Paralysis To Prosperity: How I Fully Recovered From Rock Bottom

by Francisco Alvarez

When I finished giving a speech as part of my curriculum in college, my professor, a Harvard graduate, approached me and said,

Francis, you should be a writer. The way the classroom was looking at you while speaking is something the likes of which I have never seen before. Please consider it.

He had the most honest pair of eyes I have ever seen, which is why I have decided to write to you. With these words, I will try to reach out to you, since, unfortunately, I can't do it in person.

Let's rewind to 2009. It's December in South Florida and I realize it has been a while since I spent Christmas at home with friends and family. With that in mind, I hop on my laptop and search for flights.

I found one at a reasonably priced ticket and bought it immediately. Minutes later, I call one of my best friends and give her news; I make her my accomplice, since I wanted to surprise my parents. Being surrounded by the people I loved the most was only a few days away. I couldn't wait.

That same week, I went to the gym with my roommate, Matt. Less than 24 hours later, I started to feel a bilateral weakness in my shoulders. Since I had to work the next day, I took two Tylenol, stretched and I was out the door.

As the days passed, fatigue and heaviness became a constant; I found it very difficult to brush my teeth, wash my hair and even throw on some clothes. I knew something was wrong.

Back then, I was naïve and hardheaded, so I decided to repeat the procedure of Tylenol and stretching. I was my boss' right hand, and most importantly, my trip was just around the corner.

I wasn't going to let anything stand in my way.

I landed around 11 pm on Christmas Eve. Minutes after catching up with my friend, the conversation turns to my physical condition since she noticed I had a hard time loading my bags in the back seat.

We arrived at my mother's house shortly before midnight. As you can imagine, she was completely knocked out. I didn't attempt to call the house phone because there is not enough noise in the world to wake her, so I turned to the only method that can irritate the dead: throwing stones at the window.

After several attempts, I saw her light come on and she came to the door. When she opened it and saw me, she gave me the biggest hug I've ever gotten to this day.

After Christmas, I confessed to my mother that I was having trouble with my health. We went straight to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. When our turn was called, we were seen immediately.

I explained I was feeling constant fatigue and weakness all around. She performed a battery of tests and, after five minutes, looked at me square in the eye and said:

Francisco, judging by what I've just seen, I can safely come to the conclusion that you've been hit with something called Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

I knew the next words were not going to be good news.

A virus lodged itself in your nervous system, which is causing your immune system to attack it. Your nervous system is covered by a layer called myelin that acts as an intermediary between your brain and your muscles. This myelin is gradually eroding. Your nerves are having trouble communicating their signals to your brain and that's why you're experiencing paralysis in your extremities (by that time I could not move my arms well).

The doctor went on:

In extreme cases, the virus can make its way to the lungs and collapse your diaphragm. Although rare, some cases are extreme and cause death.

I had to sit down from the shock and broke out in sweat. I had to get a second opinion.

That morning, I canceled my flight back, as I was in no condition to travel. I went to see a different doctor for, hopefully, a better diagnosis. I took him through the whole story without omitting any details. He gave me a different diagnosis:

Francisco, I'm afraid you pinched a nerve between one of the vertebrae responsible for regulating distal movement (hands) on your spine. My recommendation is that you take some anti-inflammatory medicine and get some rest. I'm sure you'll feel relief and everything will be back to normal. Come see me again in a week.

Hearing those words immediately provided some much-needed peace of mind.

A few days later, the situation wasn't improving; it had actually worsened. I dropped boiling coffee cups at my feet, I could barely feed myself and I didn't even bother wearing shirts around the house.

I was growing increasingly frustrated, so I made one last attempt to get to the root of the problem and headed back to the hospital. It was New Year's Eve and all specialists were on vacation. I ran into a substitute and told him what had happened for a third time.

He was clueless, so much so that he was forced to call the others working that dreaded shift. After differentiating, they decided to go for a spinal tap. A needle the size of Texas was inserted at the base of my spine to remove fluids and perform tests.

