How I discovered CBD.
When I started researching CBD and its’ associated health benefits for M Brands I didn’t expect my work to become personal so quickly. As I poured over biology textbooks, scholarly articles and research papers I found myself wondering; is there anything CBD can’t do? I consider myself to be a pragmatist, to say I was skeptical of the bold claims I found online would be an understatement. Working in marketing, my job is to find the truth of a product and then tell it in a way that connects with consumers. If I do my job well, everyone wins. I was hesitant to take on a CBD brand as a client at first, in my hometown of Chicago it seems like you can’t cross a street without bumping into a kratom or CBD store. How was mCBD different? How could mCBD stand out in an already saturated market? It didn’t take much to change my mind after my first call with Rich Davidson. I’ve worked with the whole spectrum of entrepreneurs and corporations during the course of my career. Some of them would sell their first born to make a quick dollar and some, the ones I actually take on as clients, are just doing what they love to do the best way they know how. Rich is the later, that much was clear after just a few conversations. His passion for this product, transparency, and commitment to creating the absolute highest quality CBD without cutting corners. This was a company I could stand behind and do my best work.
What really stood out to me about Rich is that he didn’t ask me to lie. I know that may sound like a silly reason but you would be shocked to learn how many people ask me to to blatantly illegal things just because they read about them online. Blackhat SEO, plagiarism, lol..hacking and just flat out making stuff up. When we discussed the path forward for introducing mCBD to the public their first concern was education, making sure that the information being presented is as accurate as possible and as clear and easy to understand as possible. They didn’t ask me to take them to the top of Google overnight, they didn’t scoff when I discussed bringing on professional researchers and medical consultants. They thanked me for being thorough and diligent and then I got to work on creating the mCBD blog. I had no idea my first post would be about myself.
The unclear path to an MS diagnosis.
It started with blurry vision and progressed to foot drop, in both feet.
As a digital marketer, I’m no stranger to staring at a screen for hours on end. Often I find myself with eye fatigue, headaches and on bad days, migraines. The problem never persisted for more than a few hours or maybe a day until about a year ago, I found my eyes becoming increasingly fatigued at a much faster rate than I was used to. I thought nothing of it at first but ordered myself a pair of blue light blocking glasses. When that didn’t work, I went out and bought a brand new monitor with the highest refresh rate. When that didn’t work, I sought the help of an ophthalmologist.
A few years before my eye issues began, my rheumatologist prescribed me a combination of corticosteroids and a drug called hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial used in the treatment of lupus. Both medications carry warnings about vision, hydroxychloroquine (sold under the brand name Plaquenil) can cause renal toxicity in rare cases when used over a ten year span and I’m not sure of a side effect that prednisone doesn’t cause so I was sure that my vision issues were medication related. When my eye doctor told me that I had beyond perfect vision, I was confused. This was the start of my journey that ended with me being diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.
Well, my path to an MS diagnosis actually started with a misdiagnosis. It’s not unusual to hear stories of people that have been misdiagnosed, under-diagnosed (oh, it’s just anxiety!) or those whose diagnosis have evaded them. Patients can be in diagnostic limbo for years testing one medication after another, treating one symptom after another before finally being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In my case, I spent around three years being treated for lupus that never quite seemed to improve. The thing about MS is that there is no one test that can tell you, “yep, you have MS!” Much of the process of diagnosing multiple sclerosis is ruling out other illnesses, one by one. This is because a lot of autoimmune conditions can mimic MS.
What is Lupus (SLE)?
In my case, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) was my first diagnosis. From MS Focus Magazine:
SLE is a chronic, inflammatory disease that may affect the skin, joints, blood and kidneys. Symptoms include achy, swollen joints, extreme fatigue, anemia, skin rash, sun or light sensitivity, hair loss, seizure, and Raynaud’s phenomenon, where fingers turn white or blue in the cold.
Sometimes called the great imitator, lupus commonly displays symptoms associated with another disease, such as MS. Lupus and MS can be diagnosed simultaneously, although that is less common than being diagnosed with one disease, and then later, diagnosed with the other.
An antinuclear antibody (ANA) test can help to confirm a lupus diagnosis, but other diseases, including MS, can also produce positive ANA results. In addition, even a person who has lupus will not always produce positive results on this test. A urinalysis or kidney biopsy may be performed to check for signs of possible kidney problems. MRI, CT scan, echocardiography, x-rays, and other diagnostic criteria are also used. Sometimes, MS lesions on the spinal cord can be a distinguishing factor, or first-trimester miscarriages, which are quite common in women with lupus, but not women with MS.
Managing the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) with CBD.
Not long after the blurry eyesight and near constant headaches came jimmy legs. This obviously isn’t a medical term by any measure, but it’s what I jokingly started calling the cramping, twitching and trembling that plagued me at night. It started out subtly, perhaps restless legs I considered. But it progressed quickly and soon it wasn’t just at night, and then it wasn’t just my legs. My whole body jerked and trembled and shook. Later I would learn that this is called spasticity and it’s one of the early manifestations of MS along with vision disturbances and headaches. From the National MS Society:
Spasticity refers to feelings of stiffness and a wide range of involuntary muscle spasms (sustained muscle contractions or sudden movements). It is one of the more common symptoms of MS. Spasticity may be as mild as the feeling of tightness of muscles or may be so severe as to produce painful, uncontrollable spasms of extremities, usually of the legs. Spasticity may also produce feelings of pain or tightness in and around joints, and can cause low back pain. Although spasticity can occur in any limb, it is much more common in the legs.
