Happy diagnosiversary – lucky number 7

Seven has always been my lucky number ( plus 17 as I’m born on July 17 😉 )  and this is exactly how I feel today, on my 7th MS diagnosis anniversary.

Lucky. Blessed. Grateful.

Then again…believe the diagnosis and NOT the prognosis 🙂

My world as I knew it  collapsed when I heard “you have MS” on June 25 2012. That summer I had a very aggressive MS relapse and the number of active lesions in my brain/ spine went from 8 to “we didn’t bother counting them” within 6 short weeks. The prognosis didn’t look good, initial EDSS was 3.5, my entire body was numb, I couldn’t feel the difference between hot and cold water, my right arm and hand were so weak it was impossible to hold anything. But that was all nothing compared to the fatigue I experienced.

I’m so so grateful for my “health” each and every day. Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that things would turn around from where I’ve been 7 years ago – to be able to experience all those moments in the past 12 ( 24) months.

As you’ve most likely noticed I don’t really blog anymore these days and only use my Stumbling Princess Instagram account but as this is another important milestone I felt it definitely deserves a good old blog post.

Let me quickly recap what happened in the past 12 months – I couldn’t stop smiling ( or let’s say laughing ) when I selected the following pics to document what I’ve been up to this past year as no one would have ever thought I could do these things again considering my initial diagnosis – or even enjoy doing them.

You gotta love life, you can’t make this stuff up, lol.

3 – 2 – 1 – Here we go, wohoo!

Juli 2018- September 2018

Thank you Courtney, trainers and fellow workout buddies at F45 Frederiksplein, F45 truly is “team training , life changing” and I love being part of this community. Can you imagine they dedicated their first anniversary to me and MS research? The F45 community collected donations for Mission Summit to support Project Y at Amsterdam UMC not only on the big day itself – but all week long! Thank you again to everyone who donated to this cause that is so close to my heart ❤

My first F45 Challenge! I lost 7.7kg ( see, 7 is my number) , 10% body fat, gained muscle, got super fit and a nice little six pack. I started to workout almost daily and noticed the more and harder I work out, the better I feel. If I live like an athlete in terms of training, nutrition and lifestyle I hardly have any MS symptoms.

I also (kick) boxed a lot during these months and took my first hot power yoga class, something I never tried as the typical MS health “recommendations” say heat and MS don’t mix well. Glad I went to this class as it was the beginning of a new adventure.

I even won the second place of the F45 Challenge and got 3 months membership for free – so went back for more and signed up for yet another 8 week challenge.

September 2018

Since 2012 September means one thing to me: MRI.

No matter how often I’ve been there, it’ll always be a bit nerve wracking as I usually have to wait a week for the results. That’s actually also the only time of the year I see my neurologist at the VUmc MS Center – he shares the results and usually can’t wait to hear what ( unusual) things I’ve been up to the past 12 months.

It was yet another stable MRI! My neurologist agreed to not use any contrast fluid ( very bad for you ) this year and even better – he told me if my upcoming MRI is clean again, I won’t need to come for yearly MRI’s anymore but only every other year! So fingers crossed for September 16 please, I’m busy manifesting yet another perfect MRI 🙂

After the MRI/ waiting game we went straight to Italy for a week of hiking around the beautiful Lake Lugano and I must have been on every surrounding peak as I couldn’t get enough of the mountains and unspoilt views.

October – December 2018

I’ve finished my second F45 Challenge and officially arrived in the muscle/ fat “athlete” category! What an interesting experience to see your body transform in ways you thought weren’t possible, especially in such a short time and considering all those “labels” like MS and age. I get so much energy from my workouts that I never have to push myself to exercise – I always love to train and am so grateful that I can as I remember the times I couldn’t even cycle for more than 2 mins at the physio’s practice before my body started to strike.

Yoga became more and more part of my schedule which at first was very confusing to me as, until then, I never really enjoyed it and used to be quite bored…but then I tried hot power yoga and I had no choice but to surrender to the heat and yoga.

January- February 2019

Another long “healing through adventure” trip!

This time we traveled around Vietnam and Laos, tried to not get hit by scooters in Hanoi’s crazy traffic, did some ( foggy & muddy) trekking in Sapa, enjoyed incredible sunsets in Luang Prabang, cycled along  Trang An river in the picturesque Ninh Binh area.

