I have created this blog to attempt to help those with chronic pain and depression. Sisyphus was a mythological figure sentenced to roll a stone uphill for eternity. In this way, I intend to approach chronic pain and depression as constant foes that must be your constant focus. Photo courtesy http://akrockefeller.com/blog/tibetan-autonomy-a-futile-odyssey/

Friday, April 22, 2016

Helping Others

The most poisonous thing we can do to ourselves is focus on our sickness.  Our own pain.

The most therapeutic thing we can do is to focus on the sickness and pain of others, and in helping them.

This video brought this back to me.  You can see the healing properties for both people when my friend Sidney helps her client, Hunter, achieve something he could not do before.  Both benefit.








May God bless you, as he has blessed me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Acceptance

I struggled yesterday with arthritis symptoms.  It was probably the worst I have felt since the Regenexx procedure, although nowhere near what it was prior to it.

This frustrated me and managed to put me in a very bad mood all day.  This is my typical reaction when things don't go as I want, and something that has held me back throughout my life.

The thing is, this isn't how nature works.  And, we are part of nature.


Nothing  observable in nature.....

Photo courtesy Alfonso Salgueiro Lora, Flickr Commons

                                                                          ......is linear.

Photo courtesy George Moga, Flickr Commons



 Everything in nature takes a path of least resistance.  This isn't because it is inherently lazy.  It is because the shortest path to a destination, or even to healing, is not a straight line.  Nature knows this.  Water knows that traveling in a straight line from point A to point B requires much more energy, than traveling along level and decreasing contours.  

We are not exempt from the laws of nature.  Every day is not going to be linearly better, healthier than the previous day.  It is when we decide that we know better than nature what we should do that we run into problems.  When we allow ourselves to adapt to nature's will, we can avoid setback and frustration.

When we accept what is, and allow ourselves to flow with the path of least resistance toward our destination, we can accomplish so much more than if we smash through barriers that should rather be avoided.
Photo courtesy Ding Zhou, Flickr Commons, http://dingzhouphoto.com


By accepting what is, today, we can discover more about ourselves and our purpose.  We can allow ourselves to heal and improve, physically, mentally, spiritually, by simply being present with where we are.  We can discover God's plan for us, rather than decide what our plan should be.


Photo courtesy Tim Geers, Wikimedia Commons






Saturday, April 16, 2016

Keep looking up

"There's a reason why this prison is the worst hell on earth... Hope. Every man who has ventured here over the centuries has looked up to the light and imagined climbing to freedom. So easy... So simple... And like shipwrecked men turning to sea water from uncontrollable thirst, many have died trying. I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope."

~ Bane explaining The Pit to Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises


Photo courtesy  Flickr Commons

How many times have we seen the light and turned our faces down in despair? Our only choice is hope. Faith can pull you through. 

We must never, ever let go. So often in life, we are almost out of the pit when we fall back to the bottom. Day by day, thought by thought....you can be free. Hope can overcome despair.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A layman's description of Regenexx Stem Cell Therapy





If you know me at all, you know how vocal I am about the recent procedure I went through for my osteoarthritis.  I wanted to explain in my own terms what the Regenexx procedure is and what it involves.

As I have mentioned previously in this blog, I have severe osteoarthritis (OA) in my left knee due to an injury that occurred about 15 years ago.  I have dealt with this medically through a number of ways, including two knee surgeries, steroid injections (for my knee, back and neck), gel injections, to name a few.  Where I began to see improvement was through chiropractic care, omitting foods that are high in sugar or gluten, and exercise.  Despite my best efforts, I eventually succumbed to the injury and was unable to walk without the use of a cane or leg brace. 

At this point, I decided to talk earnestly with an orthopedic surgeon about my options.  Although the minimum recommended age for a knee replacement is 50, at age 42, I had two separate orthopedic surgeons tell me that my OA was bad enough in my left knee to justify a replacement.  One of these doctors told me that he would put my knee at the age of someone in their 60s who had OA.

One day at a friend’s house, I told him of my plans, since he and I both shared a similar knee injury.  My friend is also a physical therapist, and he strongly encouraged me to forego the replacement, as he had seen this result in hip problems, along with the probability that the procedure could not be repeated, which would leave me completely out of a knee.

