Pain can be debilitating for many people with chronic illness. In the case of Angela Gaffney, 41, who was diagnosed with mitochondrial myopathy in 2008, that included headaches, brain fog, digestive problems, constant fatigue, and muscle weakness that eventually turned into muscle failure. She landed in the hospital.
Mitochondrial myopathy is a rare neuromuscular disease caused by damage to the mitochondria — the energy-producing structures that serve as cells’ “power plants.”
“My body was failing me, the pain was getting worse, and my level of functioning had diminished to almost nothing,” she says.
“I was told that these cells process everything and put it into a usable form for the body to get energy and muscle strength,” Gaffney says. “I had a much larger percentage of bad cells, deformed and not working, than good cells.”
The prognosis: The disease would attack her organs. She would experience digestive issues, diabetes, droopy eyelids, blindness, deafness and paralysis. Eventually, she would die from it.
But then, something clicked.
“I thought — What in the world are you doing focusing on dying when you should be focused on living?”
Gaffney decided to take control of her health. She found a new doctor. She researched foods and products that cause inflammation, as well as ones that help cells, that relieve arthritis, that promote healing. By cleaning up her diet and changing other daily habits, Gaffney is now pain-free, five years after her diagnosis.
Gaffney detailed what she believes contributed to her pain:
- “I did not listen to all the signs my body was giving me.”
- “I traveled a great deal with my job in the beginning, and often lacked sleep and relied on caffeine and sugar to keep up my energy.”
- “I would eat late into the night and not allow my body ample time during rest to replenish and cleanse.”
- “I used the microwave all the time and ate frozen meals for dinner consistently. I also used toxic chemicals to clean my home.”
- “I was a people pleaser and worried about what others might think or say about me. I never said “no” to anyone and would drive myself into the ground providing for others.”
Here are the 10 steps towards taking control of pain, stress, and quality of life, according to Angela Gaffney:
- “I had to realize very quickly that I didn’t get my body into this situation overnight and wasn’t going to be healed overnight. Healing takes time. I had to be patient and kind to myself in the process.”
- “I got rid of all the junk food in my house and replaced it with organic, nonprocessed foods. In the care of my doctor, I also cleansed my body of heavy metals and toxins. I felt like I had a horrible flu for weeks, but I stuck with it.”
- “I started every day with a smoothie full of leafy greens and high antioxidant foods. I drank green and white tea for the antioxidant properties, and added a lot of vegetables to every meal.”
- “I got rid of all the toxic cleaning products in my home. There are lots of alternatives available.”
- “I forgave myself for not being the mother or wife I had wanted to be all the years I was in pain.”
- “I learned to meditate and did positive affirmations daily to keep focused on my healing.”
- “I learned to set boundaries. I had negative relationships in my life that greatly affected my stress level. I’ve learned that you can’t control others or the way they react to things, so I learned to be in charge of me and to kindly express my needs.”
- “I invested in a personal trainer who listened and understood my needs. He started me with 15 minutes of exercise in a session and eventually, over a couple of years, we worked up to an hour of challenging exercise.”
- “I participated in the decision-making in my health journey. I viewed my doctor as a teammate and not the know-all leader. I advocated well for myself.”
- “As frustrated as I got seeing doctor after doctor, and not receiving answers, I persevered. This is probably because I had an amazing support system that helped me through the tough times so that I could make it to the good times. Surround yourself with good friends and family and be open to receiving their care and love. You don’t have to do it on your own.”
PUBLISHED October 7th, 2014 • WRITTEN BY Lisa Davis • Pain Resource Magazine