Our commitment to better health was solidified after the time my husband spent in the hospital (more on that here). It put our health and the priority to care for it at the top of the list and placed everything else sharply into focus. In the two years that have passed since that time we have learned even more fully the importance of taking impeccable care of our bodies to ensure we are firmly on the road to better health.
In his mid-20’s my husband was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his knees. There was no known cause and it was something that we lived with and eventually started to manage through lifestyle changes (remember, we quit Doritos and Snickers) and exercise that supported it.
In the fall of 2015, his right knee locked up and for a month he was unable to properly bend the leg. He walked like a pirate for a month! We finally decided that it was time to go back to the doctor because he couldn’t walk properly. We faced the reality that he may require surgery. When he was 25 they said that he needed replacement but that there was no way he was going to get it at his age. We made an appointment with his doctor and he recommended he be referred to the orthopedic surgeon. And so we waited.
Shortly after that appointment, my husband went to buy a piece of equipment for his shop and when he went to lift it into the back of his truck he hurt his back. It was awful. He could hardly walk and now his back was clearly deeply injured. I was distraught to see him in so much pain. Something needed to change.
No One is Sent to Us by Accident
I have a tendency to be a bit tenacious. I am probably putting that mildly. When it came to our path to better health, I learned so much about improving our eating habits and how to create a support system that would ensure success. When my husband injured his back, I called in the army.
I encouraged him to make an appointment with a chiropractor that I had heard amazing things about. When he called he couldn’t get into see the original guy but got an appointment with another doctor. This was no accident and I laugh at the ways in which this appointment changed so much for us.
This doctor was and is amazing. He spent an hour with my husband reviewing his full medical history, looking at his x-rays of his knees and digging deep into what was causing his knee problem. What? My husband was there because he hurt his back. The doctor said that in looking at the x-rays he could clearly see the osteoarthritis but that was not what was causing the locking of the knee. He did a treatment on his knee that broke up scar tissue that had built up from his IT band rubbing on his femur. Three sessions later and the knee was in better shape than it was since…….ever!
Of course, the doctor helped him with his back as well though the road to recovery there was a heck of a lot longer with that. My husband started going to physio for his knees, massage therapy and continued to see the chiropractor for active release sessions for his back. I encouraged him to see a naturopath as well to review supplements that could help his joints. Through all of this, he was dedicated to getting back to better health and was amazingly consistent with the exercises his therapists gave him to heal.
We were referred to three specialists in the last year. One was the surgeon to discuss his options for his knees and the other was a rheumatologist to try to get to bottom of why he was experiencing an increase the osteoarthritis in other joints. I will get to the third in a moment.
By the time the appointment for the orthopedic surgeon came around about five months after the referral, my husband’s knees were feeling so good that he didn’t even want to go. I encouraged him to go for the information and I am glad that we did. The surgeon looked at his x-rays and had a hard time understanding how he was still walking. He said that he was an immediate candidate for replacement and that he would feel amazing after. However, the replacement parts have an expiration date and the revision surgeries are not as effective. When we heard that he may be in a wheelchair in his 60’s we decided to keep the grumpy knees he has as long as possible.
The army of people that we put in our corner were crucial to my husband’s recovery. There was nothing that we could really do about the joints but there was a lot we could do to strengthen the muscles around the joints and the supplements he took were helping as well. We joined our local rec center and started swimming lengths 3-4 times per week as well as maintaining the ongoing work and exercises with the physiotherapist.
One Last Miracle
In the summer of 2016, after reviewing all of the notes from his specialists, his doctor called him into the office to order another test. It was a bone density scan. He got called back in shortly after that test and his doctor said that the test showed thinning of his femur which could indicate osteoporosis. Really? Are you frigging kidding me? Off to another specialist we go.
If I had learned anything from the last year, it was that waiting for a specialist was lame so I jumped onto Dr. Google the minute I got off the phone with him after the doctor. The internet is a wonderful wealth of information. It stated that one of the treatments of osteoporosis was weight-bearing exercise. We have never worked out in a gym a day in our life and knowing that we knew nothing, we turned to the experts.
Through an old friend of mine who is a kinesiologist, we got the name of another kinesiologist who worked out of a gym a few minutes from our home. He came highly recommended so we made an appointment for both of us. That was three months ago and everything has changed for us.
Who knew that working out at a gym would be the thing that changed everything for my husband. His back had been plaguing him for over a year at this point and after just a few short months he is feeling amazing. We are working out with the kinesiologist/amazing human once per week and on our own two more times per week. My husband and I have been together for 12 years and in that time he has NEVER been a person that gets up early. Since we started working out and he is feeling so good, he has been getting up at 6 and working in his garage before work. This is unheard of. He used to growl at me before 8am and now he is jumping out of bed and genuinely energized and happier. He is sleeping well because he is no longer in pain.
Just last week we got our appointment to see the endocrinologist and he was completely perplexed as to why my husband had the conditions that he had. However, the best part about that entire appointment was that he said a person under the age of 50 can’t actually be diagnosed with osteoporosis. My husband’s doctor wouldn’t have necessarily known that in looking at his scan and the only word I heard was osteoporosis which launched me into my type “A” overdrive solution-seeking google-fest.
How do you say thank you to someone that changed your life? I think about this a lot. How do you communicate with the people that have been instrumental on your path to finding better health? Is thank you really enough? This has been the worst and best year of our lives. Seeing the person you love in pain is unbearable and yet we have emerged from this with so much to be grateful for.
Lessons Learned on the Path to Better Health
- You Need an Army – we could not have gotten to the place of vibrant health without the army of health practitioners we have seen over the last year. Who would have thought that a chiropractor would solve his knee problem and a kinesiologist would be the answer to his bad back?
- Be Relentless – my husband is a total inspiration to me. He credits me with a lot of why he is feeling better but we are a team. He had to do an immense amount of hard work to get to the place he is at now and despite the pain and the setbacks, he never gave up. He inspires me daily and I am committed to supporting his as he continues to grow stronger and healthier.
- Your body is a gift – I could see the weight of pain that was hanging on my husband. It was awful to witness and not be able to fix. To now be in a place of feeling extremely strong and well is the most incredible feeling. It took hard work and commitment but it was so worth it. Despite the medical conditions that he has, we are beyond blessed to have healthy and strong bodies.
- Health is relative concept – when we started this path to better health we believed that we were relatively healthy. We knew we should clean up our eating but we were free of illness. As we started to improve our habits and feel better, our definition of health improved. When faced with setbacks we kept pushing forward not fully realizing how good we could feel and now that we feel better than we ever have, we have changed our definition of what a healthy life is.
- Our Health is Our Number 1 Priority – this may seem like it goes without saying but it is important to articulate that our life has changed dramatically to align with this number one priority. Everyday we take action towards ensuring that our lifestyle is aligned with this priority. We want to be as healthy and well as long as possible. We have a lot of living to do and we are determined to experience vibrant health as our daily experience. Sometimes it means that we say no to things. You will probably see us in the gym on Christmas day if it happens to be open and happens to be a gym day!
This has been the worst and best year of my life. Everything has come sharply into focus. I have learned so much about being in a partnership. We are completely unapologetic about taking care of ourselves and supporting one another. Our relationship has bloomed. This is not about restricting anything, it is about embracing life to the fullest and ensuring that we are happy and healthy for as long as possible. Nothing is guaranteed but I am determined to make the most of the time that I am given with this incredible man.
Have you ever faced a setback and had it ignite a change in your life? What is your number one priority?