An American athlete revealed how she was struck down by a terrifying nerve condition that left her paralysed from the waist down.
When Marie Sander, from Lindenhurst, US, suddenly started feeling fatigued in April 2016, she put it down to her busy work schedule and not getting enough sleep.
Despite her tiredness, the graphic artist competed in a half marathon a week later.
But just a couple of days after the event, the 30-year-old struggled to walk and the next weekend she was completely paralysed from the waist down and experiencing weakness in her arms.
“Physically speaking, I couldn’t do anything for myself, not even go to the bathroom,” says Marie.
“I couldn’t feed myself, and even when someone else fed me, the task of eating was exhausting.
“Mentally, it was one of the hardest, most troubling things I've ever been through. I'm fiercely independent.
“I don’t like asking for help. When I first became ill, I had to accept help for the first time.”
Marie was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome – a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks the nerves, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Marie spent a month in different hospitals receiving medical treatment and physiotherapy.
“I spent about a month between two hospitals when I was initially diagnosed. In the first hospital, I received a pharmaceutical treatment which was, for lack of a better term, a "hard reset" for my immune system.
“Because of the treatment, called Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG), my body went to work repairing the damage that had been done.
“I also started a little physical therapy in this hospital, which consisted entirely of walking down the hallway (if what I was doing could be called "walking" at that point).
“I’d be dragging my feet, as I wasn’t strong enough to pick them up, leaning on a walker, with a rolling recliner behind me, just in case I had to stop.”
It took Marie six weeks to start walking unaided after her diagnosis and she credits her fast recovery to her running sessions on a treadmill.
“Running has been a huge part of my recovery. My neurologist said he felt the reason the paralysis stopped where it did – I was completely paralysed from the waist down, but never lost use of my arms – was because of how strong my legs are; there was a lot in that area for my body to attack.
“Running has also helped improve my coordination and stamina. Mentally, it's also helped me feel like I'm who I was before I got sick,” she says.
Marie says her rehabilitation process is filled with both good and bad days but admits the most difficult part of recovery is accepting she no longer has the energy she used to have.
“If I'm having a good day, I don't feel sick. I don't feel like I have this constant black cloud looming over my head.
“On a bad day, I can get very frustrated with myself, and not being able to do the things I used to. Those are also the days where I'm not only down on myself, but I'm resentful of my illness. Why did this happen to me? I allow myself to be angry and frustrated on those days with the promise to myself that tomorrow will be better.
“The most difficult thing with my recovery has been learning to say no, learning to listen to my body. I don't have the same kind of energy I used to have, so I’m still learning to delegate what I need to,” she says.
The American native is now a brand ambassador for Just Strong, a UK based fitness clothing company whose mission is to empower and encourage women to be their best.
“It gets better. You’ll get through this. It sucks now, I know, but in a few months’ time it will all seem like a really bad dream,” says Marie.
“And it is absolutely, 100% okay to say no or to ask for help. As far as the people around you, it will be mind over matter. When you have to say no or ask for help those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter.
“Your top priority is taking care of yourself. Everything else comes second.”
Source: Magazine Features