My solution was to take more baths, do more yoga and buy every. single. vitamin. available on Amazon. Dr. Google became my best friend. More magnesium! More potassium! Maybe it’s iron? I’d just about ordered every single vitamin and supplement on the market when clumsiness showed up to make matters worse. I was actually on a walk to my local pharmacy (probably to buy more vitamins) the first time I tripped over thin air. I was crossing a busy intersection during rush hour traffic when I suddenly became very aware of my gait. It was like my leg just didn’t want to cooperate. And then in a second I found myself face down on Western avenue while a few very kind gentlemen laughed audibly from a car. “Oooof, I need to get out more” I thought to myself. It wasn’t long after that first fall that I was falling regularly and dropping nearly everything I could get my hands on. My foot became progressively more numb and eventually stopped moving altogether. Later I would learn that this is called foot drop.
The foot drop was my absolute final straw and the one symptom I just couldn’t seem to pin on my friend lupus. So, after doing my research, I found myself sitting across from a neurologist explaining my symptoms. Several MRIs, an EMG to chart the course and severity of my nerve damage, a spinal tap, and a whole host of other appointments later; I’m told I have MS. The type of MS I have is called PPMS, a type of MS that has recently become a little more well-known after actress Selma Blair announced her diagnosis on Instagram.
What is PPMS?
PPMS is characterized by worsening neurologic function (accumulation of disability) from the onset of symptoms, without early relapses or remissions. PPMS can be further characterized at different points in time as either active (with an occasional relapse and/or evidence of new MRI activity) or not active, as well as with progression (evidence of disease worsening on an objective measure of change over time, with or without relapse or new MRI activity) or without progression. Approximately 15 percent of people with MS are diagnosed with PPMS.
Managing the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) with CBD.
When I received my initial MS diagnosis, my symptoms were very much active. By the time I started working for mCBD I had settled into my diagnosis and was undergoing some pretty aggressive treatments to try to get myself (back) into remission. The insomnia that accompanies my treatments is both a blessing and a curse. Often I find myself working into the wee hours of the morning enjoying the kind of quiet that only the mother of a toddler can really savor. Some nights work is impossible and I find my way into the morning commiserating on Reddit threads with other people fighting MS or searching for breakthroughs or advancements that I may be able to print out and drag into my next appointment. Like the time I read about Ms. Blair’s revolutionary treatment (hematopoietic stem cell transplant) and insisted that this was finally my answer. As it happens, that treatment would cost the average American between $60,000 to $150,000. A college student that was recently profiled in the Chicago Tribune was able to access the promising new treatment after her parents took out a $150,000 mortgage on their home.
CBD absolutely helped with MS cramps and spasticity. But each person is unique.
It was during one of these restless nights that I decided to eat a handful of CBD gummies. I hadn’t dug too far into my research on CBD and multiple sclerosis but I’d remembered seeing spasticity as one of the topics that my researcher had flagged as legitimate. I was exhausted. Quite frankly kinda hungry. And dead tired of the cramping and jerking that was occurring so often that it would be easier to count the hours that I didn’t spend trembling. The first thing that I noticed was that they were delicious. Now mind you, I’d recently become somewhat of an expert in the field of vitamins and supplements. If a brand made a gummy vitamin, I owned it. I tried every single gummy supplement on the market so I can say with quite a bit of confidence that these are hands down the best. I was so excited about the texture and flavor I didn’t think to pay attention to the benefits. For a few days I ate 2 gummies in the morning and two in the evening. About a week into my jar of gummies I noticed something amazing. My hands were shaking less. My legs were twitching less. The minor fasciculations that preceded the major ones had all but vanished. I knew that CBD had been explored in the medical community as a treatment for symptoms of MS for years but I did not expect it to help me so quickly and so effectively.
CBD can help manage the severity of symptoms and medication side effects. But be cautious of any company that calls it a cure.
Right now my MS is still very active, and my relationship with CBD is still very new but I’m excited to pair my personal experience with research and science in a way that can help those that suffer from the same condition find relief. It’s worth mentioning that I spoke with my neurologist about using CBD, how much and how often. He saw no reason not to continue and in fact encouraged it, but each person’s medical journey is their own so if you’re considering trying CBD to help with your MS symptoms and are unsure if it will work for you or with your current medication regimen, talk to your doctor. CBD has little known side effects or drug interactions so getting the green light may just be a formality but I like to keep my doctors in the loop on all supplements that I take because we’re a team. In Part II of CBD and Multiple Sclerosis we’re going to dive into the individual symptoms as well as the research and science surrounding CBD as a way to alleviate the suffering that MS can cause.