The story of Carol B. (48) is one about endurance and hope. A former school teacher in Tennessee, Carol’s health took a sudden turn for the worst in 2008. Life as she knew it changed drastically.
What is your fitness story?
In August 2008, I was going through a really difficult time in my life. Over the next several months, I knew that something was terribly wrong, and finally the doctors diagnosed me with the neuromuscular disorder, spasmodic torticollis. It all began with my whole body having uncontrollable, involuntary muscle movements. My body kept moving on its own for months; it got so bad that I went eight days and nights without sleep. All I could do was keep pacing through the house, my body moving uncontrollably.
In January, 2009, my uncontrollable, body movements stopped, but I suddenly had neck pain, no control over my neck, and my head dropped to my chest. I had to wear a neck brace to keep my head up, but little did I know what was to come. After battling the inability to hold my head up for 6+ months, my neck muscles started to spasm, yanking my head all over the place. I literally had to do stretching exercises for 5-6 hours/day for several months just to survive. I got Botox injections in my neck muscles with the goal of slowing down/stopping the spasming, but it literally caused my head to lay on my left shoulder for more than six months.
Over the next several years, the pain I endured was indescribable, and I had to undergo 4 spinal surgeries to take the pressure off all the pinched nerves that were causing the pain and weakness in my arms and legs. The side effects of my medications cause me severe problems with sleeping and eating.
Most nights, I get 2-4 hours of sleep, and that has been going on for years now. Over time, I finally regained control of my head, but then I lost control of my eyes to another neuromuscular disorder called blepharospasm. I was even initially approved for disability for blindness, because I could not open my eyes up without using my fingers. In addition to the spasmodic torticollis and blepharospasm, I have myofascial pain syndrome, spondylosis, bulging and herniated discs at all levels in my neck and some in the rest of my spine, bone spurs at all levels in my neck, scoliosis, sciatica, narrowing of my spinal canal putting pressure on my spinal cord, and so much more that I can't even remember anymore.
During 2012 and the beginning of 2013, things got horrifically bad. I didn't know it at the time, but two discs in my neck were in the process of rupturing. Due to that, my brain wasn't able to send the needed signals to the rest of my body to tell it what to do, and I never knew when I was going to lose control of my body! Sometimes, my legs would quit working, and I would fall down. Sometimes my arms and hands would quit working, and I would have to call someone to pick me up in the car. I nearly died several times, because my throat got so twisted up, I couldn't breathe! I had my fourth surgery, a double fusion, at that time. The following year, my pain kept getting worse, my appetite decreased even more, and sleeping became absolutely obsolete. I was doing so badly, my husband honestly thought I was dying, and I really didn't know what to think anymore. My husband literally carried my 100-pound body into the hospital where they kept me for a week and did medication stabilization.
After leaving the hospital, I came across Argus in an ad and decided to check it out. I was absolutely fascinated by all the app had to offer. The more I got into the app, the more motivated and inspired I got. After getting out of the hospital, I was doing considerably better. At least, after spending 6-7 years in bed, I was finally able to get up for several hours each day. As I walked more and more, I also started paying attention to what I ate, because I was learning so much about eating from Argus. I quickly figured out that my diet had a tremendous effect on how I felt and how well I could function. From there, I just kept pushing forward, and all the support and encouragement that I got from my friends on Argus absolutely was the wind beneath my sails that gave me the willpower to keep fighting!
After 6-7 years of being bedridden, I'm now walking, running, and exercising. I've had days that I have even walked 13 miles. I had absolutely resigned myself to staying in bed and having to sit all the time for the rest of my life. I certainly never believed in my wildest dreams that I would ever run again. I truly am a walking miracle!
What is your typical fitness routine?
Normally, I can only make 2-mile runs, but I've had some days that I could do more. I'm always working on changing things up. Just a short while ago, it was all I could do to walk 3 miles in a whole day. Now, I'm walking 3-4 miles per walk, sometimes more, and the other day, I ran 2 miles and walked 6 miles without stopping.
What motivates you to stay fit?
After being bedridden for 6-7 years, I'm extremely motivated to stay fit, because I never want to go back to that life again. Staying fit has reduced my pain, and I am enjoying life, once again. My husband and I just recently got back from vacation, and I was able to swim for the first time after 6-7 years.
Also, I've been able to reduce my medication since I have been more proactive with my exercise and diet, which is a blessing beyond words. The medications can be just as debilitating as my disorder; they make me very tired and lethargic feeling.
How do you fit working out in your life?
I go with what my body tells me I can do. I try to do my running in the mornings, so I can get it over with, and that's when I feel my best after I take my morning meds. I'm doing so much better, and my strength and endurance have improved so much, I'm finding that I'm able to do runs and workouts in the evenings now, too!
What are your health/fitness plans for the future?
The pain I experience is often times indescribable, but I'm getting stronger because of all the walking, stretching, and strengthening exercises. As my muscles get stronger, I can control my body more. I am so super excited about being able to decrease my meds! My ultimate goal is to get off my medications and handle my disability through diet and exercise. Exercising and eating healthy is definitely going to be a lifelong journey for me. My goals right now are to do strengthening exercises 3 days/week, stretching exercises 3 days/week, and walk every day.
I also hope to run 3 miles without stopping. I am definitely getting there with the help and inspiration of all my wonderful Argus family! Of course, my husband has been my biggest support system, and I never could've made it through all of this without him. He has been my strength, rock, and my one true love since I was 12-years-old.
I need to pay special tribute to my son, too. He waited on me hand and foot and got me to doctors' appointments for years.
How long have you been using Argus?
I have been using Argus since last summer, 2014.
What are the top three things you track using Argus?
I'm using Argus to keep up with my walking/running, eating, and stretching and strengthening exercises.
What advice do you have for new users of Argus?
Argus has changed my life. I know everybody else says this, but people on Argus are the nicest, kindest, most encouraging and supportive people you'll ever meet. I have never seen a support system like it. The biggest thing I would recommend to new users is to watch how many friends you get on your friends' list.
Everything else falls into place naturally, but people get carried away with too many friends, and it gets overwhelming. You really bond with certain people on Argus, but when your newsfeed is filled up with too many friends, it gets overwhelming, and you don't always get to see updates from the people you're closest with. It can get to be way too much. I recommend that you cultivate your own support network very very carefully.
The Argus community is full of wonderful and inspiring people embarking on their own unique fitness journey. If you, or someone you know, have a great story to share, we would love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.