Woah, We’re Halfway There! Woah-oh, Livin On A Prayer!

15 days down, 15 to go.

It’s January 15! That means we’re halfway done with our Whole30! That rocks my socks off. So far, the thing that my meal plan has been best for is pulling up recipes to make grocery lists. We haven’t even kind of stuck to what meals we planned to have at what time. We buy ingredients for 5 meals or so at a time, and have really enjoyed many of the dishes.

Here are the dishes that we’ve liked the best:
A surprise favorite: Not Beanie Weenie – We never would have tried this recipe if we hadn’t found the Whole30 approved hot dogs! It’s a solid recipe, but it tastes even better if you add some yellow mustard. Best part — it’s a 1 pot meal.

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie – Our recipe was inspired by this one. It’s one of our favorites because it’s really straightforward and easy. It also was very comforting and tasty!

Baked Pork Chops with Apple-Thyme Gravy – So Good! The gravy itself was more like a sauce than a gravy because it wasn’t thick. You couldn’t really taste the apple, but it was still so full of umami goodness that it was worth mentioning.

There was only one real problem with this recipe on its own. The cooking time suggested on the recipe’s website is cah-rayzee. Pork chops should never take an hour and fifteen minutes to cook in an oven set to 400 F. If you leave them in that long, you will end up with hockey pucks instead of pork chops. Instead, we stuck a meat thermometer in the thickest chop we were using and took it out of the oven when the pork’s internal temp reached 145 F. We let the meat rest for a few minutes, and it came up to 150 F, which is ideal for food safety. It took maybe 20 minutes, which made this meal both mouthwatering and quick. We paired it with baked sweet potato.

Last, but certainly not least, last night, we really enjoyed Tropical Grilled Flank Steak – Possibly the easiest and best tasting recipe we’ve tried yet. Instead of adding minced garlic and chopped chives or scallions, I coated both sides of the flank steak with granulated onion powder and granulated garlic powder. Also instead of mincing the ginger, I grated it, so that it would stick to the steak better. It was so much less work than the update I made to my Mom and Grammy’s flank steak recipe, and it was just as good. This will probably become a part of our regular meal rotation even after the Whole30 is over. We paired it with steamed broccoli.

Our Favorite Snacks

One of the most important things for us has been having snack food, for those moments when you’re totally hungry and don’t have time to fix something. Here’s what we’ve been enjoying.

Dried, Non-Sweetened Organic Mango Slices
Honeycrisp Apples
Navel Oranges
Dried, Salted Plantain Chips
Sunflower Seeds
Unsalted Cashews
Homemade Beef Jerky

What’s Next?

With the Whole30 being halfway through, I have a much better handle on how to cook for it. If a recipe has more than 5-6 non-spice ingredients, I usually don’t have the time or patience to make it.

So what’s on the menu in the next several days?
Our chili recipe, which I’m planning to make tonight. (I’ve gotta get off this computer and go shopping for the ingredients!)

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken – an old favorite that we ate even when we weren’t paleo! We double Adam’s Taco Seasoning and add it in place of the packet of taco seasoning in the recipe. We’ll definitely make some paleo tortilla chips to go with it, and probably some guacamole too.

Keeping with the slow cooker theme, we’re also slated to try NomNomPaleo’s Slow Cooker Korean Short Ribs and Slow Cooker Cheater Pot Stew. I’m a little worried about the pork stew, just because Adam doesn’t like cabbage usually. Sometimes, he digs bok choy, though… so I’m hopeful that this recipe passes his palate’s test.

We’re also going to try Buffalo Ranch Chicken Meatballs, which, when paired with celery sticks, looks like something easy and yummy for supper. I’m thinking of adding some paprika and cayenne pepper to the meatball itself, for a little extra kick.

This food isn’t gonna buy or cook itself, so I’d better wrap it up and get to the store. Hope everyone’s having a great day!

What to eat when you’re sick and keeping a paleo Whole 30.

Being Sick Is No Fun.