My highlight was the 3 day Tiger Cave Adventure in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, home to the largest caves in the world. Not only did I experience how dense a jungle really is and how hungry leeches are – we also hiked, climbed and swam through several caves. By doing so I also traumatised myself a little during one incident when I was all of a sudden fully aware that I’m in the middle of nowhere, deep inside the earth, the next road is a full day jungle hike away and I’m abseiling on a wet, slippery rock inside a cave so huge no torch light can make it all the way to the bottom. Yep, that was definitely my scariest moment in the past 12 months.

But for the rest I felt like my funny self during this trip 😉

March – May 2019

I couldn’t help but giving in to the wish to deepen my own yoga practice so I signed up for a 200h Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training at Equal Yoga, the studio that made me fall in love with ( hot power) yoga.

I’m so grateful I got to learn so much about yoga, the philosophy, the asanas, ayurveda – but most of all for how that experience – and yoga magic – made me “feel”.

My YTT family – thank you for accepting me as I am, I really felt “equal” at Equal Yoga and not like the “oldest student with MS”. I’m so grateful for my teachers and new friendships with fellow students. Turns out I can open up and “feel” again as I was the one crying ( not out of sadness but joy and pure awe) during our very first meditation on day one and also “closed the circle” after our final savashana together as I made everyone cry.

All of this just happened a little over a month ago and I’m still in the phase of letting it all sink in but I’d love to follow further workshops and trainings in the next year(s), especially everything yoga therapy/ healing and breathwork related.

That was my yearly review in a nutshell. 7 years, wow.

As every single day in the past 12 months I woke up feeling very grateful for what I have and especially for the love and support I receive. Thank you to my “inner circle” aka my parents, Mr. X, Ruby, besties and close friends but also to all those beautiful, inspiring people I’ve met the past months.

I’m really excited what the future holds, bring on the next 12 months 🙂

xoxo from Amsterdam, Anja

Happy & healthy 2018!

IMG_3940

Happy and Healthy(tier) New Year to you!

A little late as my MacBook decided to give me the “blue” screen and stopped working a few days ago so here’s a short 2017 review via my phone.

I celebrated New Year’s Eve in one of my favourite cities, Istanbul, trip #4 in December after a short visit to Athens and Vilnius to tell my MS story followed by a trip “home” to my mum in Germany. Busy times!

Now I finally got some quiet time to reflect on 2017, one of the most intense & best years of my life so far and I already have a plan in place to make 2018 even more spectacular and healing 😉

I’m thankful for the experience I gained as team member of Mission Summit and our attempt to climb Mont Blanc as the first MS team. If you follow me on Social Media you already know that we had to return after a night at the Tete Rousse hut ( 3167m) because of severe weather. As I trained months for this event I was somewhat disappointed but also know all the hard training paid off. I’m definitely getting fitter the older I get 😉 I also had a small emotional breakdown climbing up to that last hut as I remembered where I’ve been on this very day 5 years ago – in neurological rehab, sleeping 18 hours a day and most likely doing water gymnastics with a right arm that didn’t cooperate – well, I could not even hold my cutlery and there I was, climbing the highest mountain in the Alps. CRAZY! I learned so much about my body during that time, especially that I can really push way harder than I thought.

Mission Summit is planning another expedition in November 2018 – this time to climb one of the “7 Summit”, Mount Kilimanjaro – and of course I’m thinking about joining, it’s great to have a goal to train for  😉

The intense summer didn’t end there – shortly after I returned from the expedition it turned out that I have a bit of skin cancer  ( the “old people” kind, a basal cell carcinoma) on my collar bone. Bummer, but life goes on and it was luckily nothing dramatic.

My surgery was scheduled right after my yearly MRI that turned out to be fabulous – stable, no new lesions and last years “surprise lesion” was hardly to see so I think I’m on the right track with my DMD  and my mix of meditation, breath work, sound journeys, exercise, diet, supplements and so on paid off.

The mini surgery was quick and easy, the only real downside was that I couldn’t  do CrossFit or heavy weight lifting for a while. Stubborn as I am, I tried  ( of course 😉) and ripped each time a few stitches so in the end it took about 6 weeks until the scar healed a bit.

