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How I manage my chronic pain.

In 2016, a teenaged woman in a rush to get to a party, accelerated into the back of my car. Because I take good care of myself – I seemed fine. However, to be on the safe side (after reporting the collision to the police and my insurance company), I went for a check up at a medical clinic, where the physician recommended massage and physical therapy treatment.

The massage therapist was excellent, but the physiotherapist had no experience in treating injuries sustained in motor vehicle collisions nor was he trauma informed. From assessments by other health practitioners, my neck, hip and jaw suffered significant amounts of damage, that he failed to find. As a result treatment for these conditions was delayed.

Nearly, nine months post collision, I found a physiotherapist who understood my condition, providing a proper diagnosis and care for traumatic brain injury. Managing the effects of concussion was difficult, because while I looked healthy, I had mood issues, ranging from high anxiety to depression. I was often short tempered and aggressive with people who were trying to help me. 

Through my family doctor, the behavioral health consultant recommended his colleague who specialized in chronic pain management using the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who designed Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) interventions. Then, still under their care when I was hit again in 2018 by a young man following too closely. 

Alberta Healthy Living Program

Right before I was hit in 2018, I took training for Better Choices Better Health – Chronic Pain, a six week self-management program offered by Alberta Healthy Living program that helps people understand their pain holistically.

The skills I learned facilitating the course helped me cope with my own situation, especially as we had to be in the company of other people. Due to sensitivity to noise, I did not go out a lot with friends, though I could spend time one on one with them. I kept active, going on walks, but couldn’t go back to my active lifestyle of hiking in the mountains. I started ballroom dancing to regain my balance rarely with music. We worked through the syllabus to build enough strength so that I could avoid falling. 

Fear of the future was constant as I needed to find a new career, but the second collision affected my ability to read comfortably for long periods of time. Eventually, I was accepted into a social work program at the University of Manitoba with accommodations for reading. Given my interest in research at school, I enjoyed participating in studies that the university and students needed to complete. They all had reflective components that helped me understand my new social location as a differently abled person.

COVID19, chronic pain and studies

During the height of the COVID19 restrictions, researchers at different universities wanted to investigate how people were affected. One study was conducted through my physiatrist’s office. It was a relief to talk to someone who wanted to know how I felt about the restrictions denying me access to care.

The other study involved checking to see how people felt about COVID19. This one was about two weeks long and was well designed to remind people to do the daily survey. Participants had the option to continue after two weeks to answer the same questions about how they psychologically felt about COVID19. I appreciated taking time away from the news to reflect on how I actually felt about what was happening.

Overall, my chronic pain condition is well managed with eating well and exercise. I still practice mindfulness and talk to a psychologist regularly during stressful periods. 

Be deliriously happy and madly in love with the moments that make up your life.
Sima Chowdry
Sima Chowdhury is a social work student at the University of Manitoba, living in Calgary. When she’s not advocating for a better world, she’s probably lost in the woods.

Thank you!

Clinical Trial Hero would like to thank Sima for taking the time to share her story.

Through stories we create connection and understanding – in relation to others, but also within ourselves. Clinical Trial Hero would like to share your story about your chronic illness in order to help others who may have only recently been diagnosed or simply need to know that they aren’t alone.

If you would like to share your story, please send an email to sandileanneserr@gmail.com with the subject line “My Story”. You are not alone. We get it!

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There is hope with MS.

By Robin Vinge

I believe I have had MS since I was 21 years old although I was not diagnosed until I was 33 years old. Part of the reason why I believe I was okay for the longest time was because I avoided wheat (because I thought it triggered acne). When I was 33, I signed on for a marathon and I carbo loaded where I had previously avoided wheat pasta and consuming a lot of bread products. That is when I developed strong symptoms of numbness and ataxia that could not be overlooked. I also developed loud ringing in my ears.

At that point I went to the urgent neurology clinic and my family paid for an MRI which showed demyelination. Since that time and a second MRI that confirmed my diagnosis, my life has changed a lot. I have been living with MS since I was 21 (I believe) because I had symptoms of weakness in my legs (I was a high- performance athlete in my youth) intermittently in my twenties as well as some sensory symptoms that showed up from time to time. I have radically changed my diet in order to manage my MS and it has paid off.

I was super exhausted.

I have studied every expert with MS and feel very competent in my management of it. I did not always feel this way. It has taken me many years to feel confident in my management of it.

In the fifteen years following my diagnosis, I have had some challenging episodes of relapse and have been completely incapacitated at times. One flare I had left me unable to talk and communicate verbally. Another episode I had double vision for 2 weeks. Another bad flare lasted 6 weeks. In that episode, I actually flew home to Kelowna and moved in with my parents until I could function again. In that flare, I lost the use of my hands and felt like I had the sensation of splinters throughout my body. I was super exhausted and in bed for the majority of that flare.

The anxiety and depression of having MS is challenging.

In 2017, I had started running and I had a flare which started with an episode of sciatica that ended up with me being hospitalized because I had extreme pain when I was trying to lie down. I had severe symptoms at that time including clonus. I was put on steroids in the hospital and got out in 2 weeks time. If I stay on my diet which is extremely strict 100%, I feel that I can live in balance with MS. Management of MS is a full- time job though and it is not for everyone.

The anxiety and depression also that comes with MS is challenging. I have done so much work on my self. I meditate every day. I manage anxiety with Emotional Freedom Technique and supplements like L-theanine. I live each day in the present moment and have done training in Mind/Body/Medicine to best equip myself with life long management of MS.

I am grateful for the positive benefits.