He had been researching stem cell therapy, and showed me a series of videos for a procedure originating in Colorado named Regenexx.  I was initially very skeptical and told him although I was impressed with the videos, I would need to think on it.  After all, I was already scheduled for the knee replacement, and what guarantee did I have that this wasn’t some marketing ploy by a crafty company, or that this would even work for me?

The wheels had already started to turn however, so I dug into their literature.  The great thing about Regenexx is the sheer volume of research they have done on their procedure.  If you are a numbers junky or love compare charts and charts of data, as I do, I encourage you to go to their website at www.regenexx.com.  If you think I am nuts for enjoying that sort of thing, I’ve got you covered, because I am going to explain to you exactly what the procedure is, and how it differs from others that are being offered.

All through our bodies there are stem cells.  I am no doctor and cannot go into great detail on this, but basically, stem cells are workers inside your body whose job it is to repair tissue.  When you go through an injury, such as I did involving a car accident, the toxicity in the injured area can drive away the stem cells.  In their absence, things start to go south.  In my case, my cartilage began to degenerate.  Nothing was there to help sustain it, and according to one study I read, cartilage in the knee due to OA can degenerate at a rate of approximately 4-5% per year:



Assuming this is true, over a 10-15 year period, you would lose the majority of your cartilage from the injured joint. 
  
 The Regenexx procedure consists of four visits:

1. Initial evaluation and determination of qualification for procedure.  Any doctor who performs the Regenexx procedure must go to training in the home facility in Colorado.  Only about 1 out of every 10 doctors who apply to perform this procedure are accepted by Regenexx.  So rest assured that if you go to a clinic that performs this procedure, they want to represent the brand as best as they can.  Not everyone qualifies for the procedure. That is to say, not everyone is a good candidate.  This is too complicated for me to go into here, but the takeaway is that your doctor will tell you your odds of the procedure’s ability to work for you.  If you agree to go to the next step, you will be scheduled for 3 additional visits:

2.  Prolotherapy:  This is a fancy term for an injection of saline/sugar solution.  This is prep for the actual stem cell therapy.  I noticed nothing at all after this.  No additional pain or relief.

3. The big day!  Stem cell therapy!    This is about 3 days after the prolotherapy.

a.       You start the day with a blood draw. 
b.       About half hour later, you have the bone marrow extraction.  Most of the questions I have had are about the bone marrow extraction.  First of all, you are completely awake for all of this.  No sedation, you walk out the same day and don’t have the side effects of being put to sleep.  This puts the fear of God in some people.  The pain of the bone marrow extraction is on par with getting a cavity drilled.  I wouldn’t rate it any worse than that.  You lay on your stomach, they numb you up, then you put headphones on to drown out the sound of the drill.  You feel a slightly unpleasant pressure for a short time, then your doctor taps you on the shoulder and says you are all done, go get some breakfast!
c.       About 2-2.5 hours later, you get the stem cell injection.  They injected me in three locations in my knee (about 1/3 of the vial of stem cells in each location) and honestly, I didn’t feel much of anything.  After this, you are done.  You will feel woozy from the blood draw and events of the day, so you need someone to drive you.

4. Post stem cell platelet (SCP) blood draw.  This is one of the unique characteristics of this procedure.  They take more blood from you after the fact, spin that down into a strong concentration of platelets, and inject it into the stem cell-rich area to help boost their effectiveness.  The platelets act as a sort of espresso shot for the stem cells.

Here is a great video of what happens with the stem cell platelet process, and why the length of the procedure helps improve the outcome: 





So, what makes this different from the other method that is being performed locally, which is the use of fat-extracted stem cells?  In a nutshell, the amount of stem cells they harvest from marrow is massive compared to that from fat. 

Why is that important?  When they inject the stem cells in your injured joint, your immune system attacks them.  They are soldiers who don’t know any better than to attack what they perceive as a foreign body that has been air dropped into the battlefield. 

I can personally vouch for this.  Although I couldn’t see inside my knee the evening of my stem cell injection, I know there must have been a battle on the level of the beaches of Normandy, because my knee swelled out to a size somewhere between a golf ball and tennis ball.  This eventually subsided.

Bone marrow stem cells are more appropriate for orthopedic tissue repair with the Regenexx process negating any difference in the stem cell content of bone marrow versus fat. 

