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I said no

Upon waking one Sunday morning in early December, I went to brush my teeth, feeling my normal sleepy, when I saw a startled image looking back at me in the mirror. What/who was that?! My left eyebrow was oddly raised as if in shock. As I leaned in toward the mirror for a closer look, I noticed, my left eye was not blinking, only my right. I touched my eyelid to coax it down manually, yes, that worked, but it refused to blink on its own. Next I noticed, I couldn’t open the left side of my mouth, or move my left nostril. My mouth was totally distorted. What? Did I have a stroke? No pain radiating down my arms or in my face. I immediately went to my computer and typed in, “unable to close left eye.” Up popped Bells Palsy: paralysis of the facial nerve causing muscular weakness in one side of the face, caused by trauma or inflammation of the 7th cranial nerve. Yep. This was it. I felt no pain, only dismay. I had gone to bed the night before feeling great. How on earth did I wake up with this? What caused it? Could it be healed? The googled articles and you tube videos extolled mixed reports of varying degrees of success in healing this condition and months of long recovery time. Was I going to walk around like this for months? Teach, work, looking like this? After exhausting the symptoms and causes I could find on the net, and reaching out to various friends for support, I made an appointment with a neurologist. Perhaps a medical expert could provide treatment options to heal this condition. I put a patch over the left eye so it wouldn’t dry out since I couldn’t blink it shut and asked a friend to drive my one-eyed pirate self to the doctor. The nurse gave me a thorough neurological exam and said she would return after discussing her findings with the doctor. After some time, the nurse returned with the doctor in tow. They concurred, this was a Bell’s Palsy diagnosis and she recommended an MRI to rule out stroke or a tumor or other less pleasant possibilities. The only treatment she offered was a five-day course of steroids. “Are there no other options?” I inquired? Nope. She cautioned me to start on the steroids immediately, that time was of the essence to reverse this condition, instilling her fear that “Some people never recover their facial movement.” I decided to let that be her belief, not mine. MRI and steroids. Both suggestions landed with a despairing thud upon my holistic heart. My friend leaned over and whispered in my ear, “MRI’s are how they make commission money.” This had the ring of truth. I’ve had many an MRI in the past and certainly know the value and importance for the right time and situation. In this instance it seemed completely unnecessary. I thanked the doctor and nurse for their recommendations and left with steroid and MRI prescriptions in hand. Somehow the MRI seemed completely antithetical to my healing. Why would I want to stick my poor dear traumatized face with an inflamed cranial nerve in an MRI to further exacerbate the distress my body was already in? When the imaging center called to schedule my MRI appointment, I said “no.” I called Rob, my friend and colleague to get his take. “Why don’t you try a 3 day fast just on water?” THAT felt right. I had been thinking about fasting for some time to give my digestion a rest. I knew the fast would bring down the inflammation of the cranial nerve and facilitate the healing. The next day I said "no" to the steroids and began a 3 day water fast. Though I had been unsure of how difficult it might be, I actually found drinking nothing but water for 3 days, surprisingly easy. I rested frequently, got facial massages to stimulate my immobilized facial muscles and nerves and did an extensive series facial movement exercises three times a day without fail. After the third day of fasting, I went to broth and juices for 2 more days before I started back on simple vegetarian food. I stayed on a plain, clean, easy to digest diet. No grains, dairy, sugar, just lentils, fruits and vegetables, eating lightly. My intention was to reduce the inflammation and let my body heal. From research I found, I deduced Bells Palsy to be a derivative of the shingles virus which I’d had three years ago. I wanted to get this virus OUT of my system and fully recover. Using this protocol, after about 3 days, facial movement began to slowly return. Each day I would see small and continuous improvements. I learned about using celery juicing daily on an empty stomach as an anti-viral, and I adopted that into my daily routine. After two weeks, I completely regained full facial movement and responsiveness, a pretty good recovery time for Bell's Palsy. I am a great believer in western complimentary medicine. If not for western medicine and pharmaceuticals, including steroids, I would be dead today. As a grateful heart transplant recipient, dependent upon immune suppressant medication to keep me alive, I find I must be extra diligent in order to stay healthy. And if I get sick, due to my suppressed immune system, it can take me longer to get well. I’m also a great believer in complimentary holistic medicine and in this case was able to choose that route to expedite my healing. I read many testimonials online from people who lived with Bells Palsy for years before they began to do the simple routine of facial exercises where they then were able to begin to regain movement. When facing an illness or dis-ease, you have the right to think about options and to make choices. When a doctor tells you, “this is the only treatment for your condition,” or “there’s nothing that can be done for your problem,” what they really mean is, “I don’t know of any other treatment options. Bells Palsy was my teacher. It taught me some important lessons. Here’s what I learned;

  • Even though it was uncomfortable to say NO and go against the doctor’s advice, I was able to choose another route. It required patience, trust and surrender to stick to it and trust that other options could work even though the doctors discouraged it.

  • I was able to draw upon my own determination, discipline, spiritual faith and diligence to heal this condition.

  • Healing required reaching out for lots of help; favors requesting massage, emotional support to process my fear, (my loss of physical vanity as I publicly appeared with distorted face muscles), forced naps, extra rest and down time was crucial, even though I wasn’t in pain.

  • I have the ability and discipline to do a fast on just water and discovered it wasn’t difficult.

  • My body needs to fast once a week for to stay healthy.

  • Because I use food for self-soothing at times, it was surprisingly relaxing for my mind to not have to think about food or eating.

I hope this article gives you the encouragement you may need at times to find your NO! With love and gratitude,

Laura Fine

Therapist, MFT degree, MA, Author, Counselor, Coach, Transformational Workshop Leader 858-722-5474

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