Last week wasn’t such a great week, health-wise, for my husband, Adam. He was diagnosed with strep throat and a flu-like virus that completely took him out of commission from Wednesday night until about mid-day Sunday. Miraculously, even with an immune system that’s operating at 60%, I did not get sick! I am praying that I am not in an incubation period, and that I don’t end up ill in about a week or two.

Sadly, we couldn’t go to the gym on Monday or Tuesday of last week because of the polar vortex making temperatures in Chicago dip to forty degrees below zero. The gym was closed! Adam was diagnosed Wednesday, and he wasn’t feeling better until yesterday – so that’s a whole week of working out that we lost. ūüė¶ I guess it’s better for us to have let our bodies rest and been considerate of the other gym-goers than to have pushed ourselves for the sake of keeping with our plans.

Speaking of keeping with our plans… we ran into a hard time on Friday. When either Adam or I have gotten really sick in the past, our diets were incredibly grain-heavy — noodle soups, fresh bread for dipping, Chinese food… that used to be the order of the day. But, you can’t do that when you’re paleo.

My Ginger Garlic Chicken Soup

Thursday and Friday for lunch, I made my ginger garlic chicken soup, which was great. I cut up about 12-15 baby carrots, 3 stalks of celery, and 2 chicken breasts, grated about a half inch of fresh ginger and 5-6 garlic cloves, and added 4 cups of organic chicken broth, 3 cups of water, 1 bay leaf, 1 TBSP of granulated onion (you could always sub 1 medium onion, chopped), a half tsp of poultry seasoning, some kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. I let it simmer together for an hour or so, and we had some really comforting, delicious soup.

Unfortunately, that was all I had in my bag of tricks. I became slightly panicked on Friday night because I couldn’t think of anything else that was Whole30 compliant for me to make for dinner that would soothe Adam’s cold.

The Foodee Project & Chowstalker to the Rescue!

Everyone who knows me well knows that I am a research fanatic. The first thing I did was to Google “paleo while sick” and “whole30 while sick” to get some results where I could see what others who were keeping this diet do when they’re feeling ill.

I was shocked and saddened to see that there were few answers or suggestions for anything other than scrambled eggs and bone broth. Heck, some people even advocated fasting. I thought that was crazy. Fortunately, there were a few more helpful suggestions on TheClothesMakeTheGirl – she suggested zucchini noodles with ghee and mashed potatoes. Both are very respectable suggestions. Unfortunately, Adam wasn’t in the mood for any of that.

So, I hit up Chowstalker and The Foodee Project for Whole 30 recipe suggestions. I found a lot of good options, and I thought I should share them with you! I need to add all of these to the Paleo Compendium.

Soups

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Roasted, Curried Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Soup
Curried Apple Soup
Sweet Potato Basil Soup
Indian Spiced Sweet Potato & Bacon Soup
Beef & Mushroom Soup
Spicy Chicken Vegetable Soup
Smoky Mexican Tortilla-less Chicken Soup
Tuscan Chicken Soup
Ginger Chicken Soup
Curried Cauliflower Soup
Golden Cauliflower Soup
Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup
Avocado Soup with Cucumber
Gazpacho With Zucchini Pasta
Squash & Crab Bisque

Not Soup


Fall Harvest Mash

Butternut Squash & Yam Mash
Turnip-Cauliflower Mash
Lemon Cucumber Noodles with Cumin

Feeling Better

Today is Monday, and Adam is back at work. The sun is shining, and temperatures are back up above freezing. That means that tonight, we’re definitely headed to the gym, and that I need to get something started in the slow cooker about… now, actually. (Geesh! Better finish this entry.) Tonight, we’re having Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken & Sweet Potatoes.

Hope you’re all doing well!

I made much better tasting mayo today.

I made mayonnaise again today, but modified my original recipe. What it created was at least 10 times yummier.

Rae’s Homemade Miracle Whip-like Paleo Mayonnaise

Yields 4 Cups

Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¬Ĺ c. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

  1. Get out your food processor and put in the¬†sabatier blade. (That‚Äôs the ‚ÄúS‚ÄĚ shaped one that spins towards the bottom.)
  2. In the processor bowl, place the egg yolks, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, and salt.
  3. Turn the machine on (not on pulse, but in the ‚Äúon‚ÄĚ position) and as slowly as you can, start to drizzle in the oil, drop by drop until the mixture starts to look like mayonnaise, then a slow steady stream of oil can be added.
  4. Turn off the food processor.
  5. Use a flexible spatula to scoop the mayonnaise out of the bowl and into a container that is suitable for the refrigerator. If properly refrigerated, homemade mayonnaise can be used for 2 weeks.