Since MS showed up in my life, it has affected every part of my life and I am grateful for the positive benefits that have incurred because of it. I have become more self aware and believe in myself more. I have so much compassion towards myself and my life post MS.

I come from a big family and my siblings have been so helpful to me if I have needed any support. I can keep going because of them and their love for me. I am truly grateful for them. I have a significant other but I have no children.

Empower people with MS.

If you have recently been diagnosed with MS – there is hope. When I was diagnosed with MS, I was shown a graph with a path leading downhill and that was so discouraging to me. There are people that are living in balance with MS all over the world and I am one of those people.

There are programs with other doctors leading that path like George Jelinek (OvercomingMultipleSclerosis.org) in the U.K.

To empower people with MS is so important so they do not feel like a helpless victim of their fate. There is research underlying the recommendations for management of it.

Robin Vinge is a naturopathic doctor and gifted presenter, Dr. Robin Vinge combines the values of naturopathic medicine with self-empowerment. Her strategy is to provide simple solutions that anyone can apply immediately and see beneficial results. “The quicker people see results, the more likely they are to invest in doing the right things for their health.” www.robinvinge.com

Thank you!

Clinical Trial Hero would like to thank Robin for taking the time to share her story.

Through stories we create connection and understanding – in relation to others, but also within ourselves. Clinical Trial Hero would like to share your story about your chronic illness in order to help others who may have only recently been diagnosed or simply need to know that they aren’t alone.

If you would like to share your story, please send an email to sandileanneserr@gmail.com with the subject line “My Story”. You are not alone. We get it!

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Knowing my body’s limitations has kept me out of a wheelchair.

By Pamela Clayfield, RN

My name is Pamela Clayfield and I live in Waterloo, Ontario. I am an RN which puts a special twist on my experiences. I appreciate that Dr. Joshi with Clinical Trial Hero is putting all this together as there are people all over the world who are lost and searching for someone else who might not only understand what they are going through but they might get an idea of what’s wrong with them if they don’t have a diagnosis yet.

My story began twenty years ago. I was a single mom to a toddler and working a variety of day and evening shifts out in the community when I began experiencing hip pain to the point I was walking with a limp. In 2002 I changed chiropractors and we thought we had found the source, a psoas muscle in spasm. That was short-lived. I left community nursing for a teaching job later that year. In 2003, I went to my family doctor who bet me the problem was in my spine, not my hip, and ordered an x-ray. Sure enough, he was right. He told me that my spine would degenerate at a faster rate and gave me about ten years. I spiralled, as anyone would, into hopelessness that I wouldn’t even walk to my daughter’s high school graduation. I was 29.

Transitional Lumbosacral Vertebra is what the results showed. Now it’s more commonly referred to as Bertolotti’s Syndrome. It’s considered a congenital condition and a rare disease despite affecting 10-20% of the population. The bottom line, I was born with it.

As a nurse I wanted to know more, if that was possible. With the internet still in its infancy, compared to now anyway, there was limited information. My nursing textbooks made no mention of it at all. If you search now it comes up with pages of results, sample x-ray and MRI images and all the statistics you could want. During development the top of the sacrum develops incorrectly. It can be a partial attachment or, in my case, it created an entire sixth vertebra. The pelvis attaches to the sacrum to create stability, but I don’t have that stability because I don’t have the proper attachment points.

What I experience.
Over twenty years I have lived with an array of symptoms. What most people don’t realize is I always have pain in my low back to some degree. On any given day I can have referred pain or sensations, radiating pain, numbness or tingling in any part of my legs or feet. Referred pain is when the spine or muscles get a grip on a nerve and that nerve sends the message to my brain that I have pain in a part of my hips, legs or feet when I actually don’t.

The referred sensations tell me that a part of my legs or feet are numb, tingling or some other feeling. I have spent hours trying to remove a hair from between my toes (that doesn’t exist) or brush away a bug crawling on my leg and I have had the feeling of either warm or cold water being poured on my feet. This summer I was asked if I felt the mosquito on my leg and I didn’t feel a thing.

Radiating pain is when the pain is so bad that it radiates down my legs making them ache and feel like dead weights. My pain ranges from discomfort to excruciating and is dependent on a multitude of factors including weather, lifting and too much of anything. I especially can’t sit or stand for extended periods of time. I can’t sit in chairs where the seat is lower than the knees by even the most fractional degree. I even need a pillow under my knees if I have to lie on my back for any reason.

Impact on Life
Chronic pain has had an incredible impact on my life. Of course it has given me physical limitations but also emotional limitations as I struggle, sometimes, just putting my socks on. It is difficult for people in general to understand that I have a chronic condition because I don’t use a mobility aid. Even my mom forgets that I have this condition and that I suffer from constant pain.

I have had to refrain from doing things with my daughter that a normal mom would do. I can only tolerate so much and getting a child, then a teenager to understand that her mom has limitations is beyond difficult.

Emotionally I have felt like I have been on a roller coaster for all these years. When I’m feeling okay, which is usually only during the summer months, my spirits are high and I’m more active. When I’m in pain or start having any of the other symptoms my mood varies. Frustration is overwhelming at times especially anything new like a wedding or unexpected like a family funeral because the first thing I think about is how my back will react to that. I start to feel useless and I wonder why I was given a life filled with physical pain. I have begged loved ones to sever my spinal cord so I don’t have to feel the pain anymore.

Is there anything anyone can do?
When I moved into my role in family practice my boss (and doctor) kind of took over a bit. He ordered blood work to make sure it wasn’t Rheumatoid Arthritis and an MRI. I didn’t have Rheumatoid but the MRI confirmed the sixth lumbar vertebra and also identified two lumbar discs that were pretty much equivalent to beef jerky. I’ve had several done now and it has shown that where the beef jerky is there’s basically bone-on-bone at those two levels which only adds to the pain.

