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Gail's Story: From Disabled to Totally Abled

How often do we hear the phrase “bone crunching” as a reference to a visit to the chiropractor’s office for treatment, or “bone cruncher” used to designate the chiropractic physician? I thought these were friendly terms and actually used them myself over the years as I sought chiropractic care for various chronic ailments that seemed to be getting worse as the “Big 50” approached and, more recently, the “REALLY Big 60”! During this ten-year period, I made numerous appointment with qualified educated, experienced, friend-recommended chiropractors who treated my various ailment using standard and acceptable chiropractic procedures. During most of these treatments, I experienced the classic sounds of bones and tissue being moved (more like click/crick/crack and really a crunch, of course) and frequently received immediate, partial, or at times complete relief from pressure or pain in my lower back and neck areas that had shown, with X-rays, to be my trouble spots. Although I’d look forward to the relief, I always felt some tension awaiting the sound that accompanied the somewhat forceful moves the practitioner caused my body to perform- one leg twisted over the other or arms crossed over my chest while being bear-hugged, for example. Perhaps the scariest sound came from what I refer to as “the surprise neck twist, always the last procedure of the short 10-15 minute session, and although it too brought relief, there was this totally unrealistic but visceral fear that just maybe the practitioner would turn a bit too forcefully and off my head would fly! Did these several series of treatments, some up to a year or more in commitment on both my part and that of the part of the chiropractor, work? Yes, sort of….as long as I continued to the chiropractor on a regular basis and as long as I didn’t expect anything MORE than some relief from the painful symptoms of the arthritis in my neck and back, the nagging and frequently flaring aches of fibromyalgia and the somewhat mysterious but seemingly crippling effects of what had been diagnosed as post polio syndrome (PPS) resulting from having a non-permanent crippling form of polio in the late 1940’s, the pre-Salk vaccine era. No practitioner suggested that I might be “cured” of my apparent problems; at best, improvement in pain level was hoped for and that would provide an improvement in my quality of life. When the improvement did not occur, I assumed it was because I was physically deteriorating due to the numerous diagnoses of illnesses and that the chiropractors were doing their very best to ward off the inevitable end I saw in my nightmares. I was becoming somewhat resigned to the probability that I was heading for the rest of my life in a wheel chair. The medical establishment continued to pile on diagnosis after diagnosis paralleled with stronger and stronger pain medication prescriptions: ibuprofen, a series of Naiads, Violin, Percoset, morphine patches (from 25-100mgs), and ultimately two high doses of Oxycontin a day. I continued chiropractic care in an increasingly desperate effort to achieve relief above and beyond the narcotic obliviatory effects of my standard medical pain management treatment. I always kept the medical doctors and chiropractors I was working with aware of each other’s thinking and recommendations. The chiropractors and I were always disappointed that medications were being increased in strength and frequency, but without them, I was truly bed ridden. Layers of other serious and related problems occurred; with less and less ability to exercise by body (because of increasing pain) and an unbelievable loss of energy, my already aching body began to bloat. I barely had energy to do the cooking for my husband and myself and found myself choosing already-prepared frozen foods that would tout a full meal’s nutrition in the box or simple-to-make combinations such as pasta and jarred sauce. Fresh foods became a disappearing commodity in my refrigerator; I was too tired to shop, prepare, or cook fresh foods. Along with the bloat came added and unwanted pounds. Not only did they cause more stress on my body, they were psychological reminders that being fat wasn’t healthy to begin with and that I was, again, eating poorly and gaining weight at the worst possible time for my well being. Not surprisingly, an overall fabric of depression enveloped me. The summer of 1998 led to settling into full disability with all it’s ramifications: many and varied doctor visits including a two-week medical evaluation at one of our country’s finest health clinics; continued chiropractic treatments; a tremendous lessening of intellectual stimulation; and shrinking income thanks to disability policy limitations and restrictions that cut off financial assistance once governmental disability took over at approximately one third of my paltry $36K/year University teaching salary. I think my life “play” button had been replaced by “pause,” and I had no idea how to change that nor did I have much energy to think about it. Whatever energy I had was used up by being disabled, sick, and sick and tired. In late December of 2001, Dr. Sandra Bontemps, a non-force craniosacral chiropractor (also trained and certified in acupuncture and nutrition) entered my life. She started me off slowly with the changes she felt I could and should make. I cut out wheat (that means white, wheat, semolina, durum, multi-grain flours) and sugar from my diet. I couldn’t imagine living without pasta (I had no idea that pasta could be and was made of things other than wheat and be just as satisfying) or brownies, chocolate chip/chocolate chunk ice cream, or my ultimate addiction, Peanut M&M candies (OK – by the pound bag, not the snack size). To ease this transition, she muscle tested me to determined how many Primadophilus tablets I should take each day to increase the “good bacteria” in my gut (I’ve been taking 6 each morning for about 4 months now). At the same time she prescribed an herb concoction to be taken twice a day (morning and night) mixed with water and some high-grade powdered Vitamin C. I also began taking two digestive bitters tablets after I ate –anything at all! Even if I had a palm-full of organic almonds, I’d swallow down a couple of tablets to assist my body in digesting the food. After all my body had come to a screeching halt in many ways, including  its ability to process food through the digestive tract. In addition to her gentle, “non-crunching” treatments, everything she prescribed was natural and organic in nature – no harsh chemicals and absolutely no man-made stuff was to go into my body. She made a few more suggestions; I listened. Now, you have to understand that when she said the “suggestion,” I heard “rule”. In other words, if she suggested I do something, try something, change something, I DID it. My participation in my own well being became total and absolute. Suggestion #1 was to begin to shop at a health food store for organic vegetables. No, it did NOT raise my food bill because I began to eat less food but much more flavorful foods. Suggestion #2 was to eat organic, free-range chicken and cold-water fish like salmon, swordfish, or tuna as a protein source and severely limit or even stop eating any animal flesh not properly treated and fed. Suggestion #3 was to use a castor oil pack 3-4 nights a week before bedtime. I wrap a piece of flannel wool, drenched in castor oil  across my stomach, securing it with an old towel on top, and just gently rub my belly area. Suggestion #4 was to add some herbal things to my daily living. I gave up all caffeine and began drinking only organic, herbal teas. Dr.Bontemps began to teach me about the healthful effects of food combining. For example, I don’t eat starch and protein at the same meal; I eat small amounts of fruit and never in combination with other foods; and my main food sources are fresh, organic vegetables. At the 4-month mark of this “new” life, allow me to summarize the positive effects (truly, there are NO negative effects to list at all):