It’s about time for an update…

It’s been a while since August 8. Lots of things have happened. That’s life! ¬†I figure that it’s time for a good update.

What’s new with my MS

The last time I took any kind of disease modifying drug to help slow my MS progression was July 11th, when I quit Tecfidera. For those of you who are not inclined to do the math, that’s about 6.5 weeks ago. I wasn’t even on a therapeudic dose long enough for it to be helpful for me, so if you really want to know how long it’s been since I was on medication to help my MS in any meaningful way, we’d have to look at when I stopped Copaxone, which was on June 2nd. This means that my MS has been running amok for almost 3 months. That’s an entire season!

Honestly, I miss Copaxone. I never thought I would say that, since I hate giving myself injections, but I haven’t been enjoying the come-and-go nature of my MS symptoms which are more pronounced since I stopped. Numbness and tingling on my left side and on my back has been annoying, but it hasn’t stopped me from doing anything. Fatigue has been significantly worse. Bladder/bowel stuff has been annoying but not disabling. Fortunately, I stay pretty close to a bathroom at all times. I’d hate to already be needing Depends. I’ve had spells of time when seizures returned with force. Last night, for example, was pretty tough, but today has been fine. ¬†I’ve noticed that getting enough sleep (which for me is apparently about 14 hrs a day) is absolutely necessary to proper bodily function.

By and large, I’ve been alright. I’ve enjoyed not dealing with any side effects from meds. I’ve enjoyed not injecting myself nightly, and I’m actually surprisingly optimistic about starting Gilenya¬†(a once-a-day pill for MS)¬†on Thursday of this week. ¬†I have to be at the hospital at 8 a.m. for the administration of my first dose. I’m hoping that the 6-hour observation period goes smoothly.

What’s new with the Paleo Diet

Well, first of all, I feel like an ass-and-a-half for sharing those ketchup recipes with you. I was so proud of my work at the time — but I’m really not pleased with what’s come after the first day. I’ve been using the stuff that I made for a few weeks now — and the first thing that happened with it is that the condiment got super thick, just like tomato paste. I have to dilute it with water every time I use it.

I intend to make another batch using a different recipe.  This recipe is based on Heinz ketchup, and has gotten good reviews.

Ingredients

6 oz. tomato paste
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. white vinegar
1/4 c. water
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth.
  2. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Remove pan from heat and cover until cool. Chill & store in a covered container.

To make it paleo-friendly, I’m just substituting honey for the corn syrup and sugar. Because honey is 1.5 times as sweet as sugar, I’m only adding 1/3 c. for the whole recipe. I know agave nectar would be a better 1-to-1 substitute for corn syrup, but it’s also a high-fructose syrup (90% fructose, 10% glucose). ¬†Honey has a better ratio of fructose to glucose (40% fructose, 30% glucose, 30% other).

Several folks commented on the recipe that they subbed honey with good effects, so I’m hopeful that my next batch of ketchup lives up to my expectations.

As for other paleo-ness: Adam and I decided not to join in on August’s Whole30. I started making a meal-planning calendar and it just got too overwhelming. Right now, I’m just focusing on yummy, simple recipes. I promise I’ll share more.

What’s new with life in general

Well, this past weekend was all kinds of freakin awesome. My parents and my brother all came in town to visit me. ¬†It still weirds me out to think that Mom and Dad are in the rural sticks of PA and that Daniel is in Denver, CO. Some part of my brain still acts like I’m in college and they are still living together in our home in Collierville, TN even though we’ve all moved on with our lives. We’re all still really close and talk frequently, so it feels like we should just be able to hop in the car to see one another, but that’s not the case. We actually hadn’t seen each other since Poppy’s funeral last year.

