Nadja is a teacher, a refashionista of clothing, and a passionate blogger. But more so she is a compassionate and caring friend. She also has only recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Nadja is one of the many young women who will be told that they have this mean disease. I found Nadja through the blog world this past spring when she was trying to find support following her diagnosis. I dare say that she gives more than she receives and if anyone in our MS on-line world is having a rough time, Nadja is right there to lend an ear and provide comfort. I am very fortunate to know her.
Thank you Nadja for granting me the honor of this interview.
Name: Nadja Yse Tizer
General: 31 year old married female living in Denver Colorado. I teach high school ESL (English as a Second Language) in a poor, urban school. I also teach a daily yoga class at my school. I own a small business called Denver Yoga for Kids. I am an aspiring designer of refashioned, recycled clothing but my latest designs are currently on hiatus as I try to balance work and my recent diagnoses of MS.
Type of MS: Original Diagnoses "Benign Monophasic." I have not had my diagnoses updated since April but since then I have had an exacerbation so this diagnoses is no longer entirely accurate although I hope my disease will take a mild course. My next MRI is fast approaching.
Blog Title and Link: Living! With MS
The interview questions:
When were you given your official Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis?
I received my official diagnoses on April 23, 2008 after over two weeks of debilitating vertigo and vomiting.
What tests did they do to get to the diagnosis?
The first test I received was a CT scan at the ER. On April 12th I woke up feeling strange and nauseated. I got up anyway because I had many things to do that day but was soon driven back to bed by a bout of vomiting. That day I had planned a party for my husband's birthday but we had to cancel it as the day wore on and I continued to vomit. By night my husband wanted to take me to the ER because I had vomited at least twenty times. I was so dizzy I couldn't move off my side and so I sent him to find an anti-nausea agent. I took it and insisted on waiting until morning.
I got the CT scan shortly after being admitted to the ER. At that point I couldn't even stand alone. They gave me some medicine and discharged me a few hours later saying I would be alright. The physician noted that my CT was abnormal and told me to get an MRI. I was unconcerned but I ordered the test anyway.
Nothing seemed to stop the vertigo. Several things masked my symptoms and allowed me to function but after the 12th I did not drive again for over a month. I continued to be dizzy and to see the world sideways. I often saw double or my vision was blurred. I still went to work for the better part of two weeks, hanging onto walls when I needed to go places. I guess it must have been the 21st when I succumbed completely to the vertigo and weeks of vomiting caught up to me. I started vomiting blood at work and was later readmitted to the ER. I had a Mallory Weiss tear in my esophagus.
When I was released the next day the doctor asked how I felt. I said, "Good but you have two heads." He told me that was not a symptom of vertigo but it was a symptom of MS. Then he asked when I was getting the MRI.
I got the MRI that night but I did not fear that the results would change my life. My doctor had reassured me that I would be fine. He called me at two the next day and said, "I'm so sorry, you have MS."
What was your reaction to hearing that you have this disease?
When I received my diagnoses I was stunned and devastated. I knew nothing about MS. I imagined that I would be shaky and wheel-chair bound. I imagined I would never do or teach yoga again. My husband asked the doctor, "Can she still become a yoga teacher?" The doctor assured him that I could. That helped immediately. Within two hours I had started a dose of 500mg of Prednisone for four days. That really helped because I had never taken steroids and I did not know just how crazy and super-human I was about to become. The steroids in fact dulled the blow of my diagnoses for months. When it really hit me, I fell into a deep depression.
What sorts of symptoms do you or have you experienced?
During the last year or so I have experienced a virtual potpourri of symptoms. I have had vertigo, skull pain, nausea and migraines. I have had problems with my bladder control and at times discomfort in my bowels. Balance was a big issue during my first exacerbation but now that is much better. I have had tingling and numbness throughout my body and strange electrical pulses on my skull and the back of my neck and arms. I have had muscle and nerve pain. The biggest change has been the fatigue. I am exhausted. All these changes have brought on depression and anxiety but I am slowly learning to accept and cope.
What meds, treatments, or alternative therapies have helped you the most?
I used prednisone to treat both exacerbations and luckily it worked alone both times. I have tried modifying my diet by cutting gluten, dairy and cooked foods but I have not found the perfect formula yet. I have consulted with an acupuncturist and received treatments for hormonal issues. The acupuncture proved very effective for treating joint pain, nerve pain and cramps.
