While I feel honored and inspired by everyone I work with, once in a while a special story comes along that really makes me grateful for getting to work in the health field. I have been lucky to work with a woman named Kimberly Hodge, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 28. She has written me several inspiring emails about her story that I would like to share below.
Ms. Hodge’s Multiple Sclerosis (MS):
After three years of misdiagnosis, Kim Hodge was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999. For nine months that year, she could barely walk. She was only 28 at the time of her diagnosis. For the coming months and years, she suffered numbness in various parts of her body, lost strength, gained weight due to her restricted mobility and the onset of depression, and was told by doctors she might need to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. She must also receive a weekly injectable medication that causes numerous side effects.
Multiple Sclerosis is a potentially debilitating disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the protective sheath covering the nerves. This can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate, which is an irreversible process. While symptoms vary, Kim’s symptoms are not unusual. This disease can cause a patient to lose the ability to walk, to speak, and to see. MS also causes tingling, pain, shock-like sensations, numbness, and weakness to the limbs and other parts of the body. Fatigue and dizziness are also common. At present no cure for MS is available, though treatments can be used to manage attacks and treat symptoms.
Kim’s Brave Journey Back to Health
Despite these surmounting struggles, Kim did not give up. As she writes: “It's a shame that so many in the MS community believe everything has come to an end because of a diagnosis.” She refused to allow this diagnosis to be her end. Over the last three years, Kim has been bravely determined to reclaim her health. She began with changes in her diet, losing 45 pounds from this lifestyle change.
Kim has always sought a way to exercise that would not aggravate her MS symptoms. Running on the treadmill would often leave her with numb, shaky legs. Swimming can sometimes bring on her MS symptoms. Many other forms of exercise leave her with numbness of the hands and legs. In the past, exercise endeavors have often left Kim needing to remain in bed to recover from extreme fatigue. But then she tried kettlebells.
“Kettlebells by far have been about the only exercise that does not bring on symptoms of the disease. Granted, I do have to keep some sort of fan blowing on me at all times to keep semi-cool. Heat brings out the symptoms quicker than anything…Kettlebells does exert me, but in a good way, if that makes sense. There is no numbness of hands, legs, etc. as with other exercises. It makes me feel full of energy afterwards, not worn out as with other exercises.
“When I am feeling at my worst, I will still pick up a bell and do some sort of routine, and it is amazing at the energy I have afterwards! I don't have to be afraid that I'm not going to be able to walk, etc. afterwards, or be in the bed the rest of the day because I am fatigued. Along with the amazing energy, I have also noticed the insomnia (something common among those with MS) is getting less which means no needing naps.
“I may have MS but I won't let it control me anymore! Even on bad days, when I am having the side effects from the weekly shot I take, or just fatigued from the disease itself, I still make myself swing some. I am doing the DVD on average 4 times a week, and will still try to swing 300 times on other days.
“I feel so amazing thanks to you! Your instruction is so easy to follow and I always feel like you are right there in the room with me.”
Kim’s Kettlebell Strategy
Kim began her kettlebell journey with a 5-pound kettlebell. Gaining strength almost immediately, she moved up to a 10-pound kettlebell for two weeks and then to a 15-pound kettlebell. After only two months, Kim is using a 20-pound and a 26-pound kettlebell. She writes that “I may not have started out at the kettlebell weight most people do, but I did it slow, and the main thing to me is I did it and am still going strong!”
Strong is what Kim is. She began with my first two kettlebell DVDs; and, at her request, I provided her with beginner and intermediate rotational plans to help her get the most out of her experience with kettlebells. In just two months, Kim has transformed. She has gone from someone who could barely get out of bed to a strong woman who is able to complete an intense 40-minute kettlebell workout.
Kim has bravely shared her story with me so that others with MS or similar diseases might gain hope from her story. She comments, “When you are diagnosed with this disease, you feel so hopeless and helpless, and that there is no way for you to be active, etc. Each case is different, so I may be more active than the next person, but all I ask is that they try your kettlebell DVD.” Kim has even offered for others to contact her about her experiences if they want to learn more. She can be found on Facebook under “Kimberly Upchurch Hodge.”
Repetitious movements can exhaust a particular area and that is why I like Lauren's routines. She has you to get through each segment and move on and you are not constantly focused on one area. Example: Walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes can weaken the legs, cause numbness, etc., because it is basically the legs doing all of the work.
I like the fact that Lauren has you to do a routine and you get a break from that routine by doing something else and it gives a particular area time to recover.
Each MS case is different. The task may have to be broken down or varied. When I am doing a high intensity section (high pull, catch, and squat; mountain climber; squat thrust), by the second time through the routine I may have to give myself an extra 10 to 20 seconds break in addition to Lauren's one minute break. I would rather have the extra recovery time and make it through the routine, than to not do the routine at all.
I love all variations of the swing but do notice I begin to loose form quicker with the hand to hand swing. If that begins to happen, I will go back to two handed swings.
With the Turkish Get Up, I can stand up on my left side, but can only get to lunge position on the right side. I do not know if that is from damage from previous relapses and I am just weaker on that side, or if that is common. I actually prefer Turkish Get Up Squat Style, it seems easier but I want to be careful that I am not choosing the "easy way out."
In the beginning I noticed itching of the legs when doing the swings. I do not know if my medication contributed to that since I do take the injection in my legs. Just make sure that your client communicates with you what she is feeling, if a routine feels too easy for her, too hard, if it is too hard, why? Is it too hard because of the MS or because it is something new?
I have been fortunate to not experience the numbness, fatigue, etc, with kettlebells as I do with other forms of exercise. I hope that your client's experience is just as successful.
All the best wishes from Germany