A surgeon I was referred to looked at my MRI and assessed me and there’s nothing he can offer. Spine surgeons will not operate unless they can identify that there is pressure on the spinal cord. They don’t want to operate on someone who can walk, make the smallest error and leave that person in a wheelchair. He explained I was born with it just like some people are born with the appendix on the left so there was little that could be done. I asked about chiropractic and was surprised when he said to keep going as long as I understood it was not a cure. The surgeon understood that I was a nurse and he spoke to me in a professional manner.

I was grateful for that, especially a few years later when I was referred to an advanced physiotherapist in Hamilton who couldn’t link my symptoms to anything on the MRI. She made me feel like I was imagining my pain. She, too, said that I was born with the issues and the only thing she figured my symptoms could be from was the pelvis and other tissues not being connected to the spine properly and the pelvic floor wasn’t designed properly. I already knew that.

Is there any relief?
Throughout the fifteen years I spent in family practice new medications were coming on the market all the time plus I had access to samples of medications that I had seen over the counter but were afraid to buy only to find out they didn’t work.

Robaxacet was tried as a muscle relaxant which is still my go-to for sleep every night. I tried anti-inflammatories and I still use those but only when things are really bad.

I used Lyrica after it was approved for nerve pain and that worked very well for a long time but had awful side effects and I was grateful to wean off of it. I was also on long-acting tramadol for the longest time and it too worked but over time it built up in my system and became ineffective.

I cannot take oxycodone because I don’t like the side effects and I just refuse to take it. I don’t want it. I don’t want to be on narcotics not only because of their addictive properties but because of their side effects.

Every night I spend twenty minutes on my heating pad. I do a set of stretches I was given a long time ago and I sleep with a pillow between my knees.

I have had to resort to an ice pack at times, I have used the Dr. Ho TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) system which helps a bit, and hot baths are amazingly helpful but temporary like anything I try.

The best form of exercise for me and the issues I have is swimming and walking. I know I don’t do enough of either especially walking during the fall, winter and spring but I do plenty of both in the summer… probably the other reason why I feel better during the warm weather months.

What about nursing?
Having a chronic condition has helped me be more compassionate. It has made me fight for patients when the doctor has all but given up. Many patients would call me when all their tests were negative and they would mention one simple symptom to me that they didn’t think was connected to the rest and it would take us down a different path and we’d find an answer.

I spent a lot of time breaking down and explaining diagnoses to patients in layman’s terms which they greatly appreciated. Part of that came from having my own experiences with those in the field. Speak to the patient as a person. Don’t speak above or beneath them. Many of my patients appreciated my empathy and compassion and were sorry to see me go.

Keep pushing
The best thing I have done is come to terms with my condition and the pain that comes with it. Acceptance doesn’t mean I don’t still get emotional. It means that I allow myself to sometimes feel sorry for myself and be angry. I give myself permission to experience those emotions. I remind myself that I have continued to work and I have continued to push myself, hard. I raised a child while working and in constant pain. I have pushed myself to get off the couch, to do the laundry, to take a walk, to put Dr. Ho on, to cook a meal.

Every morning I push myself to get out of bed, shower and dress. This has been harder since I now work from home full time thanks to COVID-19 but I do it because it’s the one way I feel I can beat the pain.

Understanding my diagnosis, knowing my own body and limitations and keeping within those has kept me out of a wheelchair. I did walk to my daughter’s high school graduation. I climbed the stairs to find a seat in the gallery and I went downstairs to take pictures of her crossing the stage.

Each day is a new day and I will continue to get out of bed and face the challenges. I know those challenges, one day, will get the best of me but, for now, I’m still strong enough to push on.

inspiration, weekend getaway,
Pamela Clayfield, RN

Thank you!

Clinical Trial Hero would like to thank Pamela for taking the time to share her story.

Through stories we create connection and understanding – in relation to others, but also within ourselves. Clinical Trial Hero would like to share your story about your chronic illness in order to help others who may have only recently been diagnosed or simply need to know that they aren’t alone.

If you would like to share your story, please send an email to sandileanneserr@gmail.com with the subject line “My Story”. You are not alone. We get it!

Sign up for updates on more stories and upcoming clinical trials near you.

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The parenting strategies that have gotten me through my toughest days with diabetes

By Kelly Mandryk

When I found out I was pregnant with my second son, I was excited to complete my young family. I looked forward to spending the months ahead preparing our house for a new baby and my older son for life with a little sibling. Instead, I was thrown for a loop when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes following a series of alarming blood test results in my second trimester. I worried that my two main priorities – my young children and my health — would be in a constant battle for my attention. And while those first few months of learning to live with diabetes while raising two kids were not easy, over time I learned that the skills I was gaining as a parent would help me get through my toughest days with diabetes.

The importance of routine

Anyone who’s taken a cranky toddler to the grocery store knows the value of maintaining a consistent nap schedule. As a first-time parent, I wanted to do it all: keep a clean house, maintain a social life, and raise a toddler. But each time I pushed a mealtime or a nap time forward, I ended up spending more time later that day getting my son back into his schedule while handling his moodiness. When life brought me a second son and diabetes at the same time, I had to keep both sons in a schedule while doing the things I needed to keep myself healthy enough to parent them.

Type 1 diabetes is chronic disease where your body attacks its own pancreas, leaving you insulin-dependent for life. I wear an insulin pump to administer my insulin and a Continuous Glucose Monitor to measure my blood sugar. Both devices have improved my quality of life and helped me better control blood sugar, but they both have several components that must be maintained and replaced regularly. When I was learning to use these devices, they would alarm or require my attention at all hours of the day and night.

