Monday, June 11, 2012


Greeting all. Today is the first day of Elana Johnson's blogfest ... insert cheers now!

As most of you know Elana's second book, SURRENDER debuted on June 5th. I'd like to send her the warmest of wishes for her second triumph.

I will be posting my review in Friday's post so PLEASE stop by then and tomorrow if you can, Elana will be visiting my blog.

For this particular blogfest Elana has asked us to post a story about a personal "never surrender" moment in our lives.

One painfully comes to mind and I believe it is time to share it all with you; my friends.

At the peak of my modeling career I was struck with crippling arthritis in practically all my joints. I couldn't move. Tests revealed that I didn't have rheumatoid arthritis, which is an auto immune disease (your body attacks itself). I had a most unusual form. We have all heard of it and it mainly comes from eating rich foods and drinking alcohol excessively: gout. Since I did neither, I was shocked by the diagnosis.

My agent pushed me to be cured holistically. In theory this sounded like the perfect solution. I was always a firm believer in natural medicine and basically I still am. So she made an appointment for me with her Kinesiologist (combination Chiropractor and herbalist/nutritionist.)

At first I responded to the treatment. I felt better my legs straightened and all SEEMED well. Then I was struck... I was totally debilitated. Within a month I was in a wheelchair. The doctor, as I use this term very loosely, reassured me this was all part of the healing. I can still remember him saying "You don't want to mask this with pills, you want to be cured." So I continued treatment.

My leg muscles atrophied overnight and I could barely hold myself up on them. I lost tons of weight. My knees bent from the pain. In less than a year I was completely crippled. To this day I still don't know why I allowed this to go on for so long. The man was like Slytherin in the HP books. Old Serpent Tongue...

Down hearted, in agonizing pain, and practically broke, I hobbled onto a plane and headed for South Florida to stay with a friend for a while.

When I arrived, she took one look at me, freaked, and by the following week I had an appointment with the best orthopedic surgeon in South Florida.

I stubbled into his office, hunched like Quasimodo. He took one look me and began screaming. And I mean SCREAMING. "YOU IDIOT... WHAT POSSESSED YOU? A SIMPLE PILL WOULD HAVE TAKEN CARE OF YOUR PROBLEM! NOW YOU HAVE PERMANENT DAMAGE!"

At the time I hadn't known the extent. After the results of the tests, I learned that the uric acid ate away 35 percent of the cartilage in my knees and I had the acid in ALL of my organs.

After two years of heavy medications, the uric acid was flushed out of my system. But what was left terrified me. I was still a cripple, in agonizing pain, hunched and deformed. It was THE most devastating time of my life. One moment I was a top fashion model traveling the globe, the next I was dragging my right leg around and working as an office assistant for a friend in Miami Beach.

Here I was in my early thirties and my life was over. But was it? At the time Miami Beach was turning into the SOUTH BEACH of today. After a few months my friend bought a stunning condo and asked me to help her decorate it. I had my degree in art and design, but I had never really used it. That was the birth of my design career.

Hobbling the streets of South Beach strengthened my legs. but I still limped and couldn't straighten up. I persisted. I began to work out. At first a few times a week. Then I managed to go every day. I stretched and pushed my legs down seeing stars every time ... but I persisted.

It took me over eight years to build my body back to 95 percent of what it was. Yes, I still have the permanent damage, but I can walk without a limp now and I am almost back to my original height. Life is good. But almost a decade of my life was lost.

I often think about what my life would have been like if I hadn't pushed myself and "surrendered" I'd most likely be in a wheelchair, depressed, and a burden to someone I love. Instead I am power walking on the beach, I have more energy than I know what to do with, and I am genuinely happy.

Of course I'd be a lot happier if I had a published book, LOL, but health is SO MUCH MORE important. NEVER take your's for granted my friends. It is more valuable than all the gold in Fort Knox.

As I brush away a single tear from my eye, I am thankful for my INSANE determination, for without it I wouldn't be here or have met all of you. This community means the world to me and I can't even fathom the thought of not being a part of it.

Thank you Elana for pushing me to share my story. This was very painful for me to write. but I know that it will be read by kind and caring people who will be truly happy for my success.