I have heard of someone locally who had the fat-extracted stem cell method performed more than once, and that ‘it helps for a little while, but not much’. 

As for me, about 1 week after the last injection, I was completely free of the cane, walking with only a knee brace.  I was able to walk up and down steps, something that would have been impossible for me to do just a week prior without leaning heavily on a cane.

I am now almost 7 weeks post-op, and am completely free of the knee brace.  I am working through physical therapy, working on regaining stability of the joint, riding a stationary bike and swimming laps.

More importantly, I am playing with my kids!  Doing house chores (a harmful side-effect of getting better, I am afraid 😁), and generally, living a happier life. 

I was in a very dark place in the lead up to this procedure.  To put it bluntly, I was miserable and making everyone around me miserable.  Regenexx has done more for me than transplant stem cells….it has renewed my hope.  It has started to grow a belief in myself and my self-worth that I thought I had completely lost.  In short, it has saved my life.

If you decide to explore the Regenexx option, you need to ask yourself what your health is worth to you.  Look at the testimonies on their website, listen to mine.  I have nothing to gain from this by telling you what it has done for me.  I am not being paid by them to say ingratiating things about them.  It is just that I see so much suffering.  I see so many people in so much pain, losing so much of their life.  Seeing their families lose that time with them.

If you are told by anyone that you cannot regrow cartilage, that is unequivocally a lie.   Recently on an episode of the doctors, a Regenexx patient was showcased that had lost cartilage, and had replenished it through this procedure:




Someone I recently met, Julie Cerrone, who has for the past few years walked on crutches, has completely regained her life in an amazing way. 





She is a Patient Influence Network Director and actively spreads the good news of her recovery, and gives advice on how to lead a healthy, happy life.  Please watch her video and check out her website at http://www.itsjustabadday.com/

These are only a couple of success stories out of the thousands of procedures that have been performed. 

With that, I will end this entry into my blog.  May God bless you as he has me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Focus on the things you can do, not what you cannot do

At my lowest, I found it was hardest to motivate myself to do anything.  In fact, I felt as though it was just punishment for me, for the mistakes I had made, for who I had become, to sit and do nothing. Add nothing to myself.

This is vicious cycle that can happen with chronic pain and depression.  You ache, so you self-lament.  You self-lament, which makes the aching worse.  You sit in a pool of despair,  not wishing to get out.  

I say this only to say, I understand.  I understand how revolting it is to hear someone tell you to do something, because every instinct in you wants to lash out and tell that person that they don't or couldn't understand what you are going through.

So what I want to offer are suggestions for how to keep moving.  It is so important to keep moving.  For many of my friends, moving physically is either very difficult or not possible.  So in the absence of that, what you can move is your mind.

Knit.  Carve.  Write.  Make a home-made card or gift for a friend who needs support.  Get a puzzle off the shelf.  

Idle hands (and an idle mind) are the devil's tool.  It leaves you reaching out and projecting your pain on those around you, which only drags them down and hurts you and your relationship with them.  

I have found that social media can be a great tool to connect with and support others.  It also has the effect of exacerbating symptoms of depression, when you focus on others' thoughts about religion, politics, etc.  It is OK to ACCEPT people for who they are, or to simply accept that they exist and may not be on your wavelength. But you don't have to ABSORB THEIR CONSCIOUSNESS.  

In the following video, Chris Dugan, a former NFL player who has had at least 28 brain surgeries for an illness known as Chiari Malformation (as of this video), talks about how important it is to approach life with a proper attitude.  That we have a choice everyday of one of two attitudes: a positive one or a negative one.  That we cannot change the way others act towards us, but we can change our perception of their actions, and our own interactions.  To focus on the things you CAN DO, not the things you CAN'T DO.  




We compare ourselves to an impossible idealistic standard.  All of us, everyday.  What we were capable of at 18.  How we look compared to airbrushed images of people we see.  To elite athletes.  To successful business-people.  