  1. I am pain free

  2. I am totally drug-free (no morphine patches, no Oxycontin, no anti-depressants, no hormone replacement, not even an aspirin or ibuprofen and my cholesterol dropped 40 points into a perfect HDL/LDL ratio. 

  3. I am nicotine-free (stopped smoking about 3 months into the new life) and not missing it all. 

  4. I have lost dozens of pounds without dieting even one day. Twice weekly non-force chiropractic treatments that allow my body to self-correct, proper nutrition and delicious organic food, and appropriate herbal supplementation seem to have made the difference

  5. .I am “up” 16-18 hours a day instead of “in bed” 16-18 hours a day.

  6. I have energy - real energy.

  7. I am working a bit part time for the first time in 4 years.I exercise regularly. In addition to a weekly Qigong class,

  8. I walk 2 miles 3-4 times a week in the early morning as the sun comes up.

  9. I smile a lot

  10. I make plans for a future

  11. I now believe I will have.I amaze my medical doctors who say, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”

And so, my idea of what chiropractor is and can do has changed 180 degrees. I know Dr. Bontemps is more than just a chiropractor, has training in many different fields, and clearly incorporates many disciplines in treating her patients, but if you asked her what she does for a living, she’d say, “I’m a chiropractor.” I urge you to look for a health care practitioner who will look at you as an individual who will take the time to discover enough about you to help you make important changes in your living and lifestyle, and who will support and encourage you every step of the way. Ask the right questions, tell the truth about yourself, and be willing to suspend judgment and try a new approach. Miracles could occur – they surely have in my life.

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