This weekend was pretty great because we made a commitment to being relaxed. We went out for delicious (and very non-Paleo) meals, and otherwise, we just hung out – no pressure. ¬†Sure, my type-A personality required me to put together a wicked long list of things we could do, but it was more so that we could acknowledge that we had options and feel good about our decision to do nothing. ūüôā All that any of us cared about was just being together. So, Dad and Dan got to play chess while I showed Mom my Sims 3 game one day and after walking through a 4-story mall and hitting a bookstore, we watched a few episodes of Too Cute: Puppies¬†back at their hotel room the next. ¬†I feel like I made out like a bandit, honestly. I got to spend time with people I really, deeply love, was treated to fantastic meals, and Mom even got me some nail polish and mascara. (BTW – I totally endorse Maybelline’s Volum Express Falsies Big Eyes Washable Mascara. It is the shit. It adds volume and length without being clumpy, and it doesn’t flake off.)

Other than that, life is good and simple.

I’ve graduated from cognitive behavioral therapy. My therapist is so pleased with how I’m doing that I only have to have a visit with her now if something comes up and I need to call her, which is great.

I’m no longer afraid to take public transportation unless I’ve had a seizure in the last 24 hours, so I can get out of the house fairly easily, and I actually do have places I want to go to from time to time.

As for other activities, I’m currently working on writing a novel — an activity which is simultaneously frustrating and entertaining. ¬†Currently, I’m only 2 chapters in, but I have faith that in time I’ll get through the whole story.

Adam and I are still working out at the YMCA at least 3 days a week, doing weightlifting on resistance machines and cardio on the elliptical or a treadmill.

And I’m still adding recipes to the Paleo Compendium every day, always in an effort to make my relationship with food easier and yummier.

I’m still butt-crazy in love with my husband after almost 3 years of marriage and 3 years of courting, and our dog is at least 5 times cuter and sweeter than he is a pain in the ass. ūüôā ¬†I really couldn’t ask for more out of life.

Right now, I feel very lucky.

Makeover Success!

Grammy Would Be Proud.

After I posted the recipe “Mom’s Flank Steak” on this blog, I found out from my father that the recipe was actually not originally Mom’s, but my Grammy’s! ¬†(Grammy was my Dad’s mom. I called my mom’s mom “Grandma” for anyone who’s curious.) Apparently, Grammy gave my mom the recipe before I was even born! Boy am I glad she did. Dinner tonight was *fan-tastic*.

20130808_193754

Flank steak with mashed potatoes & broccoli… 100% paleo. It doesn’t get a lot better than this. ūüôā

Monday, I had to pick up more ingredients, so Tuesday, I made the paleo ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. This morning, I made the Catalina dressing, and tonight, we had (in the words of my hubby) “fuckin’ delicious” flank steak.

I *did* have to make some revisions to one of the recipes, though! ¬†I promised you that I’d let you know if we had to make any changes, so here we go!

Paleo ketchup that makes the grade!

(Revised!)

This was adapted from a highly-rated ketchup recipe on Allrecipes.com and the rich and deep-flavored ketchup on Paleo Diet Lifestyle. This ketchup recipe can be bottled in sterilized jars and kept for up to 6 months in the fridge.

Recipe makes about 5¬Ĺ cups

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 stick of celery, chopped
¬Ĺ¬†fennel bulb, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 small bunch of fresh basil leaves
30 ounces tomato paste
3 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
1¬Ĺ c. cold water
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1¬Ĺ teaspoon salt
¬Ĺ¬†teaspoon black pepper
¬Ĺ¬†teaspoon garlic powder
¬Ĺ¬†teaspoon onion powder
¬Ĺ¬†teaspoon ground coriander

Directions

  1. In a frying pan, heat up 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Toss in the celery, fennel, ginger, and basil and cook until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the contents of the frying pan, and put it all into a food processor.
  4. Blend into a paste.
  5. In a large (preferably glass) bowl, stir the green paste, tomato paste, honey, and vinegar together.
  6. Pour the water into the bowl and continue stirring until smooth.
  7. Add the spices (paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and coriander) and stir to combine.
  8. Transfer to a container (or a few containers) that is (are) good for refrigeration.
  9. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before using.

 

I hope you enjoy!