What you must do in order to be successful yourself, is first to accept yourself, and work with who you are.  This last point is a huge struggle for me, and one that I have come nowhere near accomplishing.  But I will continue to roll the stone, to carry forth who I am and try to make that the best version of me that I can. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Great advice.

http://www.social-consciousness.com/2013/09/how-negative-energy-affects-your-life-and-how-to-clear-it.html?m=1

Sunlight through the rain

Every day begins with one thought. For me, most recently, this has been a self hating thought. That first thought sets the tone for the entire day. Those who have slighted us, something we perceive happened to us....the other party involved doesn't care about you. They are battling with themselves. Don't get drawn into the battle. Focus on building yourself from within. Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can't do. 

Focus on what you will do today to make yourself better. On those you will help. Not on those who try to hurt you. See the sunlight through the rain. 



Photo courtesy Zoltan Kelemen, Flickr Commons

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Lets get started

Hello everyone, I guess I have to start somewhere, so let me give some background on myself, who I was, am, and who I intend to be.

First, who I was.  Many years ago, I was a very successful athlete.  In high school, I was all state cross country and track, and I also qualified for states in wrestling.  My high school records for 1600 and 3200 stood for 25 years.

I went on to run cross country and track in college, twice all-conference and academic all-american, and competing at the national meet 3 times in cross country.

I went on to earn a masters in Environmental Engineering, which eventually became my profession.

Now, fast forward to the year 2000.  My wife and I were out for a drive when I attempted to pass a car in front of us.  The car turned left (into us, never having signaled that it was doing so), which caused our car to flip twice.

We escaped with our lives.  I thought I had been relatively injury free, but years later learned that this would not be the case.  In pictures from the car accident, I can see a large red mark on my left knee.   

I noticed almost immediately that I had difficulty with running.  My left knee felt like it had a stabbing pain.  I kept trying to run through the years, only to feel this ability diminish.

I discovered crossfit, which was a great outlet for me, since there are so many aspects of it that do not involved pounding your knees.  I also took up yoga.

In 2014, I switched jobs to a field that required me to walk a great deal on uneven slopes (whereas before I sat at a desk all day).  This proved to be my undoing.  I quit this job and went back to my previous one, but found that I was nearly unable to walk, and then, only with the use of a cane.



I managed to gain about 30 pounds over that year, fell into a deep fit of depression (something I have battled for a great deal of my life), and struggled physically and mentally.

Although only 42 years old, one of the top local knee surgeons said I qualified for a partial knee replacement. I scheduled this, then learned about a stem cell procedure known as Regenexx. I changed course and now, 6 weeks after the procedure, am shoveling out of the hole I fell into. I will share much more about this procedure which I feel is revolutionary and life changing. 

Coupling all of this is my wife's illnesses, which have nearly killed her twice. Beginning in 2007, she has had numerous brain and spinal cord surgeries for Arnold Chiari Malformation and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Through it all, maintaining a strength for me and our three beautiful children that I could only aspire to possess.

What I intend for this blog to do is to be a sort of diary. I don't intend to get on here and preach, for I have no sermon to offer. This shall be a theater of the heart. What I am going through at any given time. Something I did to bring myself up. Something that triggered a new low,that caused the stone to roll to the bottom of the hill.

I mean to offer hope through my days of hope. To offer solace in my days of hopelessness. Just simply to share my life with anyone who feels it would benefit them. 

All I ask is that you avoid conflict with comments. Provide support to each other and ask questions. I once had all of the answers. Time and experience have shown me that I had only knowledge I had gained from a doctor, an article, another person, a website. I will answer honestly based on my own experience but won't offer medical advice, because the only credentials I have are how I have managed my own body and mind. 

I have had this question asked of me, pertaining to my injury, my disability, my chronic pain....how much of it do you think is mental? The question of course implies that I am imagining some if not all of my leg, neck and back pain. After much reflection, my answer to this is that it is all the completely mental and physical. There is no grey line. No pie chart to distribute each amount. The pain of loss, the pain of missing out, the pain, simply the pain itself, consumes every corner of your mind. It feeds the nightmares and feeds the misery.

And only through your mind can you battle that which ails your body. The two are intertwined. And I want you to realize that I believe you when you say you hurt. You ache. I believe you because I am there and have been there for years at varying degrees.

Lastly, who I intend to be. I intend to be a better version of me. Eckhart Tolle speaks of the manifestation of ego, a version of ourself that projects our worst attributes. This is who I am now. I intend to disassemble this version of myself and be the me that I know I can be.