An Unwelcome Curse
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare degenerative condition called ARCA1 (Autosomal Recessive Cerebellar Ataxia type 1). The diagnosis was unexpected and extremely stressful. I did a lot of reading on the subject and the outlook was not promising. As anyone with this condition knows, the future looks very bleak. My initial symptoms included cognitive problems, slurred speech, memory issues, poor coordination, loss of balance, and serious depression. Further, I read that there may be more to come including breathing/swallowing problems, complete loss of mobility, speech and sight. These all vary from patient to patient. But, this only added to my stress and worry. What’s worse is nobody could give me a straight answer as to when my symptoms would escalate. I was left with only questions. Who would I be in 10 years? Would I be forced to live in a home? Would I have any friends? Who would take care of me? What should I do? Could nobody help me?
Seeing the Light
During the few weeks following my diagnosis, I was in a lot of emotional turmoil. I searched everywhere for answers. Thankfully, I stumbled upon the work of motivator Robin Sharma. His message spoke to me. I invested my time in learning all I could and doing all he prescribed.
A friend was kind enough to share a TEDx Talk of a Dr. who prescribed a unique ketogenic/Paleo diet for MS and a variety of other diseases. I bought the book, read it thoroughly and saw some promising results.
I have since changed my diet slightly, but I’ll talk about that in another post.
These two things were the first two glimmers of hope with allowed me to move forward.
From a Curse to a Blessing
I read a lot. My mother gave me the gift of a passion for reading when I was young. With my newfound spark of light, I resolved to change my life. I read all I could. I did my best to expand my mind. I read books on religion and spirituality, I read personal development books, I read autobiographies of great people. I also hand-picked movies I knew would have deeply inspirational messages I could learn from.
All this study helped build up an inner belief that this diagnosis was actually a good thing. Instead of a problem, it is an opportunity. An opportunity to share what I’ve learned and maybe achieve something great along the way.
I love inspirational movies. And Cinderella Man is one of the best. It’s the story of boxer James J. Braddock. He spent the early part of his career at the top of his game. He was winning fights and making money. Then the Great Depression hit. Work was infrequent. Like most Americans at the time, he bounced between the breadlines and the shipyards. The future looked bleak.
Almost at rock bottom, Braddock caught a lucky break when his manager offered him a title fight and the promise of a much-needed payday. Braddock works his way to the title match by winning all of his preliminary bouts.
In a press conference leading up to the title fight – in the movie, anyway – a reporter questions Braddock delivers an inspiring message about his meteoric rise:
‘What’s changed, Jimmy? I mean you couldn’t win a fight for love or money, right? How do you explain your comeback?’
‘Well the truth is, Jake…for a number of years there we was fighting injured… I had a run of bad luck. And, this time I know what I’m fighting for.’
‘Yeah? What’s that, Jimmy?’
I take that message to heart. Perhaps in the years leading up to my diagnosis, I had lost sight of what was important. It’s these few things that are now the focus of my life.
Love the Struggle
I read a book recently that said I should ‘Love the struggle. Fear none of it.’ And, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I write those words in my journal every day to keep them tattooed on my brain.
There is the odd down day which is to be expected. For the most part, I stay pretty positive. I know that if I change the way I think, everything else will change. Changing my thoughts will change my feelings which will change my behaviour which changes my results.