Paleo Recipe Makeover: Mom’s Flank Steak

Every once in a while, when it was a special occasion, my mom would make us flank steak. It’s one of my most positive food memories, so it’s no surprise that I’d want to create a paleo version of it.

This recipe makeover’s not as simple as quick substitutions. There’s soy sauce in it – and that’s an easy fix. (Wheat-free tamari or coconut aminos) But then, there’s Catalina dressing, which Kraft makes with high fructose corn syrup. Not one to give up, I found a great recipe for Catalina dressing… and found out that it is made with ketchup (not usually paleo) and Worcestershire sauce (also not usually paleo).

Recipe Makeover: Mom’s Flank Steak

Here is my mom’s amazingly tasty flank steak recipe, in its original glory:

Mom’s Flank Steak

Ingredients: 
1 to 1.5 lbs of flank steak
1 small bottle of Kraft Catalina Dressing
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Ginger Powder

Directions:

  1. Cover the flank steak with equal parts garlic and onion powder (the steak should almost be white)
  2. In a bowl, mix Catalina dressing, soy sauce, and ginger powder to taste.
  3. Pour dressing mix over flank steak and marinate for at least 3 hours. (24 is best!)
  4. Grill the steak, reserving the marinade.
  5. In a saucepan, bring the remaining marinade to a boil to remove any possibility of bacteria
  6. Serve the steak in thin strips with hot marinade on the side as a gravy.

Let’s make it paleo.

The flank steak is fine. So is the garlic powder, onion powder, and ginger powder (though I’ll probably want to use fresh). I’ll be swapping the soy sauce for wheat-free tamari. (I just don’t like coconut aminos.) Now, to make the rest!

Paleo Catalina Dressing

Ingredients

  • ¬ľ¬†cup paleo ketchup
  • ¬ľ¬†cup honey
  • ¬ľ¬†cup red wine vinegar
  • ¬Ĺ¬†teaspoon onion powder
  • ¬Ĺ¬†teaspoon paprika
  • ¬ľ¬†teaspoon paleo worcestershire sauce
  • ¬Ĺ¬†cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Place first 6 ingredients in a food processor or blender (or use a handheld blender) and process until smooth.
  2. Add the oil in a slow steady stream with the machine running until the mixture comes together in an emulsion.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

This recipe makes approximately: 1 ¬Ĺ¬†cups — about the right amount for my mom’s recipe.

But I need paleo ketchup and worcestershire sauce… and they don’t sell that at the grocery store.

Paleo Worcestershire Sauce

Adapted from http://paleodietlifestyle.com/homemade-paleo-condiments/ (Their recipe contained soy sauce, and I’m just not willing to make the concession.)

Ingredients

¬Ĺ¬†cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp wheat-free tamari (or coconut aminos)
¬ľ¬†tsp ground ginger
¬ľ¬†tsp mustard powder
¬ľ¬†tsp onion powder
¬ľ¬†tsp garlic powder
⅛ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and slowly bring to a bowl while stirring frequently.
  2. Let simmer for about a minute for the flavors to develop.
  3. Cool and store in the refrigerator.

Paleo Ketchup

Adapted from a highly-rated ketchup recipe on Allrecipes.com and the rich and deep-flavored ketchup on Paleo Diet Lifestyle. This ketchup recipe can be bottled in sterilized jars and kept for up to 6 months in a cool dark place.¬†(I haven’t made this yet, but it’s what I’m going to try. I’ll update and let y’all know how it is.)

Recipe makes about 8 cups

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 stick of celery, chopped
¬Ĺ¬†fennel bulb, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
1 small bunch of fresh basil leaves, chopped
24 ounces tomato paste
2 tbsp honey
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 c cold water
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
¬Ĺ¬†teaspoon black pepper
¬Ĺ¬†teaspoon garlic powder
¬Ĺ¬†teaspoon onion powder
¬ľ¬†teaspoon ground coriander

Directions

  1. In a frying pan, heat up 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Toss in the celery, fennel, ginger, and basil and cook until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend the contents of the frying pan into a paste.
  4. In a large bowl, stir the celery, fennel, and ginger paste, tomato paste, honey, and vinegar together.
  5. Pour the water into the bowl and continue stirring until smooth.
  6. Add the spices (paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and coriander) and stir to combine.
  7. Transfer to a container that is good for refrigeration. (a sterilized jar would be perfect!)
  8. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before using.