As a final note, I would LOVE to know about your NEVER SURRENDER story. Please feel free to leave a "Reader's Digest" version in the comments. I know we would ALL like to read them

Have a wonderful day friends and I will look forward to seeing you all tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Oh wow Michael that is awesome!
You are amazing. Such determination and willpower.
So glad all your hard work paid off and that you had great friends to help your through it, too.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing this Michael. It's so inspiring what you've gone through and recreated yourself.

And I can so relate because my husband has really serious health problems. My Never Surrender post is on Friday. Hope you'll stop by.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Michael, I had no idea you'd gone through all of that. Don't think of what you lost - think of what you gained in personal and inner strength.
And the book will come. Not surrendering on that dream now are you?

S.A. Larsenッ said...

What a gut-wrenching story, Michael. I'm so glad you didn't give up. It's hard to keep forging ahead when the prognosis for the future appears so gloomy. Through those moments we are shaped into who we are meant to be. You've done a great job. ;D

Stina said...

I never knew you used to be a model, Michael. I studied about arthritis for my job as a drug rep once, but I had no idea that gout could get to be that bad. Or maybe I'd forgotten that part. I'm glad you finally got help from someone who knew what they were doing. And I'm thrilled you were able to turn things around and witness such a dramatic improvement to your health, even though it would have been easier to just give in to it.

erica and christy said...

michael! i had no idea you'd gone through all of this. this is an inspirational story. it's wonderful you shared can give people hope. sometimes it takes a long while for bad situations to work themselves out, and unless one continues trekking on, they won't know what will be for them down the road. so glad your friend was there for you. amazing. the published novel? just a bit down the path yet, eh? christy

Talli Roland said...

Wow, Michael. What an inspiration you are. You have such a wonderful spirit about you - I've no doubt that's what pulled you through, along with all the determination.

Christine Danek said...

You are an inspiration, Michael. You are determined and I know you will get to where you want to be--look what you have been through and you made it through.
Thanks for sharing your story.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Wow, Michael ... This must have been a really hard story to write, but I'm glad you did and glad you shared it. You are so right. I can see the point where you might have gone the other direction and ended up that bitter, depressed fellow in the wheelchair. And what a salute to persistence and strength of character that you did NOT surrender to that fate.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I am grieved and stunned that you went through so much for so long, Michael. Others are impressed with your determination and drive ... so am I. Still, I want others to learn from your terrible ordeal to get a SECOND opinion when your doctor's treatments are causing pain and no improvement.

You are talented and upbeat ... what a great combo. I will pray that the book deal comes through for you soon. Roland

Morgan said...

First off---new follower here. Found you via David Powers King-- :)

Second off, goodness. Bless your heart. I'm sure this experience has changed you forever and will forever drive all your motivations... There are few who *really* understand surviving through serious health issues and it's something that people either fall down into the depths or rise above the ashes---I'm so glad to see you're one who has risen and is inspiring other people along the way :)

Linda Gray said...

That is an amazing story Michael. Thank you so much for sharing, and I am SO glad you persisted, and deeply touched by what you went through. These are the stories that, when examined, reveal what made us who we are today. I have a story of a life-threatening medical condition from when I was a kid, too, but it's too soon to tell the world. However, I want to share this with you: use your personal story in your next book! I wanted to shut away the frightening possibilities of what I went through, and spent a lifetime not talking about them, except once in a great while to close friends. But now I discover, from this distance in time, that something so powerful and deeply felt that is now in the past is perfect as an important subject to be included in a novel. There's power in this kind of challenge and recovery. It's a gift.

Katie Dodge said...

Wow, what a trial to go through! I can't imagine how horrible that mus have been. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Unknown said...

Sharing these kind of stories is hard but it helped didn't it? Will have to check out this blogfest. You Brother continue to be an inspiration to me. With that kind of determination and will power your writing will soon be published as well. BTW---Love the new picture.

Aidyl Ewoh said...

Wow! I agree, health is very, very important!

Aidyl Ewoh said...

Wow! I agree, health is very, very important!

Anstice Brown said...

Thanks for sharing this inspiring story, Michael. I'm so glad that you managed to turn things around and not let that difficult time ruin your whole life. Instead you seem to have turned it into a positive motivational force, you should be really proud of yourself.

Julie DeGuia said...