For the first 3 months of 2018 I got already a full plan in place as I need to train and prepare for my next “project” that will be both, a healing and adventure trip to Peru 🙌

Quick preview below and more to come in the next weeks but I can tell you already it’s going to be epic one way or another ( and for some a bit too extreme 😂 ).

I’m always busy making memories and this trip combines a few things I really, really wanted to try and do for many years.

As they say, all we have is NOW…

x

5th MSanniversary

5 year MSanniversary 2

Happy diagnosis anniversary to me 🙂

Yes, a happy one as this is how I feel on most days.  Sometimes I wonder if I’ m a real weirdo as I usually wake up feeling super happy, lucky, but most of all, grateful.

It’s been 5 years and I can’t stop laughing as I type this! Gosh, I would have NEVER thought to be where I am now 5 years ago.

The past year has been the very best MS year so far, finally!

First of all – a quick health recap. Not much to report as I feel the best I have since my diagnosis despite that new lesion they found on the MRI in September and I blame that one on a very stressful time in my personal life. I don’t have any new symptoms and can’t  say that I’m bothered by my existing symptoms – I also don’t focus on them. Energy flows where attention goes so I rather focus on other things 🙂 However – I also learned when these symptoms are a warning sign that I overdid it again or – that my body simply has a suboptimal day and needs a break.

I also  started to meditate on a daily  (these days only “regular”) basis last year and went to two Dr. Joe Dispenza workshops, one here in Amsterdam and to the Advanced Workshop in Mexico where I met so many inspiring people.

Still sticking to a meat, dairy ( except every few months when I’m having a fancy dinner somewhere I’d go for a bit of cheese instead of dessert), soy and gluten free diet but reintroduced eggs and coconut oil which isn’t allowed on the “Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis Diet” so I guess I just follow my “own” diet and needs now and truly  learned to listen to my body.

In addition to a healthy diet I still take my daily supplements ( Vitamin D, B12, zinc, fish oil, magnesium, non-acidic vitamin C, super greens powder, Sugarbearhair gums ) and also supplement my protein intake with vegan/gluten & soy free protein powder shakes, especially after working out.

I joined a Wim Hof workshop and finished it with an ice bath –  it felt so amazing I decided to stick to a cold shower regime and even made it to FreezLab for a whole body cry session in – 110C / -166 F a few times !

I must confess I still don’t do yoga on a regular basis but have been to Garth McLean‘s Iyengar workshop in November and will also join one next week as he’ll be in the Netherlands again. Can’t do everything 😉

In March I went skiing for the first time in 5 years and even surprised my dad as everything went very well, I really love the cold, snow and winter as my body feels super normal in these temperatures and I hope to ski more often next winter.

Mountains – I also started indoor climbing to prepare for our Mission Summit expedition to Mont Blanc and even passed my top rope climbing exam.

The biggest change of all  has happened in my working out routine as I started CrossFit in August 2016 and that was my game changer. I tell you, the first weeks were a fight as I had the worst fatigue after each workout resulting in  3h siestas but now, 9 months later, I feel like I totally own it ( most of the times) and the progress I’ve made is incredible. Just to name one, when I first started I couldn’t really jump ( MS related, it felt like I’m pretty much glued to the floor the past years but hey, that’s also pretty much an invisible symptom as how often do you jump on a daily basis ) and started with a very low box about the height of a shoe box. Since April I jump the regular height for ladies which is 50 cm/ 20 inches. I  go to CrossFit 3-4 times a week and it is one of the most important things to me. Not only do I love to challenge myself mentally/ physically but I also met so many super nice people there and made a bunch of new friends I also hang out with outside of the box.

The second BIG thing that happened in the past 12 months is the Mission Summit expedition that will start in exactly 4 weeks, flying out to Geneva on July 16th, wohooo! I will climb my very first mountain! Well, actually we’ll climb 2 mountains and both are above 4000m ( 13.100 ft), the Grand Paradiso in Italy and Mont Blanc in France. BOOM. Moving mountains for MS as the first team of MS patients to summit Mont Blanc ( we’re 4 with and 4 without MS) , if you would like to donate for the study “Project Y” at VUmc MS Research Center we’re fundraising for, please visit my page.

