By Mary Jaksch
This is a good news story.
It’s the story of how I fought my way back to full health four years after receiving a bad diagnosis.
Read on to find 11 tips on how to give yourself the best chance of recovery.
I don’t usually say much about my health problems (as you’ll understand when you read my tips below). But I’m hoping that this post will benefit you, or help someone you know.
Four years ago, I began to have severe problems with the joints in my fingers and feet. I’ve always been very athletic and at the time I had been training for eighteen years in karate and had just been promoted to 4th Dan Blackbelt.
All that was to change…
I decided to consult a rheumatologist. Not just to any rheumatologist, but the leading one in New Zealand who works in the Wakefield Clinic in Wellingon, the capitol of New Zealand. So, I flew to Wellington and let him examine me.
He looked at my blood results and checked out the x-rays of my joints. Then he said in a deadpan voice as if talking about the weather:
“You’ve got Lupus.”
“Lupus? Oh – that doesn’t sound too good…”
“Well, Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys. You’ve now got it in your joints, but you have to prepare yourself for a bad prognosis. You may end up in a wheelchair, and some people finally die of organ failure…”
“What?!” I started to cry.
“Now, don’t get upset. We’ll try and maintain your status quo with medication. They have some severe side effects, but that’s just the way it is.”
Fast forward to now…
I’m back to weekly karate training and am doing a scorching workout in the gym each week. I’m pretty well back to full strength and health.
It may be that I was just lucky. But I think there are some things you can do to become lucky.
Here are my 11 tips:
Tip #1: Challenge the diagnosis.
Maybe your diagnosis is correct. But maybe it isn’t.Make sure you get a second opinion. I went to another rheumatologist in Wellingon, a Dr. Chiu.
At firstglance I wasn’t impressed. He has a consulting room in a small shopping center with no receptionist or nurse.
At times he seemed to watch a TV screen during the consultation. I asked him about it, and he said he was keeping an eye on the till in the computer shop next door that also belongs to him.
Not very reassuring, don’t you think? But it turned out that he’s a top diagnostician. Much better than the posh guy I first went to.
- To my great relief, he assured me that it wasn’t Lupus and he diagnosed Rheumatoid Arthritis instead – which still wasn’t great news, but a lot easier to deal with than Lupus. They are both disorders of the immune system.
Tip #2: Do your research.
After my second diagnosis, I emailed my friends and students about it and did some research on the Net.
One of my Zen students contacted me and told me about a treatment adopted by a handful of rheumatologists worldwide. He said, “Check it out. A friend of mine tried it and she’s now in remission.”
This is a treatment called, Antibiotic Protocol, and it follows the work and legacy of Thomas McPherson Bronwn M.D. He suggested treating Rheumatoid Arthritis with long-term, low-dose antibiotics.
This treatment allowed my body to go into full remission over time.
There aren’t many medical practitioners who know about Antibiotic Protocol. For example, Dr.Chiu is the only rheumatologist who follows this protocol in New Zealand.
Tip #3: Stop whining about it.
Do you talk about your illness?
My suggestion is to stop doing that. Every time you talk about your illness, it weakens your life spirit.
The gritty part in you helps you to survive! The part that doesn’t complain.
Sometimes you may need to confide in a friend. But do that sparingly.
Tip #4: Don’t settle for maintenance, go for improvement.
I was in the gym a few days ago and, at the end of a grueling session, my wonderful coach, Trevor Voyce, was helping me to stretch.
He said,”You’re quite flexible. That should be relatively easy to maintain.”
“Maintain?!” I burst out. “I’m not the slightest bit interested in maintenance, Trevor. I want to improve my flexibility!”
That’s been my mindset right throughout these four years of fighting my way back to health. I suggest you adopt it too.
Tip #5: Get and stay fit.
A fit body is much more likely to heal than one that has gone to flab.
Make sure you keep up a fitness routine – no matter what your condition is.
Even if you’re in hospital and in a plaster cast from head to toe – set up an exercise routine for the only two fingers you can move. You need to be bloody-minded about this!
Tip #6: Change to healthy nutrition.
It’s important to give yourself the best chance regaining your health.
Good nutrition is hugely important.It pays to do some research about what kind of diet is best for your condition, and which foods must be avoided.
For example, if you suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis, you must avoid tomatoes completely. They can make your condition flare up.
Tip #7: Keep your mind active.
It’s easy for your mind to become preoccupied with thoughts about your illness and future prognosis.I suffered from that too.
A couple of months into the diagnosis, I caught myself fantasizing about life in a wheelchair!
So make sure that you have something else that fills your mind.
Find out what your passion is.
Take up something new that you love doing.
Learn. Grow. Get the picture?
Tip #8: Let go of negative thoughts.
Negative thoughts hinder your recovery.Here’s a simple way to deal with them: Wear a simple bracelet with beads strung on a rubber band. Whenever you notice a negative thought, change the bracelet to the other wrist.
Don’t allow yourself to indulge in negative self-talk.
Tip #9: Ask, “How will this allow me to grow?”
Remember that everything that happens is a potential gift and can help us to grow as human beings.If you ask this question, you will find meaning in what is happening to you.
Tip #10: Celebrate even the tiniest improvement.
It’s important to truly celebrate the steps of your recovery and improvement.It’s like rewarding a dog for fetching a ball: once they get rewarded, they’ll keep on fetching balls for you.
Same with your body: you are giving it a signal to keep on improving.
Tip #11: Don’t buy into the martyr story.
You might hate me for saying this, but many people actually don’t want to heal.I’ll tell you how I know this. As you can imagine, whenever I meet someone who may be suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis, I immediately tell them about the Antibiotic Protocol and implore them to try it.
Well, the weird thing is that most don’t.
Many look at me with a little simpering smile that implies, “Don’t you know that this is the cross I have to bear…?”
My suggestion is: forget about that little simper! There’s a much great payoff from fighting your way back to health than there is from taking up the invalid’s role!
But what if the condition is terminal?
Well, we all suffer from a terminal condition. It’s called life. If I were to be diagnosed with cancer, I would follow exactly the steps above. And maybe I wouldn’t be able to improve. Maybe I would finally die. So be it. But in the meantime, I would have used all my grit to fight back and to claim the maximum quality of life that I can.
Maybe I would finally die. So be it. But in the meantime, I would have used all my grit to fight back and to claim the maximum quality of life that I can.
So be it. But in the meantime, I would have used all my grit to fight back and to claim the maximum quality of life that I can.
But in the meantime, I would have used all my grit to fight back and to claim the maximum quality of life that I can.
But what a Zen view of illness? Shouldn’t we accept things gracefully?
You can accept things gracefully if that’s what you want.
Me, I’m going to fight back until the end!
I’m just not the kind of person who gives in easily.
Having said that, I’m not in denial either. I’m a realist. And I know that death will come at the end.
When that last time comes, I’ll try to go gracefully.
But until then, I’ll fight back.
The most important thing when fighting your way back to health is to tap into the huge reservoir of strength we all possess. Chinese sages called it ‘Chi’. In martial Arts, it’s called ‘fighting spirit’.
It’s the power that helps us survive. You can feel it deep in your belly.
If you follow the tips above, you will uncover and strengthen your life energy, and this power will help you to fight your way back to health.
Image of Mary Jaksch: Elspeth Collier