how busy the mind.
just thirty days ago, the 8.75 million stem cells that were harvested from my body were infused back to begin their adventure of building my new immune system. At the time, and even leading up to the transplant, throughout chemo and the battle with insurance, I’ve considered HSCT to be my chance at life without multiple sclerosis.
being home for twenty days, trying to establish a routine of rest, detox, exercise, weekly blood draws, healthy diet, quality time with family and friends, I continue to notice improvements; inflammation in my body has dissolved; I can close my eyes while standing and not wobble; my left knee wants to bend; my left arm can freely extend; both ankles can rotate; muscle spasms have almost completely vanished, and after a much too-long hiatus, I am motivated to be on my yoga mat again.
Having practiced nearly every day (est. 2006), it became too mentally challenging to be so physically disabled while on my mat after my 2015 relapse caused painful numbness from the waist down like an epidural had trapped my body between feeling dead and alive.
As yoga teaches me to embrace possibility and avoid judgment, practice awareness and attuning, I noticed that all too often, I was judging myself for lacking ability to be in the physical asanas. Distracted by how far I used to be able to stretch, how strong I used to feel in arm balances, how balanced I used to stand, the chitta or “mind-stuff” was too interruptive.
“Pain, dejection, unsteadiness of limbs, inspiration & expiration are the companions of the distractions” ~ Patanjali, Yoga Sutras 1:31
I knew that in order to find acceptance for my disability, I would need to set aside the physical yoga practice in lieu of sharpening my mind. As difficult as it was to roll up my mats and tuck them into the corner of a room upstairs, I chose to focus my energies on the mental practice of yoga – uniting body and mind – and all the possibilities of freeing my mind from distraction. Occasionally, I found myself in need of a good stretch or restorative yoga nidra to help me sleep, and my YogaGlo app rescued me, but I was not on my mat. Knowing how far mindfulness has carried me through the past few weeks, I am ever grateful, and recognize that my mat has never felt so wonderful as it does now.
thirty days in, while still very optimistic about my noticeable improvements and all that the future holds, grateful for the opportunity for reflection and restoration, humbled by the experience of living with a disability, I realize that MS will always be with me.
the reality of the damage is ever-present as the steroids that carried me through the hospital stay are no longer supporting my recovery, and my now twice-a-week PT and daily struggles with mobility continue to remind me: I have MS. Though I am ever hopeful that HSCT has halted progression of the disease, I still have MS.
the lesions in my brain, cervical and thoracic spine continue to interrupt the signals to my extremities and until those lesions heal (if ever), I will continue to live with damage caused by MS. the experiences of hobble-walking, stumbling, tripping, tipping over from poor balance, desperately pulling myself up stairs, avoiding people and denying truth, falling around the house and down stairs, and falling while crossing a busy street will always be with me.
thankfully, contemplative practices of mindfulness and yoga will always be with me. Thankfully, as my neurologist pointed out on Thursday, my HSCT happened at precisely the right time without complication (so far). Thankfully, our bodies are amazingly capable of healing and neuroplasticity is a real thing. Thankfully, the world is abundant with beauty and kind strangers. Thankfully, I have the support of family and friends, access to resources and time to devote myself to healing, strengthening, building a new immune system, and resting.
so, the work continues.
be grateful. be kind. be well.