I’ll celebrate my 38th birthday in Chamonix on a glacier learning how to use the ice axe, crampons and navigate safely along the crevasses.

Thanks to all the training for the expedition I’m most likely in the fittest shape I’ve been in a long while and this is just the beginning.

5 years ago ( actually up to 3 years ago) I couldn’t do ANYTHING with my right arm and hand, slept 18h a day and considered moving back to the small village I come from in Germany, kind of giving up as I thought well, that’s it.  I’m glad I didn’t as I would have missed this fantastic life and I’m loving every second of it.

Got to go, representing Mission Summit today at the largest MS event in the Netherlands, Arena MoveS. We even got a mobile climbing wall where everyone is welcome to have a go. Later in the afternoon I’ll climb a few hundred stairs along the football arena with my 12kg backpack. Unbelievable. I feel so lucky and blessed ❤

Just thinking about how strange it is that Arena MoveS is on June 25,  my 5 year diagnosis anniversary and that the Mission Summit expedition starts on July 17, my birthday. Synchronicity at its best. I guess I’m right where I’m supposed to be at this point in my life. All is good.

Here’s to  the next 5 years and new, bigger adventures. Already thinking about what to do after I return from Mont Blanc, need to find a new challenge to keep up my 6 days a week training routine 🙂

5yearMSanniversary collage

 

 

Mont Blanc climb itinerary

The countdown is on, only 3 months to go until the Mission Summit Mont Blanc 2017 expedition and I wanted to share our climbing itinerary with you.

On Sunday, July 16, 2017 we fly out from Amsterdam to Geneva, a day before the expedition officially starts to make sure we’re all well rested (no matter how “fit” we seem, travelling with MS still gets me every time so the more time to recover and to “arrive”, the better)

Day 1 ( Monday, July 17, 2017) Arrival in Chamonix ( and my birthday, wohoo!)

Day 2 ( Tuesday, July 18, 2017) Mer de Glace ( 2100m)

We will meet our guides, get the equipment ( like harness, crampons, ice pick but also the mountaineering boots that most of us rent as they are very $$$, fingers crossed they have a comfy pair that fits me) and take a train to Mer de Glace ( “sea of ice”, it’s the largest glacier in France, 200m deep and 7km long) for altitude training and to practise how to walk with crampons on the ice.

Day 3 ( Wednesday, July 19, 2017) Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II ( 2735m)

Leaving for Aosta Valley in Italy via the Mont Blanc tunnel ( approximate travel time 2h) where we’ll start a heavy 3h long hike to Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II, a traditional Italian mountain hut first build in 1884 and as I was told, loved by sociable Italians who like to share their climbing adventures till late at night over a glass of red wine or two ( I already  like that part very much or at least the idea as I guess I won’t be drinking 😉 ) – except the climbers who plan to summit the highest mountain in Italy early the following day which is the Monte Bianco aka Italian side of Mont Blanc.

Day 4 ( Thursday, July 20, 2017) Ascent to Gran Paradiso ( 4061m) 

We’ll start our climb up the Gran Paradiso ( highest mountain entirely within Italy)  by moonlight. The first hour of the tour is going to be tricky as we need to make our way through a very rocky terrain with big boulders. By sunrise we’ll attach our crampons and harnesses that connect us to the rope. Safety first!  ( I hope it won’t be too scary, that’s why I’m already busy with taking climbing classes each Monday). The route leads us right over the glacier  and the higher we climb, the steeper and tougher it gets (hmm).

Once the sun is up we will hopefully have a great view to make up for all the hard work! After climbing a couple of hours we get a first glimpse of the top of Gran Paradiso. The last 100m to the summit ask for a lot of focus and concentration as we’ll reach the top over a very steep ridge of rocks – I guess by then everyone will know for sure if they are afraid of heights or not. ( After watching this video I’m not so sure of it anymore, kind of made me dizzy but I’ll find out!).

On top there’ll be a picturesque 360-degree view on the Alps famous mountain range – if the weather plays along.

Descent  into the valley using the same (very steep and very scary)  route , a quick stop at the hut for some food ( and most likely a sneaky sip of vino) and back to Chamonix/ France where we’ll arrive around dinner time.

