Why You MUST Listen to Your Body Now….2 Important Lessons I Got From a Progressive MS Diagnosis

(This is a section from Chapter 1 from my upcoming book “Year One: My Journey from Diagnosis to (Hopeful) Hero” about my journey from MS symptoms through the first of diagnosis with Progressive MS and the campaign to MS remission. You can follow my progress here.)

“…there is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”

Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

Looking back, I have been receiving messages from the Universe about my Multiple Sclerosis. I just ignored those messages, because who thinks I might have MS?

To provide a little context, I grew up a skinny and poor Black kid who wasn’t supposed to amount to much.

I grew up with a dream of “getting out.”

I was the skinny, nerdy, and sensitive kid that bullies preyed on.

My escape was the library, superheroes, and later humor. I escaped into a world of ancient civilizations, Batman, Hot Wheels cars, science, and more. But my reality never matched. The heroes I admired didn’t shop for books at Goodwill, didn’t wear hand-me-downs, and certainly did not use Foodstamps (back when it was actually a book of printed stamps)

And then in the 5th grade, it happened.

I was declared “smart” on a test. I was bussed from the inner-city school as part of the “magnet” program. I was now exposed to a whole new level of life, middle class.

I was still bullied, but I was also exposed to people who got cars in high school, went to college, and most importantly, didn’t use foo dstamps.

I adopted the middle class dream of getting a good job, good car, and a decent family.

Along with that dream, I started to want my body to change. I didn’t want to stay skinny. I wanted the body of a superhero

Once adolescence kicked in and I realized that my low-income diet of processed food didn’t bring me the muscle I should have, I tried every fitness magazine with a program that I could get on

First Message: I received a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease in middle school

I share all of this to provide context on why I ignored messages from my body…until the damage was done.

Sometime in middle school, I developed a stabbing pain in my right side. After some misguided attempts, I was given a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, given some steroids, set up with homeschooling, and sent home.

After a few weeks, I went back to my typical high-processed food with some rare moments where I would eat tuna fish, chicken breasts, and green beans (My version of the “bodybuilder diet” for someone who couldn’t cook and didn’t have a lot of money.

Second Message: I started to get really bad migraines

When I was going through a rough period when I was really broke, I started to really binge on the food I could afford, mainly Ramen noodles, soda, rice, and vanilla cream cookies. My body responded by giving splitting migraines that incapcitated me for hours.

Third Message: My left leg started to get tingles and I started tripping more

This was a gradual thing. Given that I am a naturally clumsy and goofy individual, I didn’t catch this at first…My boss at a Receiving job (Yes, I did retail). Also, a person on Twitter, when I demonstrated a squat, pointed out that I didn’t do a full squat. Gradually, this became more of a problem.

Fourth Message: I started to get intense lower back pain

This happened slowly, while still at the Receiving job.I could tell that the pain was not from lifting, but more internal. I knew something was going on and that I had to figure it out, but with no insurance (at the time) and no idea of how to even begin to fix this…I tried (unsuccessfully) diets (keto, etc.) but things kept getting worse….so I put in my 2 weeks notice and went to remote work

…But the pain did not stop. It only became MORE…which led me eventually to an ER and the diagnosis that would change my life

I say all of this because, in hindsight, I see all of the signs my body was trying to give me to let me know that something was wrong….but I ignored those messages.

I was too busy chasing the six-psck body in the fitness magazines or too busy chasing “the dream” of finding the perfect job or trying to recover from not getting the degree I wanted…but felt that I should have.

I downplayed those symptoms (even joked about them) and believed that whatever I was going through would fix itself (not in a macho ‘I don’t need to go to the doctor way’, but ‘I’ll get to it when I get the money’)

The first lesson I learned from my MS diagnosis: The body does not wait.

If you have something in your body that is not right, listen to it. It might not be as an MS diagnosis, but every message (whether a stomach ache or headache or whatever pain) is a message is a sign….LISTEN TO IT

At the same time, I learned another lesson from my MS diagnosis: The body is very forgiving

Any step you make toward feeling better, your body will work with it. Switch soda for water? Add more veggies instead of chips? Your body will take whatever it can get and will work with whatever it can to keep running.

So with those 2 lessons, I begin my journey

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Charles Franklin

Charles Franklin

Believer. Student. Writer. Prayer Warrior.