Putting My Condition into Remission

Today marks two weeks since I have been off prednisone. I had been on the medication for just over three years starting when I was diagnosed with Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR), an auto immune inflammatory disorder. My symptoms began in the spring of 2020 shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak—and they grew progressively worst that by December I was in serious discomfort and pain with limited range of motion. I couldn’t turn my neck much, I had difficulty bending overt to put on clothing, and I was in pain lifting my legs. My sleep was suffering because of the pain in my arms and shoulders leaving me fatigued. At 58 years old, I felt like I was 98 and thought that my world as I knew it was over. The thought that my best days were through—and the fact that I could no longer do the physical things that I had been doing my entire life led me to depression.

When I was put on a high dose of prednisone on Feb 28, 2021, within days my pain had subsided and my range of motion had returned. I felt born again and with a renewed sense of being. With this renewal I no longer took for granted my health and physical fitness. I realized how blessed I was over the past decades to be able to do the things that I was able to do—and now through medication I would be able to do them again. But being on a corticosteroid for a long time scared me as much as my PMR. I feared gaining excessive weight and losing my physical fitness level, possible damage to my eyes and a reduction in bone density.

The combination of wanting to put my PMR into remission (it never goes away) and to thwart any possible side effects from the prednisone led me to make some serious lifestyle changes. I have always ate fairly healthy—but there was still plenty of room to improve there. I eliminated most of the processed foods in my diet trying to minimize sugar as much as I can. Sugar causes inflammation and inflammation is one of the worst states for your body. I went into hyper drive consuming fruits, vegetable and nuts every day.  I eat a frittata for breakfast and a salad for lunch almost every day. I reduced my meat consumption eating lots of beans and lentils instead. I reduced my alcohol consumption-although I was never more than a one drink per day person-I now go many days even weeks without a drink. And I eat yogurt everyday.

And then I put my physical fitness regime into hyper drive because movement is living and we are meant to move. My new motto, “If I am not moving I’m dying!” I had experimented a little with ultra-running a few years back. I rediscovered it and quickly realized how much I love it and how good it makes me feel about myself and life. Ultra-running of course helps keep me at a healthy weight as well as keeping my limbs moving and my heart and lungs strong. I started running road marathons and trail 50Ks (after a several year hiatus) on a regular basis ultimately leading me to run my first 100K (62 miles) for my 62nd birthday celebration last fall. I was doing things in my 60s physically that I couldn’t do when I was in my 20s. And all this was having a strong positive mental effect on me as well helping me to beat the PMR beast.

I refused to let my PMR confine me and in many ways it helped liberate me. For while I have lived my whole life being physically active, I have always taken it for granted. I no longer do that. I give thanks for everyday and appreciate every day I am able to go out there and live life on my own terms. I am in my 60s and I know the time is coming soon that I will no longer be able to do the runs and hikes at the intensities and distances I am now doing. So I am going to continue to push myself to new levels and go for as long as I can go until my body says no more. My mind however may never be ready to stop and it’s helping me stay focused to keep my body going for as long as possible. I am charged knowing that in my 60s that some of my best days are still ahead of me—and that is the message that I not only keep reminding myself —but also hope to convey to folks much younger than me. Don’t take your life and the things you are doing for granted. Appreciate them and savor them and don’t put things off—you have no idea when it can all end. And there definitely is lots of life and challenges and best days ahead of you if you want it and are determined to work for it—and are blessed to dodge some serious health bullets along the way.

Your attitude and mindset are the most important factors in determining how you want to live. For me—I want to keep running long and hiking hard for at least two more decades and I’m determined to do what I need to do health and lifestyle wise to make that happen. So I rejoice putting my PMR into remission and I am determined to keep inflammation, stress, and other negative forces from chipping away at my health again. The prednisone was actually a blessing for getting my life back—and I am so thankful I was able to get through three years of it without any bad side effects. It feels good to start my morning off now without a little pill. I look forward to living my life at its best each and every day going forward. I wish you all a healthy journey too and success in taming your physical and mental health challenges.

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