In the end, I set about building a routine for my kids and my disease management that works for both of us. This routine of setting up my medical devices and managing my medications that has significantly reduced unexpected interruptions throughout my day.

Using distraction to change your mindset

My son loves Christmas. He loves Christmas so much that he can’t settle himself enough to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. One year, after reading several bedtime stories, I told him to close his eyes and think about his five favourite Christmas memories and to tell me about them in the morning. After a few minutes of quiet chatter, he fell asleep. I had given him something to think about that took his mind away from his excitement and allowed him to fall asleep.  

After that, I started using this technique to push myself through the sometimes-painful process of inserting a new infusion set for my insulin pump. Sometimes I list my favourite Buffy the Vampire characters in order of appearance. Other times I try to name all the kids in my Grade 2 class. It sounds silly but steering my focus away from the self-management activities I must do every day makes me feel more normal and less like a patient.

“Use your words”

Job Description “Use your words” is a phrase parents often say to their young children when they are overcome with frustration or anger. Despite working with my treatment team to be prevent large swings in my blood sugars, this disease is unpredictable and mishaps like mistaking a regular pop for a diet pop or catching the office head cold can send my blood sugars skyrocketing. I am fiercely independent, but my kids have taught me that sometimes, you just need to ask for help.

Accept what you can’t control

When I was first pregnant, I remember the panic that would set in the moment I thought I couldn’t feel the baby kick. When I had one of these scares at work, a colleague who has two teenagers re-assured me that all the worrying mothers do in pregnancy is just training for the worrying that takes place after our children are born. Although I’ve been guilty of waking my infant son up in the middle of the night just to assure myself he was still breathing, after a while, I learned to manage my fears and to accept what I can’t control. There is no use in worrying about my sons getting into a car accident while they are still too young to drive.

Just as pregnancy was a training ground for parenthood, learning to manage fears about my children’s health and safety has helped me cope with the overwhelming amount of information about my disease and what could happen to me. I’m often reminded that years of uncontrolled diabetes can cause complications such as heart attacks, strokes, amputations, or blindness, but these are not burdens I carry around with me every day. As I focus on making sure my sons have a healthy breakfast each morning, I focus on taking the right amount of insulin for what I eat. If I take a small amount of time throughout the day to take care of myself, I know that I am doing my best regardless of what the future may hold for me.

Thank you!

Clinical Trial Hero would like to thank Kelly for taking the time to share her story.

Through stories we create connection and understanding – in relation to others, but also within ourselves. Clinical Trial Hero would like to share your story about your chronic illness in order to help others who may have only recently been diagnosed or simply need to know that they aren’t alone.

If you would like to share your story, please send an email to sandileanneserr@gmail.com with the subject line “My Story”. You are not alone. We get it!

Sign up for updates on more stories and upcoming clinical trials near you.

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I’m gasping for air!

My name is George Ngigi from Nairobi, Kenya. I’m now retired as a teacher. First of all, it would be unfair for me not to acknowledge that I do appreciate this rare opportunity you have given me to walk you through my harrowing experience as a chronic illness sufferer. Similarly, and more importantly, it would be selfish of me not to share that experience, however unnerving it might be because there are people out there who may may be going through a similar ‘ritual’ and need somebody who can give them an assurance that they are not alone in it.

I don’t take it for granted. It might feel hard to open up, but volunteering to say something in good faith about oneself is in itself, a good bold step that comes in handy to accept one’s situation and that of others too.

Now to my story. In my layman’s thinking, I suspect my present-day illness can be traced to many years back when I could have stomach rumblings which had basically nothing to do with hunger. I also felt pain in the stomach after each time I swallowed food. I guess that the pain was emanating from the spot in the stomach where the food was landing. It was not an everyday thing or life experience though. The pain would come and go, meaning that it never lasted long enough to be a matter of clinical concern. During such periods however,  I would have to suffer heartburn accompanied by stomach upsets which I got treated with over-the-counter drugs.

It was a matter of one episode opening out into another. After the heartburn and stomach pains were over, then came the psychological problems. I went through a period of anxiety or if you like, depression. It was a  time I had lost the support I was receiving from the one sponsoring me for my education.

My poor  parents could hardly afford to raise fees for my high school and do the same for my younger siblings. I was left confused and helpless, not knowing what to do next. I was in a dilemma and as fate would have it, I dropped out of school. I was 16 years old, then.

As young as I was, I joined the labor market doing all sorts of odd jobs you can imagine of to survive.  My struggles put me in constant worries. I suffered sleepless nights, had headaches and unusual tiredness. Life was difficult and becoming meaningless by the day. I had to see a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with anxiety. For the next so many months, I spent I spent taking antidepressants, I had very little time and very little to do because the drugs (valium and others) would induce drowsiness that made it impossible for me to be active as before. I needed more time to rest and with the counselling support I got from the healthcare givers, I got better.             

Fast forward in 1997, what I went through had never happened before to me. For as long as I live, I will never forget the turns and twists that my health was subjected to, that changed my life forever. For worse, not for better. 

It all started as if it was just another issue to be worried about. One evening, I suddenly realized in the middle of my eating that I was having trouble with swallowing which brought about a dramatic stop to what I was doing. It was the very first time to experience such a thing.                       

GASPING FOR AIR

Unbeknownst to me, it marked the beginning of a new and long medical journey. I did not think much about it until the problem became a recurring illness. I reckon at one point, I almost choked to death. I was eating normally but this time round the problem struck with a different manifestation. I thought that was my day.  As I  swallowed, the food got stuck in the throat, left me gasping for air until quite luckily, I managed to mysteriously clear down the food out of the way of the windpipe. I just realized it was a problem so real to ignore.

