MSer Wendy Sturek Shares Her Success ~Post LiberationThirty-six year old Wendy Sturek was a self-described 'closet MSer until she returned to Canada after her Liberation Treatment in Poland. Now that she's back, she's trying to do everything she can to get the word out about how the treatment has changed her life and how she's sure it can change others.
"As soon as I woke up the morning after the treatment, I knew my body was different," she said. "I didn't hurt in my eyes. I was clear right away. I felt really present and alive. There was a mental fog hanging over me before and I felt that cognitively I wasn't able to be present - I felt I was a prisoner of my mind and unable to communicate. It had crept up over the past year, year and a half, and I can remember feeling anxiety over it. I couldn't express myself. I felt it was easier not to say anything, just keep quiet and withdraw, so that's what I did. I had no idea the operation would change that!" she explained, now sharp as a tack.
"Now I'm doing interviews. I'm talking to people I've never met before and sharing my life -past, present, and future," she says. "This is how I'm supposed to be - how I'm supposed to communicate. I'm not holding anything back. I feel I'm found again. I don't know where I've been or how long I was there, but I'm back!" Wendy got back to Calgary this past week and has hit the ground runnning. She went to a meeting of CCSVI Calgary on Monday where she emotionally explained what her life was like before the treatment, and what it's like now. And within 12 hours, the phone was ringing for interview requests. She's been filmed by CBC TV, CTV TV, Global TV and interviewed by the Calgary Sun and CBC Radio. "I would never have had the energy to do this two months ago," Wendy added.
Wendy's operation was February 25th at Dr. Marian Simka's practice in Poland. Like thousands of other Canadians with MS, she'd seen the CTV W5 program, but unlike many others, she'd only seen it on the Internet. A chance posting on Facebook took her to the video, which she watched over and over again, jotting down the names and places of all the people who appeared on the program. With the help of a friend she tracked down Dr. Simka on December 1st to schedule an appointment. The closest she got to a date was "sometime in the new year." Just after Christmas she left to stay with a friend in Dublin, Ireland to await the confirmation date. "Dublin is closer to Poland than Calgary," she explained, "So I went. And I waited."
Officially diagnosed nine years ago, she'd had symptoms starting when she at 21. Her first attack hit the right-hand side of her body making it numb. She also lost bladder control but was diagnosed as a pinched nerve. She was given anti-inflamatories for two weeks and the symptoms disappeared as quickly as they came. "Bam, they were gone, just like that," she recalls. "I'd thought it was a pinched nerve until a few years later when I really had a pinched nerve. What I had then wasn't the same."
A few more years went by symptom free until one night out partying with friends and admittedly having too much to drink, she explains, "When I got up the next morning, I couldn't get out of bed to go to the bathroom. I couldn't move my right side." Then a trip to the emergency room in Camrose followed. The doctor there agreed it was bizaare and that it could be a reaction to the amount she'd drunk or it could be Multiple Sclerosis. Those words sent chills through Wendy's body. She had an aunt diagnosed with MS at 29 and by the time she was 30, she was in a wheelchair where she had remained for the past 24 years. Wendy was worried that if she had MS, she'd end up just like her aunt.
Instead of going to a neurologist, she decided to wait it out, and like the first episode, after about two weeks, symptoms left as quickly as they arrived. During that two week period, however, new symptoms including extreme foot drop, a weak right arm and loss of co-ordination came and stayed. So with symptoms piling up, she had the feeling deep down that MS was being written all over her. She knew she was lying to herself about it, but she refused to hear the truth. "I didn't want to be seen as a sick girl. I didn't want pity. I wanted to be normal."
So Wendy traded in the Canadian Club life and began training for biathalons, swimming, running and changed her eating habits. A couple of years later, her speech went slurry.
"It was at lunchtime," she recalls, "chatting in the kitchen to a friend of mine, goofing around I had tried to say something and it didn't come out the way I wanted. I sounded like a deaf person trying to talk." This time, Wendy went to her GP. She was very nervous. She remembers her saying, "Wendy, this is beyond my scope. You really need to see a neurologist." So an appointment was made.
Speech problems had disappeared by the time her neurologist appointment was made but once there he gave her all the tests- physical, eye tests, walking a straight line, and finally an MRI. "It's definitely MS," he said. There were definite lesions in her brain and spinal cord. He diagnosed her as having relapsing remitting MS and explained there would be a time where it would probably shift to a more aggressive form of the disease.