When I went back to yoga I took a "therapeutic class." That was helpful on a physical, mental and spiritual level. Yoga and meditation have proved the most effective means for dealing with all my symptoms. While they do not take away the symptoms, they help immensely with controlling my reactions to discomfort and pain. I have breathed through the most intense suffering of my life and found peace on the other side.
I know that you currently work despite your MS. What is that like for you?
Working has been hard this year. I had the summer off and I tried very hard to get non-classroom work but in the fall I found myself teaching again. I went from teaching four classes a day last year to teaching five this year and an hour and a half of professional learning was also added to our week.
Almost as soon as I went back to work, I started to experience more symptoms. I got dizzy easily. I was nauseated and the vertigo returned. Within a month I had an exacerbation which I treated with Prednisone. I kept working throughout the relapse. It was really tough on several levels. Of course it was hard physically but mentally it was much worse. I started fearing for my future and got caught in a terrible cycle of wondering "What if?" I felt sick every morning and often questioned why I should even get out of bed. My anxiety and depression got so bad that I went on Celexa and Klonopin. Unfortunately, the Celexa also made me ill and I had to give it up.
Just recently with the help of a good cognitive therapist, my friends and my family I have been able to ease my anxieties and to see a life beyond my depression. This has made work easier. I am still quite uncertain about my future career but I am much more positive and focused on the idea that I can do this at least through the year.
Do you have a personal philosophy that has helped you to cope with having a chronic illness?
When I was diagnosed I did not have a personal philosophy to help me but over time I am developing one. I believe that we can breath through just about anything. I also believe that by focusing our mind and actions upon the challenges right before us that we can better cope. The most recent thing I have learned was stated best in Diane's interview with Stephen from "One Life." He said something to the effect that we cannot control what happens to us but we can control how we react to things. I think that by continuing to monitor my reactions to things and then calming myself with breath that I have found the best way of coping with the uncertainties of life with MS. I may not know how I'll feel tomorrow but I can control how I react to whatever tomorrow brings.
What is the worst thing about this illness?
I think the worst thing is the uncertainty. Sometimes I find myself hesitant even to commit to fun things because it's just one more thing I want to be on for. Now I really limit my commitments and hope that I will feel fine any time I have a commitment that is hard to break.
Are there any silver linings to having MS? If there aren't talk about that too.
MS itself sucks and there are no real silver linings but in many ways I do consider the changes my diagnoses have wrought a blessing. I am much better at taking care of myself and my own physical, spiritual and emotional needs now. I have really slowed down. I don't feel compelled to take on as many commitments anymore. The important things in life have become much clearer to me now. It's harder now then when I was on steroids but I still often remember to be grateful for my life and to stop and smell the roses.
If you could tell all the doctors and neurologists something that they would listen to, what would it be?
I would tell them to really listen to their patients in order to create a treatment plan that honors the values, beliefs and needs of the patient. I would also ask that they always start with the least aggressive treatment and then adjust as needed. I like a doctor who is willing to consider a holistic approach as well.
I know that you love yoga. Can you tell us how this has helped with your MS? What advice would you give to a novice such as myself who would like to try yoga for the first time?
Yoga has been the key to dealing with my MS. When I was at my sickest I used the breath I had learned in yoga to both calm my anxieties and to cope with the pain. On one of the longest nights of sleeplessness and vertigo I forced myself to breath and move through the pain, rubbing my body as I did so. Two hours later I believe my remission started. At that point, I began to believe that I could breathe through whatever my illness brought. This has been tested many times since then. At times it has been hard to maintain this faith but ultimately yoga is what has served me best.
One of the beauties of yoga is that it is a practice so if you are not always successful in your meditation or asana (physical) practice at achieving your goals, you can always keep practicing without beating yourself up. The asana practice helps with flexibility and coordination. There are dozens of versions of every pose so I truly believe that yoga is accessible to anyone, regardless of the progression of their disease. I recommend that beginners look online or in their community for a gentle flow or therapeutic class initially. Classes for seniors are often good as well. Even those in wheelchairs can do some yoga poses and everyone can engage in breath and meditation practice. Several health professionals have termed this the perfect exercise for people with MS. I know it is perfect for me.
Appreciate what you have, especially your health. Life is uncertain and it is easy to take things and people for granted. It is important to celebrate the moment and to tell the people you love that you love them. Don't get stuck thinking, "It could never happen to me." Many unexpected things come to pass so it is essential to find ways to enjoy and appreciate every moment you are given.
Published On: December 01, 2008