What a year 2016 was. I was honored as a finalist in both the Health Advocate Hero and Lifetime Achievement awards by patient community site WEGOHealth and received the Lifetime Fitness Inspiration Award from the Global Bodybuilding Organization.
Kendra, my wife, and I opened our first OptimalBody Personal Fitness facility in Murrieta, California, held several 12-week MS Fitness Challenge events nationwide, and most important, educated people with multiple sclerosis (MS) around the world about living a lifestyle of fitness.
But even with all of these amazing achievements, 2016 was also a year of challenges for me and MS.
There’s Only So Much You Control
I have found that after 10 years of battling this disease, it continues to try to beat me. Despite the many emails and comments I get saying I don’t look like I have MS or that the disease seems to be symptomless for me, that is far from the truth.
I am still unable to feel anything on my left side other than numbness, tingling, and pain, and I cannot coordinate my leg, hand, and fingers, which has created many obstacles in my efforts to continue bodybuilding at a competitive level.
In 2016, I had a few setbacks due to the MS symptoms I have been dealing with for years. From causing simple difficulties in maneuvering dumbbells and weights while training to leading to my dropping a 45-pound plate directly on my left foot, resulting in a broken toe, MS has been relentless in attacking my body. I am now at a stage where my right side is beginning to feel the symptoms, and the fatigue of MS is daunting.
So do I give up and give in to MS? I don’t think so!
Am I jumping for joy to see and feel MS progress in my body? Absolutely not, but this is not a curable disease that I can choose to fix. Unfortunately, MS is not a one-size-fits-all disease with one set of symptoms and one best course of action for treating them. MS is complicated, with multiple symptoms that can differ from person to person and change constantly.
Even with all the nutritional support I give my body, all the exercise I continue to do, and all the positive thoughts I instill in my mind, MS is not something I can rid myself of.
Do Not Fall for Fake Cures
The internet is full of articles and claims that some diet or system that someone is selling has “cured” them of MS. Please don’t put false hopes into these allegations.
No doctor, scientist, or anyone in the medical field has found a cure for MS to date. And although it is necessary to experiment with what may help diminish symptoms and improve your quality of life, always keep in mind that what may appear to lead to a miraculous healing in one person is specific to that person and may not be as miraculous for you.
Believe me, I have been a guinea pig for everything from stem cell therapy to gluten-free dieting in an effort to liberate my body of MS, yet the disease is still here. I have, over time, found what does work for me and for many who have followed my lead, but again, each of us is unique in this journey, and each of us needs to adapt any given protocol to fit our unique needs.
You Win Against MS Simply by Fighting
Everything I am doing — and that I recommend you do — is important in the management of this disease, but at the end of the day, the direction MS takes is up to MS. We need to fight and be proactive in our battle. We need to stand strong, educate ourselves, and take action. This is what living with MS means.
I might never win a bodybuilding contest with multiple sclerosis but I will win the battle against MS. My journey is not about me winning contests, it’s about motivating others with MS to take control of their lives, get fit, and beat the odds in every way possible. Not everyone has to compete in a contest to win. You win by just getting up and fighting.
David Lyons’s new book, Everyday Health & Fitness with Multiple Sclerosis, co-authored with neurologist Jacob Sloane, offers nutrition advice, a mental approach to fitness, and discussion of the mind-body connection. The book will be available in February 2017.
Photo, top: Gary Waters/Getty Images