Day 5 ( Friday, July 21, 2017) REST

Rest from the last couple of days, we can chill out at the chalet or explore Chamonix for a bit. This rest day is extremely important to recover from climbing the top of Gran Paradiso  ( 4061m)  before we attempt to climb Mont Blanc ( as you know, most of us climbers have MS so rest is very important)

In the afternoon we’ll practise again some more rock climbing techniques for the ascent of the very steep Grand Couloir ( “large gulley”) at a local climbing garden. This spot is well known for accidents and notorious for falling rocks so it’s vital to learn some extra safety rules. It’s really the most dangerous part of the ascent/ descent and to be honest, I really fear and respect the “gulley”.

After the training we’ll have a meeting with the guides to discuss the strategy for the next days, build the climbing teams ( teams of 2 climbers and 1 guide), get further advice and check what needs to be in the backpacks for the following days during the ascent ( hard shell clothes, extra warm layers, powerbanks to charge our phones/ cams, SNACKS etc)

Safety is of course our number one priority that’s why we chose for a very well known tour operator with many years of experience and great guides who will make sure we’re safe, for the Mont Blanc the ratio is  2 climbers / 1 guide and all other tours during this expedition  4 climbers/ 1 guide.

Day 6 ( Saturday, July 22, 2017) Ascent Tete Rousse ( 3167m)

After breakfast we depart to Les Houches where we’ll take the cable car to Nid d’Aigle  ( “Eagle’s nest” 2372m), this is where the hike to Refuge de Tete Rousse (3167m) starts. The trail then passes rough boulder-strewn terrain and snow patches. After approx. 3 hours we should arrive at Refuge Tete Rousse ( 3167m). Once there our guides will discuss the strategy for the next day(s) over dinner and if the weather forecast is on our side, we’ll climb to the top of Mont Blanc the very next day!

Day 7 ( Sunday, July 23, 2017) Summit Day!

All fingers crossed today for good weather and a safe ascent to Mont Blanc!

Rise and shine at 1 AM ( 😉 this will be a 10-12h climbing day!!!) A quick bite, drink and off we go, out into the cold dark ( usually -5 to -10 degrees in July), attached to ropes, on our way to the goal, the top of Mont Blanc.

We’ll use headlamps that give just enough light to see where we can carefully place our feet. Via the steep Gran Couloir ( yes, we’ll do  the “gulley” in complete darkness besides a tiny lamp on my forehead!) and attached to ropes we’ll climb up to Aiguille du Gouter       ( 3817m) for  a quick break at Refuge du Gouter before moving on to the glacier. If we’re on schedule the sun should be coming up slowly behind the mountain range at this point and we’ll finally see our goal – the summit.

The next part of our route runs from Dome de Gouter (4300m) to the Vallot shelter (an emergency bivouac that sleeps up to 12 climbers) , from there it’s  “only” 400m climbing over the very narrow ice ridge “Arete des Bosses” ( picture that crazy ridge of Gran Paradiso but then with snow 😉 ) to the top of Mont Blanc ( 4810m).

Once we’ll reach the summit we should be able to enjoy a breathtaking panorama view and you bet we take some pics, I might even try to livestream on Facebook 🙂

Afterwards we return to the Gouter hut ( approx. 3800m) for some well deserved rest and a good night’s sleep.

Day 8 ( Monday, July 24, 2017) extra day for Mont Blanc 

This is an extra day in case we couldn’t attempt to climb the summit due to bad weather, Mont Blanc is known for its almost unpredictable weather and especially strong winds. From the Gouter hut it’s “only” a 1000m climb, an advantage and great chance for a second summit attempt.

Otherwise/ and this will be the day we descent to Chamonix and we should arrive at the chalet in the afternoon. Finally time for a shower ( will be the first one in DAYS) , fresh clothes, a delicious meal, for sure some wine and time to reflect and CELEBRATE.

Celebrate us, our personal, small win against our fears and MS but hopefully also that we hit our fundraising goal for “Study Y” to get a step closer to understanding this disease.

Day 9 ( Tuesday, July 25, 2017) 

A last breakfast with the team before heading back to Amsterdam in the early afternoon. We’re all booked on the same flights so there better be a welcome committee waiting at the arrival hall  😉