The Plan of Action

Tomorrow, I will be making the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Catalina Dressing, and finally, will start marinating the steak, so we can eat it on Tuesday. Updates will follow.

Despite Multiple Sclerosis…

Yesterday, a good friend whom I admire and respect left a link for me on my Facebook timeline. The text that he wrote to accompany the link was “Inspiration of the day.” What followed was a link to an article about a woman who, 3 years after her MS diagnosis, has chosen not to take any MS medication and instead to run a marathon every day for an entire year, finishing the year with a double marathon.

Now, I know this friend pretty well, so I am entirely certain that he had good intentions and was looking to lift me up when he sent me this article. I am not upset with him, and I deeply appreciate that he holds me in his heart and wants to remind me that I am capable of more than I think I am.

That being said, something that people who don’t have a chronic disease often don’t understand is that when you send links about people who have your disease doing incredible (sometimes ridiculous) things, it is not inspirational. It is a form of shaming. ¬†It suggests that the disease you deal with on a daily basis really isn’t that bad, and that anyone with that disease ought to be able to do the crazy-ass thing that this person, who has your disease, has chosen to do.

Diagnosed with MS? Climb Mt. Everest!

I remember when I was initially diagnosed with MS, Teva Pharmaceuticals sent me an information packet, asking me to be a part of Team Copaxone – a bunch of folks with RRMS who do things like climb Mt. Everest, lead a team to the South Pole, participate in the Para-Olympics, and so on… (from the Teva Pharmaceuticals website) “Team COPAXONE¬ģ¬†is a group of individuals with RRMS who have different talents and aspirations, yet one common objective: to live the lives they have imagined despite their disease.”

I remember thinking, “I’m finishing law school and am going to take the bar exam despite the fatigue and cognitive problems caused by RRMS. I’m kind of like the folks in Team Copaxone! I won’t let anything stand in my way!”

And I did complete law school. ¬†I even took the 3-day CA bar exam twice. ¬†I didn’t pass either time, though I was close — and I blame the fact that I didn’t pass on the constant seizures I was experiencing at the time. (It’s hard to pass a test when you have seizures that cause you to fall out of the chair you’re in and bang your head on the desk while you’re taking it.) These seizures were caused by MS. ¬†So no matter how much I wanted “to live the life I imagined despite my disease,” I couldn’t. ¬†That doesn’t mean that I didn’t give it everything I had.

It’s not that you’re inferior. They’re just so superior.

When folks with MS get media attention for do amazing things, like training for the Kona Ironman competition, modifying bicycles so they can pedal with their hands and participate in 2-day long bicycle races, continuing to pursue a lifelong dream of being a basketball player with the NBA, have a booming career as the mascot for an NFL team despite heat intolerance, or be a Major League Baseball player, people who are not knowledgeable about the disease think that the rest of us ought to be able to do these things.

To make it worse, you’ve even got fictional characters, like President Josiah Bartlet of the West Wing, messing with the understanding of the disease for your average person.

The bad logic isn’t hard to follow: If there are people who have MS that can succeed as professional athletes or political figures, people with MS really aren’t that disabled. They’re just holding themselves back.

While I wish that were the case, it simply isn’t.

This is what MS does to you.

Multiple sclerosis is different for every person that has it, for many of us, the symptoms are severely disabling.

The most common symptoms of MS (courtesy of WebMD):

“Abnormal sensations:¬†People with MS often say they feel a “pins and needles” sensation. They may also have numbness, itching, burning, stabbing, or tearing pains. About half of people with MS have these uncomfortable symptoms. Fortunately, they can be managed or treated.

Bladder problems: About 8 in 10 people have bladder problems, which can be treated. You may need to pee often, urgently, need to go at night, or have trouble emptying your bladder fully. Bowel problems, especially constipation, are also common.