Wendy remembers her eyes filling with tears. She was advised to consider drugs. "It's great that you're young but the closer you get to 40 the faster you'll go downhill," the doctor explained.
Wendy was 28 at the time and in such shock that it was actually happpening - that it was actually real. All she could think about was her aunt. She told the doctor she would go home and think about it. At home she read books and did various research. "MS just looked so bleak, so hopeless. It just looked like a pile of victims. Everybody who had MS was feeling so bad. I didn't want to be like that," she said, and she still doesn't want to be 'that person'.
So she looked at other avenues about what people were doing holistically thinking that was the route that made the most sense. She changed her diet, had all her mercury amalgams out and she explained, "I basically shut up about it. I didn't tell my family. I didn't tell my closest friends. I didn't want to be looked at as being the sick girl. I was the healthy, fit young woman. I'd been a smoker and a drinker, so I changed my lifestyle to be healthy and fit and I didn't want people to look at me any other way. I wanted to beat it, and I wanted to beat it my way. I vowed to myself that when you look at me, you were never going to see sickness."
But things changed and she started to see sickness, and others might have been able to see it too. "I think a lot of people think you don't have MS unless you're in a wheelchair," Wendy explained, "I've even had MS people say that to me, but the thing is you can be crippled without being in a wheelchair."
She became fatigued and would wake up not feeling well. Her cognitive skills were deteriorating. "I felt like my brain had left the building. And it started to happen more and more. And then came the pain. I had no idea MS could be so painful. I started taking drugs. I'd take more and more Advil to get through the hour, and then it was stronger stuff and then herbal muscle relaxants," she explained.
"When my vision started to go, I felt a lot of head pressure and pain. I thought it was probably time for me to go and get glasses. I went to an optomotrist, who referred me to an opthomologist to find I had glaucoma." Wendy then found herself on a path to a head-on collision. She tried unsuccessfully to control her pain, found herself unable to sleep, started drinking alcohol to get to sleep and one day woke to find her life out of control.
"All of I sudden, I'm looking like that girl that I didn't want to be. I felt like a hypocrite, I was embarassed," Wendy admitted. In November 2009, Wendy went to her GP for fatigue and pain, and she suggested Wendy go to the MS clinic and talk to them. "It was a week later," Wendy explains, "and I was still thinking about going when I found the link to W5. It was like the grace of God. There was this divine intervention. I saw hope and never thought about the MS clinic after that."
At the Euromedic Poland clinic, they found some mild crimping in her left jugular. "The doctor said that the crimping was not severe, and I could wait and come back when it got worse but I told him I didn't want it to get worse. I said I wanted to prevent that from happening. And so he did it," she explained. The test, proper diagnosis, and corrective procedure took only 45 minutes from start to finish.
In addition to her ability to think clearer, Wendy has had many other improvements - some from problems she didn't even attribute to her MS. She no longer has pain in her eyes and has regained peripheral vision. She started running again two weeks after the operation, and found she still had drop foot, but not as severe. Just two runs later, she found her drop foot had disappeared and hasn't returned since.
"Eye and hand coordination," she explained, "I have that back and I never even considered those symptoms of MS. And it's been gone such a long time." Sure these may seem like little things, but to MSers they are everything. And they add up. Wendy also noticed her sense of smell. She said, "It's been such a long time since I could smell anything other than baked bread and wet dog. Waking up and being able to smell my own BO?! -it's amazing."
"My bladder still isn't great and I still need to be aware of where a bathroom is," she admitted, "but my fatigue is nearly gone. I don't nap in the afternoon and I'm not drinking copious amounts of coffee or caffiene to keep me awake. I feel awake when I get up in the morning."
"My body isn't in pain all over the place," she continued. As for drugs, since her operation she's taken painkillers only once, and that was for menstrual cramps. Another thing she's found is that she doesn't choke anymore. "I haven't choked since the surgery," she said. Choking had become a regular occurance, so much so that Wendy worried in the back of her mind that she might choke to death. Now even that anxiety is only a memory.
With all these improvements, Wendy feels an urgency to tell others about how this operation has changed her life. She explained, "I feel passionate that we get this here in Canada. I'm getting people emailing me all the time, so desperate and scared. Not everybody's going to be as lucky as me in finding the right people to get help from. The more I talk to people, the more I want to help."
"I want to bring this home. It's just not fair. People with MS have been blindsided and belittled and treated like 'oh, just take your pills, this is the best we can do'. But there's more that can be done, and I'm living proof."