I went to the hospital and was given some drugs which did not help much. It required more investigations to get to the root of the problem. Meanwhile, for fear of choking, I took the precaution of taking baby steps whenever I was swallowing. I resigned to consuming fluids and avoided all solid foods. But the resolve did not help matters either. While at it the problem of swallowing degenerated into one of a very serious nature. I could no longer swallow any more!     

For the next one week or so, I was literally living like someone who was fasting. One would have been forgiven for thinking that I was under compulsory isolation because I did not move out of my house to meet with people. Worst of all, I was unable to even drink water. I got dehydrated and lost weight as well.

From the other side of the world, beyond my immediate environment, came all manner of versions of stories about me. Behind my back, people would talk of anything they knew about myself and even what they were not sure of about the state of my health.

IS IT CANCER? IS IT HIV/AIDS?

Since the problem of swallowing with difficulty was a strange illness to many in this part of the world, speculations were rife that I had been bewitched. Some thought it was a curse, for being a non-smoker that I am, I should not have suffered ‘cancer’. Yet others were so sure that I was a victim of HIV/AIDS. Oh, my goodness the world is crazy! I myself had also my personal fears. Just like those who thought I had cancer, I  too shared a similar thought with them – but in silence.

The only difference between them and me was their cancer disease was on their lips because they could not hide it. Mine was hidden somewhere in my head.   I could not rule out that possibility the way I could with HIV/AIDS case. It was an infectious rumour that shook me to the core. Losing my life to cancer would have been the worst nightmare to my loved ones and the mere thought of it gave me goosebumps. Cancer was and is still a dreaded disease that kills in silence, perhaps just like Covid-19 is a world scare today.

Although I had an underlying condition, I went to the hospital complaining of difficulty in swallowing. I was admitted for about three weeks and underwent tests for throat and stomach infections (Barium swallow test and Endoscopy). I spent a day or two of a tense moment as I lay in my hospital bed waiting for the tests results. ‘Could it be cancer? Could it be any other terrifying disease?’ I kept asking myself.

Fortunately, claims by the rumor mongers were never to see the light of  day. Both tests did not show any symptoms of cancer nor HIV/AIDS. I received treatment for ulcers and heartburn and other gastro infections.

GASTROINTENSTINAL REFLUX DISEASE (GERD)

I later came to learn that what I had was known as Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD) . It is an extremely uncomfortable experience having to deal with acid from the stomach climbing up through the esophagus to choke you on its arrival in the throat, which happens mostly at night when someone is asleep. It feels like you are dying because you actually have to clear the throat to be  able to breathe. The condition is managed by use of antacids and antibiotics.

But still, the problem is far from over. I am told while I am asleep facing up, there is a funny sound I make like of someone in trouble with breathing. A stomach pain ensues if I apply physical effort like lifting heavy weights, or indeed working in the farm which is a health risk. This condition renders me unproductive and inactive in many ways.

The surprising thing though is that I don’t feel any pain at all in the throat or while swallowing, other than the feeling  of stiffness around it. Yet for any food to pass down through it to the stomach, it has to be in a way forced.

Pain in the stomach suggest all is not well with me and swallowing with difficulty comes with its own bag of other challenges. You can imagine that I can only  take drugs by having to chew it or like in the case of a capsule emptying its contents to be able to swallow it as prescribed by the caregiver.

FINANCIAL BURDEN

I have had to live with these problems for more than two decades. I could not in my wildest imagination think that my life would end up like this. I was forced to take an early retirement due to health issues in 2017. That was well before my time to hang up my gloves as a teacher was due. And one of the reasons why I had to quit, had to do with my feeding problem. I could not work on an empty stomach.

Even though I am not supposed to be doing manual tasks, I sometimes go against the grain to make ends meet because I simply can’t afford to hire a farmhand, which takes a toll on my health. To survive on a pensioner’s budget is not easy, and trying to earn some extra coins is not easy, either. I have to wear many hats to look for and get alternative sources of income, however little. The fact that I have three kids to raise and school fees to pay is an additional burden on my small monthly income.   The medications that I can not do without are often highly priced and may not  always be available through government-run hospital pharmacies which compels me to dig deep into my finances leaving me with empty pockets.               

ALTERNATIVE FOODS

To make do with my health requirements, I am constantly on the lookout for alternative foods which I must say are not easy to come by, in terms of buying. I just can not eat whatever comes my way. I am selective in the food I  consume.

Due to my stomach ulcers and GERD condition, I am particularly required to keep off all acid producing and stomach irritating foods. There is a whole list of foods to avoid. Talk of sour milk, kales, fruits with a bitter taste, beans, and spices generally, to mention but a feel.          

SOCIAL AVOIDANCE

Oftentimes, I find myself avoiding people lest I be invited to a meal with them. You see, it is such a time you become exposed. How many people would understand my plight of illness if I refuse an act of generosity like an offer for food? Yet I am not sure if it is safe for me to swallow anything.

Nobody worth their salt would like their health condition to be a topic of discussion or to be broadcast to all and sundry. That is what I try to prevent by scaling down my interactions with people and thus affecting my social life, negatively.          

I wish to say that the beauty of life is that as much as there are people without any concern for others, there are many more people in this world who relate well with the suffering of others as to be willing to help where possible to make their lives better.     

George Ngigi

Thank you!

Clinical Trial Hero would like to thank George for taking the time to share his story.

