who do you listen to?

Oct  8 2011

I just got a reminder in the mail about an annual exam I am supposed to schedule.  I was suddenly launched back a year…..I not only got this “required” exam, but I also got an x-ray of my neck and my back.  I had been doing Cross Fit about 4 months at that point and I was experiencing intense pain in my neck and back…still… I have had chronic pain for almost 10 years. So, after having committed this time and effort; I felt like the pain was worsening…So I go to my doctor, to see if it is perhaps arthritis…  hence the X-ray.  Now upon initial examination..she feels around and has me turn my head and basically says…eh..you are 40, it feels normal.

A week goes by and I get a call. Results are in….

Advanced arthritis in the lower cervical spine and stenosis in the upper thoracic and lower cervical.

“Ok, what are my options?” I say.

She says, “well, you have the neck of a 70 year old woman, that added with the stenosis….well, there is nothing we can do, there are no neck replacements.” she laughed.  Her tone then turned very serious, “You are likely to be in a wheelchair in 10 to 15 years.”

“Ok see the Stenosis that is present in you is pinching the nerves leaving your spinal cord to your limbs…you will lose sensation in hands, arms, feet, legs and then be unable to move….Yours is advanced already…I am really sorry, all I can give you are anti inflammatories and pain killers…”

and that’s it…I leave the office…shocked that I have the bones of a 70 year old, shocked that she was so flip about it, shocked there was nothing to be done….it didn’t seem real.

About a week later I call my friend Lisa Bradley and we have lunch…I don’t mean too, but I cry all through lunch…my neck in its customary scarf covered in tiger balm….She asks me if I would be willing to see her physical therapist, Paul Scott. I don’t really want to…I am ANGRY, so angry that I have finally found an exercise that I love…coaches that I love, and that none of it really matters….but I go….oh my god I go….

Paul..he is ..interesting…..he tells me right off that he thinks arthritis is bullshit…it is a mobility issue….I cannot deal with all of the details here, but after the first session, I experience no pain for one hour…for the first time in 10 years, I know that seems like nothing, but when you have been unable to turn your head more than 15-20 degrees in either direction and pain is simply what is normal…and hour with no pain was…beautiful.  Within 3 sessions with Paul…I stop pain killers, within 6 sessions I stop the anti-inflammatory drugs.

Fast forward….this week….I have not seen Paul in months, but I hurt my back throwing the hammer….he sees me right away….as Paul is a generous soul.   We work on all the little muscles that are torn and freaking out….at one point he says to me, “these CrossFit guys are doing you right.”   High praise from him…cause he is kinda like Mikey…he hates everything….I ask him when I should come back…He says, ” If you hurt…because you are fine…you are doing great.”


So…a wheelchair in 10 or 15 years?  Really?  With help from friends and family and my coaches, I said no to this…I kept looking for more help….that’s what I want to say to everyone at Undisputed…..it is not a miracle…not Paul, not giving up dairy, not CrossFit…the miracle is the desire to keep looking for an answer that feels right….a wheel chair at 50 did not seem right to me…I refuse to accept that diagnosis…I work, I move, I feel, I stretch, I find people who don’t believe I am doomed to a chair…

I am not naive, I know there will be changes as I age, but I will no longer accept only one answer.  I will change my diet, add more information from people I trust and keep experimenting with the things that make me feel better.

If you are in pain…..keep asking questions….please…until you get a real answer….I did….and I will keep asking…I need to listen to me…not the doctor,  not the physical therapist, not the trainers…..but all of them and none of them …..keep asking…

I refuse that chair….screw you wheelchair, I’ll throw a caber instead.

Mona, I remember that day. I was dead certain that the doctor was missing a piece of the picture and that Paul could help you.
For more information about Paul Scott and his approach, check his web site:

Comment by Lisa Bradley — October 8, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

You are a teacher as well as an inspiration. You show others that we are not victims to established methodologies, we have a choice, we always have a choice.
Your impact on the rest of us goes deeper than you think.
Keep Inspiring,

Comment by Kim Allen — October 8, 2011 @ 10:12 pm

Thanks Crow, I love you too.
I also want you to rest if that is what you need to be doing for your long term health. I understand (now) though the desire to push…to push through, to push through the pain. I am so happy you listen to yourself first….i am still learning how…and thanks for being one of those I am inspired by.

Comment by Mona Malec — October 9, 2011 @ 1:21 am

Great post, Mona! I wonder how often doctors are wrong about things like that. Most things are preventable through diet, exercise and lifestyle. Things that aren’t can still be worked around, as proven by your story. Makes me pissed that so many people are being taken advantage of by the institution of medicine! And after that starts to subside I see that the solution lies in being part of other people achieving health and well-being.

Inspiring post, keep it up.

Comment by Seth Kursel — October 9, 2011 @ 5:35 am

Mobility WOD