Would you agree that the personality of a dental practice management coach is tied to service and helping others? As a woman, this is a big part of how I obtain fulfillment. So much that self-care can be neglected. We all know it is important for us to take care of ourselves. However, we can get so involved in helping our clients that we ignore warning signs and the voice inside of us telling us to stop and slow down. This was the story until my body spoke louder than my thoughts and demanded my attention.
I turned 50 in August of 2014, and everyone warned me that when you turn 50 you start falling apart. Earlier that year, two weeks prior to my daughter’s April wedding, I was walking down the boat dock, a walk I had walked more than a thousand times; and I fell, twisting both of my ankles. I thought to myself, is being clumsy part of falling apart after 50? This small incident was the beginning of what was to become a decline in my health.
Here is where my journey began. A battle of chronic pain with an unknown diagnosis was just beginning but so was my determination to face it with the power of passion: Passion for life, passion for family and passion for work.
The power of your thoughts is at the core of my belief system. I remember thinking to myself several times, “Am I making myself sick?” The moment I recognized that I was thinking bad thoughts in my head I would immediately say out loud, “I am a strong, healthy successful businesswoman.” I would repeat this several times in hopes of forging my own reality. Unfortunately, this determined repetition did not help with the pain that I was experiencing.
This process of a cadence of strength deepened after my primary care doctor said to me on Friday, February 13, 2015, “Adele, I think you should consider a change of lifestyle because every test we have run for you in the last few months shows me that you are a healthy 50 year old woman.” My response was, “Then why the F*** do I feel like I am 100 years old?” He had no answer, and all he could do was stare at me and say, “I really don’t know.” This was unacceptable. I needed answers.
My passion since 1996 has been coaching and training practices. I absolutely love what I do, and I had no desire to change my lifestyle. As I walked out of that appointment, I immediately picked up my phone, called my friend Tami of 36 years and asked her for a referral to the homeopathic doctor she and her husband Charlie had been seeing. Her immediate response to me was, “Thank goodness, Adele, as it is about time you sought advice somewhere else.”
A few weeks later I saw a homeopathic doctor in Reno, Dr. David Edwards. Dr. Edwards explained the results of my MRI taken in February as having microvascular ischemic disease. Multiple mini strokes. He also thought I might have polio after the 2nd visit. I saw him 7 times over a 3-week period. My mother or my oldest daughter, Samantha, had to drive me at this point because I was too tired to drive the distance. On my last visit he said, “Adele, you need to see a neurologist as soon as possible because I believe something is seriously wrong with your spine.” As Samantha was driving me home from Reno, my primary care MD called and suggested I see a neurologist. To this day I strongly believe Dr. Edwards immediately called after I left the office and spoke with my primary care MD to have him call me that same day.
Up until this point I was still working with my clients 3 to 4 days a week, which was a welcome distraction until my body had another plan. My left side started to be affected, and I had to see a neurologist as soon as possible. I was dragging my left foot and tripping over both feet, I was walking very slowly, my left hand was not working and I was completely out of breath… more exhausted than I had ever felt in my life. Finally, on April 14, 2015, I saw the neurologist, Dr. Han. After a 2-hour appointment he said, “I have good news and bad news: The good news is it is not in your head. The bad news is you have something seriously wrong with your spine. I would like to get an MRI of the C-Spine and do a spinal tap.”
The next morning at 7 a.m. I had an MRI of my C-Spine & Thoracic. As Samantha was dropping me off at home, Dr. Han was calling my home phone asking me to come back in as soon as I could. I asked if I needed to bring anybody with me. He said, “Yes, that would be a good idea.” Hearing a statement like this, you can only imagine how I felt. Both my husband, Ken, and Samantha went with me back to the office to discuss the results of my MRI of the C-Spine. Dr. Han’s first question was, “Are you ready to be hospitalized?” My response was ONLY if I needed to be. “Why, what is going on?” Dr. Han went on to explain that my spinal cord was being compressed due to severe disc degenerative disease and that there was a lesion in the spinal cord. He would like to do a spinal tap as soon as possible to confirm what he suspected to be Myelitis. He also wanted to speak with a neurosurgeon regarding the lesion and what type of treatment we should start first.
Overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions, I was filled with a new sense of optimism after finally obtaining a true diagnosis, and I had hope for a great treatment plan. We have turned a corner, or so I thought.
The series of appointments between local neurologists, home health care and UCSF started to determine what type of treatment would be done to address the multiple diagnoses that I had been given. In addition, I was placed on 100mg of Solumedrol drip to reduce the swelling in my spinal cord.
I had a home health nurse, Mercy, administering the treatment for the swelling. On April 24th my resolve was tested, and a new health concern turned into the scariest moments of this journey. Mercy came to replace my IV port because my vein had blown, and she checked my pulse. She took my blood pressure and knew something was drastically wrong. She remained calm and said, “Hmmmm something is not right. Let me go get my other blood pressure cuff.” She took my blood pressure again and said, “We need to go to the emergency room.” I asked why, and she said, “Your heart rate is at 42 beats per minute, and that would be okay if you were an athlete.” My heart was failing, and Mercy just saved my life.
Ken met me and my daughter at the emergency room, and within the next 24 hours I was in surgery having a pacemaker placed. The next few weeks I spent recovering. I had to cancel going to my favorite annual events such as the CDA & SCN. I was determined to get better, but I knew that I still had to deal with my spine.
May 14, 2015, I had my first visit with the neurosurgeon, and after 6 weeks of steroids to decrease the swelling in my spine, I had C-spine surgery where a plate was placed in my neck. The next six months were spent dealing with pain & swelling, but the neurosurgeon’s response was, “You’re lucky to be walking. I fixed your problem that you came in with. If you’re still having pain, then you need to go through pain management or file for permanent disability.” I thought there’s no way! I can’t give up my business and stop doing what I love. At that moment I made the decision to prove him wrong.
Since then I’ve had many more MRIs, surgeries, physical therapy and other health challenges, but my work and family have keep me going. I can’t sit for long periods of time and still battle with chronic pain; but when I’m doing what I’m passionate about, like working with my clients, sitting on the porch with Ken or spending time on our houseboat with family and friends, the pain just seems to dissipate, and I know I have won the day’s battle.
My goal in writing this article was not intended for you to feel sad for me. My goal in writing this article is to share with you to Never Give UP! Never give up on yourself. Never give up when you know in your heart something is not right. Never give up when the doctor says it is all in your head. Never give up on doing the things you love to do such as living a full life, spending quality time with your family and doing a job you absolutely love. I know for certain that what kept me going was the love and passion I have for life, family and the work I do supporting dentists and their teams.
Live life to the fullest, my friends, with the power of passion for WHATEVER you choose to be your passion!