Through stories we create connection and understanding – in relation to others, but also within ourselves. Clinical Trial Hero would like to share your story about your chronic illness in order to help others who may have only recently been diagnosed or simply need to know that they aren’t alone.

If you would like to share your story, please send an email to sandileanneserr@gmail.com with the subject line “My Story”. You are not alone. We get it!

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How Mindfulness can Bring Peace to Your Anxious World

The world we live in is more connected than ever. As the world continues to get smaller our awareness grows, but so too does our anxiety levels.

A recent study showed that more than half of Canadians suffer from anxiety. What’s worse, many believe there is no cure.

Our ever-changing digital age can cause anxiety and if you’re looking for help there’s a small arsenal of treatments for you to choose from. How do you know which one will work?

Enter mindfulness

Mindfulness is characterized as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts and sensations.

While you may be skeptical by that definition alone, studies conducted by Harvard University – amongst many others – have shown the benefits of mindfulness. Mindfulness has been shown benefits in a myriad of conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

How mindfulness can help with anxiety

There are a number of ways that bringing mindfulness into your life can help ease anxiety.

By closely examining our mental state, we will likely find worry and anxiety concerning future events as well as past mistakes. This is a very human aspect of our busy minds. Instead, we can focus our minds on the present moment and allow those feelings to settle. By centering the mind on feelings of safety, security and comfort, we support our mind to relax and reduce anxiety.

Another way mindfulness can help with anxiety is perhaps counter-intuitive.

Through evolution our brains have become hard-wired to find anxiety unpleasant. That’s no great surprise – if we hadn’t, our species may have gravitated towards more dangerous situations. It makes sense that we would want to get rid of anxious feelings. Sadly, it’s the attempts to avoid anxiety that may actually be what keeps most anxiety disorders going.

A mindfulness approach can help you to increase your capacity to bear anxiety. By acknowledging when you’re in an anxious moment, staying with it and allowing it to pass you can increase your capacity for anxiety. You can also own the thoughts that may be making you anxious.

It doesn’t take much

The amazing thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t take much. While studies have shown that as little as 20 minutes a day has measurable effects on the brain, any amount of mindfulness is better than none.

If you need help getting started, download Medical Meditation free app for Android or iPhone.

The Medical Meditation app has twelve self-guided meditation modules developed by Dr. Nikhil Joshi to improve the lives of people suffering from anxiety associated with chronic illnesses.

To find out more about Medical Meditation and Dr. Nikhil Joshi, click here, or if you’re ready to get started, download the app now.

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Photos are courtesy of Robert Conway

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Does Meditation Work? 5 Reasons Why It’s Worth A Try

Many people are unaware of what meditation is, and how it could help them.

Meditation is giving yourself permission to hit the pause button on life. When you do this, you allow yourself room to breathe, to calm your mind and find compassion and solace.

While skeptics are often turned off of meditation by stereotypes there is plenty of evidence to suggest it can help people with a variety of chronic illnesses. In this post we’ll examine five reasons why you should try meditation.

Sleep Better

There may be no commodity more valued and yet, more abused than sleep. A good night’s sleep has become a precious thing as we increasingly bring our phones and tablets to bed. In fact, studies have shown that bringing our phones to bed makes you sleep deprived and exhausted.

The problem? All that app usage, game playing, Instagram scrolling, and reading makes it hard to calm the mind. That’s where meditation comes in.

Science suggests that meditation may help to treat insomnia, additionally, experts believe that by introducing mindful meditating into your life, you can keep your mind calmer throughout the day, which can reduce stress and promote better sleep.

Calm Your Active Mind

Everyone’s lives are busy these days and often our brains can feel like we have a hamster (or two) running on a wheel. Meditation can help.

A study has shown that mindfulness training improves working memory capacity and reduces mind wandering. This can have implications for a wide variety of areas in your life. Ultimately it is about improving our experience of life.

Improve Depression

In fact, not only could meditation improve depression symptoms from those suffering with the mental condition, it leads to fewer serious relapses.

In a 2013 study, scientists discovered that people who practiced meditation have more control over how their brains process negative triggers like pain.

The study, conducted by Brown University, found that mindfulness meditation training such as body and breath sensations, may help prevent depression and reduces distress in chronic pain.

Protect Your Heart

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada, which makes looking after your heart incredibly important. One way of boosting your heart health is meditation.

In one 2012 study, patients that had coronary heart disease practiced meditation and showed a reduced risk of heart attack, stroke and even death.

Reduce Your Stress Level

Meditation provides you the ability to override the part of the brain responsible for fear. This is important because when we’re afraid the brain releases cortisol. While cortisol is helpful in a truly fearful situation, in your normal-everyday-life it is damaging and can be linked to all sorts of health issues.

This study suggests that meditation can help you cut back on stress and anxiety by almost 40 percent. What’s even better is it doesn’t take a lot of time to reap the benefits. In this study, scientist found that brief mindfulness meditation training altered psychological responses to stress.

Final Thoughts

There is an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that meditation has many health benefits. Mindful meditation can help improve your quality of life and the best part is, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to start feeling the benefits.

If you need help getting started, Medical Meditations has twelve self-guided meditation modules developed by Dr. Nikhil Joshi to improve the lives of people suffering from chronic illnesses.

Medical Meditation is a free, unique app designed for Android or iPhone users to help people suffering from chronic illnesses, depression, anxiety or grief. To find out more about Medical Meditations and Dr. Nikhil Joshi, click here, or if you’re ready to get started, download the app now.

Photos are courtesy of Robert Conway

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A Story of Survival: How Meditation Eased the Pain of a Cancer Diagnosis

“Having cancer and receiving treatment was tough. I felt the stress of my illness was at times greater than the illness itself.”

