My journey to get better: How I lost weight and overcame chronic pain

I’ve cared for patients in a healthcare setting for the last 16 years, but it wasn’t until my own battle with chronic pain that I had an important realization about health: it starts with you. It takes a will to get better.

That willpower is what inspired me to overcome chronic pain on my journey to weight loss and wellness.

Despite being born with a clubfoot (meaning my left foot is twisted inward), for most of my adult life, I have considered myself healthy, active and happy. Walking through life with ankle instability problems was always a nuisance, but I never let my condition slow me down.

It takes a will to get better. That willpower is what inspired me to overcome chronic pain on my journey to weight loss and wellness.

In 2013, I joined the Navy Reserves to work as a pediatric certified registered nurse anesthetist. During training for the physical fitness test, my left ankle was causing me a lot of pain from numerous sprains, strains and fractures I experienced over the years. For months, I tried to brace my ankle and live through pain, but I’m a believer that progress is impossible without change. My own will to get better led me to explore surgery the following year.

Little did I know, that was just the beginning of my wellness journey.

After ankle surgery, I developed a condition known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a type of chronic pain that most often affects one limb (arm, leg, hand, or foot) after an injury. It’s believed to be caused by damage to or malfunction of the nervous system, and causes excessive pain, changes in skin color, temperature and swelling.

Related: For chronic pain, opioids are not a long-term solution

I began to adjust to life with chronic pain, which was incredibly hard. I was used to being active and adventurous. Now, I could barely move, much less run or play with my dogs. I’m a pediatric nurse anesthetist at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center and I love my job, but for most of 2015, I couldn’t even work.

The thing about chronic pain is that you can’t see or touch it. What people can’t see are the long reaching tentacles of this disease whittling away at your spark for life. I felt like a failure as a wife, mother, friend and co-worker. I was physically and emotionally ravaged.

My journey to weight loss and wellness

Looking back now, I see that I had to go through the darkness to get to the light. What gave me hope was my commitment to never settle.

While chronic pain was a part of my life for more than two years, I continued to try different procedures. My physician searched tirelessly until he found a treatment to finally stop my pain. He used a procedure called radiofrequency ablation, which uses an electrical current produced by a radio wave to heat up a small area of nerve tissue and decrease pain signals.

It started with one procedure, but my journey didn’t end there. After two years of living with pain, this set me on an uphill path to continue getting better.

Those two years had not been kind to my health. I had gained 55 pounds and lost 30 percent of the muscle in my leg. I couldn’t even support my own weight and had to use a knee scooter or cane everywhere I went. It was time to get my life back. Thankfully my husband, family, friends and co-workers did not give up on me and for that, I am eternally grateful. 

It’s because of them that I decided to make a change. I was not about to let chronic pain keep me from enjoying my life and the people in it.

I tried everything I could think of to lose weight. After lab work showed elevated blood sugar levels, I knew it was time to get serious. I researched all sorts of weight loss programs, grasping at straws to find a way to finally lose the weight. One day, I received an email from the Baylor Scott & White employee wellness program, Thrive, about a program they offered called Naturally Slim that was all about portion control. I was skeptical at first, but it ended up being exactly what I needed.

My original goal was to lose 40 pounds, but in just over a year, I have lost 65 pounds and feel better than ever.

My original goal was to lose 40 pounds, but in just over a year, I have lost 65 pounds and feel better than ever. Some days that were harder than others, but I have the best support system to help keep me motivated.

Related: How to get better mileage from your meals

I kept working hard because every step I take is a precious reminder to me of what I almost lost. I now have a better understanding of the importance of being present and a part of life. My entire outlook on life has changed. Things that I used to take for granted, I now hold near and dear to my heart — even little things like vacuuming my house, going to the grocery store, walking or just being “present” to help my kids. 

Going through a life changing medical scare also put things into perspective for me as a nurse anesthetist. Being a patient is a humbling experience, and you have to simply trust your doctors and nurses to provide the best care possible. I have vowed to unite my experiences as a patient and a nurse to make me a better and more compassionate practitioner for the children and families under my care.

Continuing my journey to get better

I have six dogs that I train competitively for agility and sheep herding. My dogs were my constant companions for those two years while I was trapped at home. Many days we sat in the dark watching TV and hiding from the world.

But we aren’t hiding anymore. 

I have taken on new challenges at work, developed new friendships and started challenging myself when it comes to exercise, fitness and dog training. In the Naturally Slim program, they ask you: What is your why? My life, my family, my dogs, my friends. That’s my why.

I have no intentions of slowing down. I know I can run faster and be healthier. I have hired a personal trainer to help reach my next goal of building muscle and getting stronger. I feel like I have been given a second chance and I want to make the most of it by continuing to push myself.

I’m on a journey to get better, feel better and live better. Will you join me?

This blog post was contributed by Lindsey Williams, a pediatric nurse anesthetist at McLane Children’s Medical Center. Read more about Lindsey’s inspiring wellness journey.

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My journey to get better: How I lost weight and overcame chronic pain