamethasone, a steriod that is part of the protocol for cheomtherapy treatment of multiple myeloma. I was aware that long term use of steroids can cause osteoporosis, and for me bone health is a serious concern, but I needed treatment so I cooperated with my oncologist's suggestions. If it would help, I would do it.
As my partner and I left the hospital that day, there was a woman waiting by the door with a big black dog. We were waiting for our car from valet parking, and also waiting for ice for my ice pack that I used on my back during the drive to the cancer center. This woman was waiting for ice for her black dog, named Shadow of the Thunder Beings, since it was a hot July day. When the valet parking assistant arrived with a cup of ice, it was not in a form that would be helpful to me, so we gave it to the dog. Then the woman came over to me and said, "You look like a person who would be open to alternative treatments," to which I replied, "Yes, I am." She then said only 2 words, "Goji juice."
I laughed inside. I had never heard of Goji juice until 3 days earlier when my friend Batya came for a visit and offered me 2 suggestions that have changed my life. First, she suggested that I drink Goji juice. Batya herself had been drinking Goji juice for several months, and found that she slept well, had more energy, and her acupuncturist noticed her increased health. Batya offered me a gift of 2 bottles of Goji juice that she would leave on her back porch. Second, she suggested that I get a recliner so I would not have to get up from lying down. When I told her that being a small person (at that point just 5' tall) I didn't want a recliner that would fit a large person, she told me that she knew they made reclining chairs in small sizes. I began searching the internet that day.
And that reminds me of an aside that I just have to include here. Using my computer, I did a Google search on the words "reclining chair that ejects the sitter" to which Google responded: Do you mean reclining chair that executes the sitter? Executes -- do you believe it? I was in hysterics reading that, except that I couldn't laugh or I would have a back spasm. I learned to laugh inside, to smile instead of laugh. I told everyone in my family that story, and they laughed for me. Needless to say, I did find a reclining chair that ejects (not executes) the sitter. But that was a few weeks later.
So here I was at the hospital in early July, and this woman with a long flowing dress and beautiful earrings said the words "Goji juice" to me, and I laughed inside. Her dog came to sit by my feet on the pavement -- he was a healing dog, and I remember his name because my first dog ever had been a golden retriever named Shadow who had died just 18 months earlier. I said to this woman that 2 times in 1 week was enough for me -- I didn't need a 3rd person to mention Goji juice for me to be convinced to try it. And that night, after Gene picked up all of my new prescriptions, I sent her to Batya's house to get my Goji juice, and I have been drinking it ever since.
I have tried several kinds of Gogi juice, and the kind I like is Himalayan Goji Juice. It was discovered to have great health benefits because people in the Himalayas who drank water from wells that goji berries were falling into tended to live unusually long lives. Himalayan Goji Juice has 34 scientifically validated health benefits, including that it increases your energy and strength, extends your life, helps you look and feel younger, lowers your blood pressure, helps you lose weight, reduces the toxic effects of chemotherapy, improves the immune response, and manages and fights cancer. I especially liked the part about reducing the toxic effects of chemo, as I was getting ready to start chemo, so I began drinking 4 oz. of Goji juice per day. That was last July.
Then a few months ago a friend suggested that I might find it helpful to drink 8 oz. of Goji juice per day, given my health challenges and that I am trying to rebuild my spine. I said I really didn't want the extra calories of drinking more juice -- I was having trouble shedding any weight -- and she said that some people found that they lost weight when they drank more Goji juice. So I upped my intake, and 2 wonderful things happened. I lost 7 pounds that first week I drank 8 oz. per day, and my bowel became much more regular. For me, having shrunk 3" mostly between my pelvis and rib cage, there is less room for all of my internal organs, so emptying my bowel every day is now a necessity.
In fact, I like Goji juice so much that I have become a distributor. Here is my Goji juice web site http://www.youngberry.freelife.com/ and you will also find my contact information on the above link.
Last month when my mother spent 12 days with us, she commented on how much energy I have and how fast I was walking, even though my spine is healing from compression fractures in 15 vertebrae. I have more energy than either my mother or my partner. And while I can't tell what one of the many things I am doing is contributing the most to my energy, I am sure that a significant part of my great store of energy is due to the fact that I am and have been for the last year been drinking Goji juice.
In fact, Goji juice has probably contributed to the miracle that I am alive today.