Dr. Nikhil Joshi

That’s Dr. Nikhil Joshi, founder and physician behind Medical Meditations. In 2013, at the age of 24, Dr. Joshi was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Dr. Joshi saw first-hand, through his treatment, the difficulty that faces patients.

“The shock of getting cancer was profound,” Dr. Joshi said. “But it was also blessing, because being a cancer patient really helped me to become a better physician.”

While living with Cancer, Dr. Joshi used meditation on his journey with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He found that it led to an increase in his quality of life. It was this discovery that led him to creating Medical Mediation.

A Doctor As Well As A Patient

The 32-year-old physician was born and raised in St. John’s, NL. After earning his undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary, he earned his medical degree at St. John’s Memorial University. He followed that up with internal medicine residency and then further specialized in the study of allergy and immunology at the University of Manitoba.

As Dr. Joshi journeyed through the medical system during his cancer treatment, he found guided meditation helped his well-being immensely. This would lead him to publish The End of Suffering, a book of his personal experience, to give hope to other cancer patients.

Dr. Joshi was fortunate enough to make it through his cancer treatments and to be declared cancer-free. While his battle with cancer took him away from medicine, he did return and currently practices as an Immunologist in Calgary.

“It puts you in a field where people are making new contributions every day,” said Dr. Joshi of the relatively new medical field that is revolutionizing treatment for a number of ailments.

Medical Meditations App

It was through his journey with Hodgkins Lymphoma that Dr. Joshi saw how the healthcare system falls short to address patients suffering. This deeply emotional process led Dr. Joshi to realize that he wanted to continue to help people on a larger scale. He feels his purpose is to spread a message of positivity and to use his experience to help others.

“I developed a series of guided meditations to ease my suffering. Those meditations changed my life immensely and this is something I want to share with others experiencing chronic illness,” said Dr. Joshi.

Medical Meditations is a mobile app that provides guided meditations for people with chronic illnesses. Medical Meditation encourages patients to create mindfulness using relaxation techniques to reduce the stress of illness and initiate a positive change in mental wellbeing.

How a patient deals with trauma and suffering has a huge impact, not only socially and emotionally, but biologically as well. Mindfulness has been shown to positively affect the outcomes of their diagnosis.

Medical Meditation is a free app and available on Android and iOS. It is constantly being upgraded to include new content for additional conditions. The range of illnesses covered include, but are not limited to:

  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Chronic Pain,
  • IBS
  • Insomnia
  • Grieving
  • Palliative care
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Weight Loss
  • Caregiver
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Pre Surgery

Medical Meditations has been fortunate to have contributions from world class musicians, including Phil Maloney and Adam Hogan of acclaimed group Hey Rosetta!. Adam and Phil worked in conjunction to craft unique soundscapes specific for each guided meditation.

Available Now

Dr. Joshi knows first-hand the stress and pain of dealing with cancer. He’s taken his experience and channeled it into the Medical Meditations app which he hopes will serve to help people suffering.

If you’re going through any of these chronic conditions, meditation could be a useful part of your overall medical treatment program. Visit your Android or iOS app store to download the free Medical Meditations app today.

Photos are courtesy of Robert Conway

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Medical Meditations – Twelve Modules for Mindfulness and Chronic Illness

Mindfulness is a trendy term at the moment that gets thrown a lot. Unfortunately, that takes away from the fact that it really works.

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in a moment. To be aware of where we are and what we’re doing and gain perspective in life.

Mindfulness is an evolving field of medical science but has been shown to help people deal with the stress of illness. It can decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines and increase resilience. Mindfulness and meditation are a great compliment to approved medical therapies, directed by a licensed physician, and should be used as adjunctive therapy.

In no way should meditation substitute excellent modern medical care – but when working in concert, mindfulness meditation is an excellent add-on therapy that can help reduce stress and increase quality of life for many chronic conditions.

Medical Meditations Twelve Modules

Developed by Dr. Nikhil Joshi Medical Meditations was created to improve the lives of people suffering from chronic illnesses. And Dr. Joshi knows all about that. While in medical school, Dr. Joshi was diagnosed with cancer. It was through that journey that he discovered that mindfulness, introspection and reflection gave him strength.

Through guided mindfulness sessions, Medical Meditations has created twelve meditation practices to help cope with the symptoms and pain associated with chronic illness. Everyone needs quiet moments of calm in their life. Each practice is intended to help relieve emotional stress, physical discomfort and help facilitate tranquility.

The twelve modules include:

  • Abdominal Pain – Many people suffer with abdominal pain. Whether you have Crohn’s Disease, Diabetic Gastroparesis, Gastroesophageal Reflux or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, mindfulness can help. Our goal is to minimize tension and pain by creating moments of quiet focus.
  • Anxiety – In today’s society anxiety is on the rise. Stress, restlessness, worrying thoughts and feelings of uncertainty can be relieved through meditative practice.
  • Depression – Depression can feel like a weight slowly crushing you. When diagnosed with a chronic illness, depression and sadness can be a natural reaction. Depression can make you feel sad, cloudy-minded, heavy and unable to enjoy the things you once did. Mindful meditation helps people find their own resiliency and lightness.
  • Cancer Diagnosis – Being diagnosed with cancer is life-changing. Meditation provides the chance for people to find some alone time amid a barrage of information, doctor’s appointments and worry. These quiet moments can help you process your diagnosis and find your own sources of strength.
  • Chronic Pain – Chronic pain can be debilitating and severely impact your life. People who suffer from chronic pain – like Fibromyalgia – can often feel there are not a lot of treatment options. Mindfulness and meditation can help to reduce the background pain level which can make it easier for medications to have a positive effect. Meditation is a side-effect free way to help alleviate the effects of chronic pain.
  • Grief – Grief is a powerful and all-encompassing emotion. It is also a universal part of the human experience to experience the loss of a loved one. Meditation can help people cope with the dark times and find a way through intense suffering.
  • Insomnia – Make sleep a positive and happy experience. Reduce the thoughts and worries before you go to bed. Meditation can relieve the feelings of anxiety over trying to get to sleep. It can help to slow everything down, enabling you to feel good about the rest you get.
  • Palliative Care – This meditation for the dying person and loved ones is about celebrating that person’s life and allowing them to feel free and happy. This guided meditation will help reduce anxiety and will help to insert a sense of calm in your life.
  • Relaxation – With the stresses of daily life, sometimes the hardest thing to do is relax. If you’re unsure of where to start, this module is the perfect introduction for anytime meditation. This module is designed to get you ready for deeper meditation.
  • Weight Loss – Weight loss can positively affect many different conditions including type II Diabetes and heart disease. Weight loss should be about creating healthy habits that increase personal well-being. Weight loss should not be about punishment, suffering or negativity. Meditation and visualization can be a great help on your weight loss journey.
  • Caregiver – 29% of the adult population of America are caregivers. The unaccounted force in healthcare are the people who look after their ill and frail family members. This is one of the noblest thing a person can do. Yet, this group is notoriously undersupported. They experience burn out, sadness and depression at a higher rate than the general population. Caring for these people is a priority.
  • Smoking Cessation – Smoking is not an easy thing to quit. Nicotine is a powerfully addictive substance. Quitting smoking leads to a variety of well known health benefits. Quitting smoking is an important achievement in a person’s life. Guided Meditation can reduce the stress associated with quitting.
  • Pre Surgery – Surgery is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Entering the operating room with a positive mindset is an achievement. Helping people minimize their anxiety before surgery and encouraging recovery after are our goals in this meditation.

About Medical Meditations

Medical Meditation is a free, unique app designed for Android or iPhone users to help people suffering from chronic illnesses. To find out more click here, or if you’re ready to get started, download the app now.

Photos are courtesy of Robert Conway

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The Top 5 Reasons Guided Meditation Can Ease Your Suffering

It is difficult living with chronic pain, here are a few ways guided meditation can help.

Living with an illness or chronic pain can be a heavy burden. You would desperately like to do something to stop the pain, but everything hurts. Even your mind can start to suffer as you look for ways to cope.

It’s only natural to want to fight back against a body that has caused you so much pain. Our body’s natural instinct is to avoid pain at all costs – run away from pain. While this has served us well as an evolving species, it’s actually the opposite of what the latest medical research tells us we should do.

If you’re looking for ways to ease your suffering, here’s the Top 5 reasons guided meditation can help.

  1. Meditation can change your brain

    A team of neuroscience researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany examined 300 participants in a nine-month meditation program. This was one of the largest studies on meditation and the human brain to date. What they found is that focusing on a specific kind of meditation could change certain parts of your brain. For instance, participants in this mindfulness meditation study experienced a thickening of the prefrontal cortex of the brain – the area of the brain that is involved in complex thinking, decision-making and attention. Meanwhile, people that participated in a meditation designed to reduce stress and anxiety experienced a 51 percent drop in the stress hormone cortisol
  2. It helps with pain

    It may seem obvious that focusing mentally can help with mental pain, however, there has been an increasing amount of research to support this. Research from decades of Jon-Kabat Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program has given us a firm understanding of how mindfulness can help people cope with the pain, anxiety, depression and stress that accompanies illness and chronic pain. We know that psychological stress has been tied to everything from heart health and immune response to telomere length. Because of this, we shouldn’t downplay the effect guided meditation and mindfulness can have on emotional health.
  3. Focusing on the pain reduces the pain

    It may feel counterintuitive to focus on the pain. Our bodies are trained from millions of years of evolution to avoid pain both mentally and physically. In fact, previous therapy techniques included various kinds of distraction therapy to “take our mind off of it.”What we now know is brain studies have shown that when people trained in meditation focus on their painful sensations, the pain-sensing parts of the brain light up with activity where-as the parts of the brain associated with pain are less active. It’s more than just focusing on the pain. Some people can develop hypersensitivity to their pain and will notice every shift in their body. This doesn’t alleviate pain and can, in fact, make it worse. Meditation and mindfulness techniques foster a specific kind of focus that is centred around acceptance. Through focus and acceptance can come a reduction in pain.
  4. It decreases inflammation at the cellular level

    Recent research has shown that mindfulness meditation not only reduces psychological stress but can actually reduce inflammation at the cellular level. These studies concluded that mindfulness meditation should be used as a low-cost self-directed complementary strategy for decreasing inflammation in patients.
  5. Meditation can help with a number of medical conditions

    Mindfulness meditation has been clinically shown to help with a number of conditions including:

Medical Meditation

If you’re suffering from anxiety, depression, grief, chronic pain or even a recent cancer diagnosis there is increasing evidence to suggest meditation can help you as a complement to your current treatments. Getting started with mindful meditation can be as simple as taking a few minutes each day.

Our Medical Meditation app has been developed by physician and cancer survivor, Dr. Nikhil Joshi. With nine, self-guided meditation modules, Medical Meditation has been created to help improve the lives of people suffering with chronic pain or illnesses.

Download the free Medical Meditation app now on Android or iPhone, or click here to find out more about Dr. Nikhil Joshi’s journey.

Sources:

Photos are courtesy of Robert Conway