Difficulty walking: MS can cause muscle weakness or spasms, which make it harder to walk. Balance problems, numb feet, and fatigue can also make walking difficult.

Dizziness:¬†It’s common to feel dizzy or lightheaded. You usually won’t have vertigo, or the feeling that the room is spinning.

Fatigue:¬†About 8 in 10 people feel very tired.¬†It often comes on in the afternoon and causes weak muscles, slowed thinking, or sleepiness. It’s usually not related to the amount of work you do. Some people with MS say they can feel tired even after a good night’s sleep.

Muscle spasms: They usually affect the leg muscles. For about 40% of people they are an early symptom of MS. In progressive MS, muscle spasms affect about 6 in 10 people. You might feel mild stiffness or strong, painful muscle spasms.

Sexual difficulties: These include vaginal dryness in women and erection problems in men. Both men and women may be less responsive to touch, have a lower sex drive, or have trouble reaching orgasm.

Speech problems: Sometimes MS can cause people to pause a long time in between words and have slurred or nasal speech. Some people also develop swallowing problems in more advanced stages of MS.

Thinking problems: About half of people with MS have trouble concentrating that comes and goes. For most, this means slowed thinking, poor attention, or fuzzy memory. Rarely, people can have severe problems that make it hard to do daily tasks. MS usually does not change your intellect and ability to read and understand conversation.

Tremors: About half of people with MS have tremors. They can be minor shakes or make it hard to manage everyday activities.

Vision problems: Problems with your eyes tend to be one of the first symptoms. They usually affect only one eye and go away on their own. Your sight may be blurry, gray, or have a dark spot in the center. You may suddenly have eye pain and temporary vision loss.

Very rarely, people with MS may have breathing problems or seizures.”

There is no cure yet for Multiple Sclerosis.

The only thing that upsets me more than being presented with evidence that MS doesn’t stop you from doing amazing physical things (for many of us, it does!), is when people send me links talking about people who have “cured” their MS.

None of them have.

Dr. Wahls, for example, has done an¬†amazing¬†job of regaining ability in her body that she had previously lost due to MS, by eating a modified paleo diet. News sources around the world touted her discoveries as a “cure” for MS — but Dr. Wahls will tell you herself that she still has the disease, and that she is managing the symptoms through diet. She still deals with some symptoms from MS, but she’s much better than she was prior to starting her diet regime.

Then there’s¬†CCSVI¬†(which was proven ineffective),¬†stem-cell recipients,¬†bone marrow transplants, and recently,¬†T-cell reprogramming.

Not one of these “cures” is a real cure, but, they are steps towards one.

Why do I get upset when people excitedly tell me about “cures?” ¬†Because every one of those articles about potential medical therapies carries with it a ¬†mixture of false hope and more shaming. These articles contain the implied suggestion, “If the news says this is a cure, you should try it – and if you don’t, then you’re not doing everything you can to fight the disease.”

I’m proud of how I’m doing.

I have gotten accustomed to a life with seizures, thinking problems, sexual difficulties, muscle spasms, fatigue, dizziness, bladder problems, and abnormal sensations — all occurring during the last 6 years while I’ve been taking medicine to slow progression of the disease.

So, no – I don’t think I’m going to be running 366 marathons anytime soon. I sure as shit am not climbing Mt. Everest, and I have no designs on trying to become a professional athlete or political figurehead. ¬†I’m facing the challenges presented to me by my body and am not looking to increase the difficulty of my life.

The fact that, since the constant seizures abated in January, I have consistently gotten myself to the gym 3-4 days a week proves to me that I am not a quitter.

The fact that, for 6 years, despite being initially needle-phobic, I gave myself nightly injections to fight the disease, lets me know that I’m willing to face my fears and do whatever is necessary to maintain as good a level of health as I can.

The fact that I am, once again, following a modified paleo diet because science confirms that it makes a positive difference in the health of people with MS, shows me that I am not lazy or letting the disease “win.”

The fact that I’m willing to try new drugs when they come out on the market, like Tecfidera, despite the chance of horrible side effects, lets me know that I have not lost hope.

Despite multiple sclerosis, I do my best to live a full life. ¬†And to me, that’s all any of us can ask of ourselves.