I have heard some "miracle" holistic medicine stories... so sorry yours wasn't one of them. Sounds like you are a fighter and glad that life is treating you well these days.

Good luck on your novels!

Alleged Author said...

My hubby's chiropractor tried to keep him only on holistic medicine for his back. Not that it's not great he has to have surgery. Just saying. Works for some though.

Clay said...

It takes a lot of courage to be honest about something as painful as that experience. Thank you for sharing that inspiring part of your life. Happy to hear you are better for it. Use that attitude to your advantage. All the best mate. Cheers!

Elana Johnson said...

Okay, so this post made me cry too. What an amazing story of persistence and strength. I'm so glad you didn't give in and fought for your health.


Also, was I supposed to send you something? I have fallen down on the job! I'm so sorry. I will email you.

Heather said...

I had no idea Michael. You are such an amazingly sweet, giving person. To be the person you are after coming through such hardship speaks volumes about how strong your will and character are. You are truly an inspiration my friend.

Unknown said...

Wow, I would NEVER have guessed this about you. Never! What an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it with us. It truly is a "never surrender" experience!

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm so glad you didn't give up! What a sad waste of so much of your energy and body! I'm so incredibly impressed and pleased at your determination. What an inspiring story. Congrats on being a true inspiration for everyone. :)

mshatch said...

wow. I would never have guessed that you had gone through anything so horrific. And the fact that I didn't, is a testament to the person you are.

As for me, I'm still working on my never surrender story.

Kimberly Gabriel said...

What a phenomenal, inspiring story! And beautifully written! I was just stopping by to check out your story, but I can't help myself.... *new follower*

Thank you for sharing!

PK HREZO said...

Michael! I had no idea. You look awesome and really I could never even tell something like this happened. Wow, you rock, my friend. This is just an amazing story of courage. I think maybe you have a story right here to write... :)

Carrie-Anne said...

That's an amazing story of survival and persistence! I know how hard it is to go through physical therapy and regain mobility, since I couldn't walk for 11 months after a car accident and had to relearn how to walk normally all over again.

Nicki Elson said...

Uh, guess what my husband just this morning tested positively for - gout. He's taking the pill though, long as that doesn't interfere w/ all his many unrelated medications...all should be good. I had no idea it could get that bad -- that "doctor" has earned a special place in hell.

But none of us would be who we are without having to push through the tough situations we've been and, and you are no doubt a stronger, more resilient Michael for the experience. Not to mention a sexeh beach-running beast!

Ciara said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes. For the last ten months I've been suffering with pain. I've had joint swelling, lung pain, nausea, lost fifteen pounds, etc...Of course the first thing they suspected with RA. I've been tested a bunch of times and its always come back negative. Actually, I've been a lab rat, but still no answers. Long story short, I've found some reduction via an anti-inflammatory. Steroid shots reduced the swelling in my knee and big toe, so I'm hopeful. Since there is no diagnosis, all I can do is continue to move forward. I'm thankful for every day that I get out of bed and get to play with my children. I never would have known how precious a gift that was until I went through this.
I'm glad you are better now. I went to FIU and miss South Beach. Hope...that's what you've given me. Thank you.

dolorah said...

Thank you for sharing your story Michael. What amazing drive you have, and I am now even more glad to have made your acquaintance.

This life is probably not as wonderful as being a top model, but at least you have your health back, and making the best of a tragic situation.

You are truly amazing.


Jeremy Bates said...

Wow, what a ride you took! It's cool that at one point you decided to "DO" something about it.

Moreover, you're right. We need to cherish our lives because in a split second it can change dramatically.

I once knew one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. One day she was a beauty queen and the next she was in for the fight of her life with Freidrich's Ataxia (I hope that's the spelling).

She died but during the years she lived she became an even more beautiful person on the inside, and to me, that matters most.

Good story.

DL Hammons said...

What an amazing story of perseverance Michael! Thank you for sharing it and allowing me to open my eyes to a different side of you!

Danette said...

Hi Michael! Sorry it's taken me so long to drop by and catch up. I have missed my blogging friends a great deal but I am struggling with writing, working and dealing with migraines. Which is nothing compared to what you had to deal with (and still do in some regards...) I'm so glad you found a doctor who gave you the PROPER treatment! Continue to take the best possible care of yourself (as should we all!) because we need you around!