A neurological migraine ensued and I had no choice but to spend the night and welcome in January right there. All I remember was seeing the fireworks from my hospital room window.

My New Year's Eve was anything but happy.

I was discharged 48 hours later. I returned home to contemplate my options, though there weren't many. Without having an accurate diagnosis, there was no way to treat my symptoms, which led to a severe deterioration over the next month.

One day, I decided I want to lay down in my room upstairs to get some sleep. As soon as I propped my leg up on the first step of the stairs, my knee buckled and completely faltered. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor with a nasty blow to the head.

My body was betraying me. The worst fall, however, took place during lunch rush hour at the biggest mall in the entire Caribbean. Even while using a walker, I completely ate it. It took five people to get me back up and sit me down in a chair until I regained my composure. That was, without a doubt, the worst day of my life.

They say necessity is the mother of all invention. We rearranged the house so my bedroom set was on the first floor in place of the dining room table. Since I couldn't climb stairs, I moved downstairs where the location was perfect because the bathroom was about three feet away from my new bed.

The condition escalated. I was paralyzed from the neck down. My days became finite. My neurologist confirmed that I have Guillain-Barré syndrome, which backs up the first diagnosis. After several days of counseling, I begin physical therapy as part of my recovery process.

To make matters worse, I learned that this condition has no cure, and although there is a possible remission, its effects are mostly perpetual.

My family got a call weeks after the results arrived. We were told there was an intravenous treatment that had provided previous patients with good results. Needless to say, we dove in, head first. I checked back into the hospital for five days of the IV infusions in a row.

My father came to visit me, and for the first time in nearly a decade, both my parents were in the same room with me. It felt good. Maybe it wasn't under the best circumstances, but I was smiling on the inside.

After the third day, I gradually regained movement in my hands; the joy was immense. When day number five rolled around, they put me in a wheelchair and dragged me out of there as fast as they could. Little did I know, a curveball was coming my way.

Two months later, I started feeling the same symptoms again. As a result, I went for another round of my infusions. My neurologist thinks my case may be a recurrent one, meaning relapses can rear their ugly heads out of nowhere.

This would happen every two months. A pattern was forming. My doctor, unable to ignore the facts, concluded that my condition now is a close variation of Guillain-Barré known as Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP). From that day forward, I would have a nurse swing by the house and administer the dose in the comfort of my own home, since leaving the house was so taxing on my body.

Fast-forward to mid-2012. Out of desperation, we began to look for more information about my condition and found a lifestyle that was trending called the Paleo Diet. It is known as the "caveman" diet because it basically includes all the food a caveman would eat: proteins, fruits, vegetables, oils and nuts.

The best feature of the Paleo lifestyle is that it is known to be anti-inflammatory. It has been instrumental in the fight against my condition. I highly recommend it, regardless of your health status. Thanks to Paleo, my remissions extended from two months to four. During one of those windows of opportunity, I took the LSAT.

My results were good enough to get me into the law school I had picked out. But, while filling the application, something came over me and told me to put that pen down. I came across a Tony Robbins video on YouTube.

I had reached an emotional crossroad. Instead of applying to law school, my heart told me to apply to become a certified life coach. I knew I wanted to interact with people, but the coaching profession allowed me to do it much more in-depth.

After some studying, practice and hard work, I got certified.

To this day, I'm happy to inform that I have now been in remission for almost two years, and I feel amazing! I attribute my success to my loved ones who have fought this evil by my side. Although I can't know for sure whether or not this will deal another blow, it's good to know I have plenty of people in my corner to fight the good fight.

Listen, I know I don't know you, but that does not mean we can't be a part of one another's life. From now on, I want to share my life with you and help you get what you crave in yours.

I'd like to take this opportunity to share a list that I believe will be helpful to you moving forward. There are five key elements to your personal development as an individual, which will make the road to your success a much easier one.

Granted, our definitions of success are all different. What works for me might not work for you, but that doesn't mean we can't share some common ground. Feel free to take the following at face value and formulate your own interpretations:

My 5 Keys To Success

1. Find your passion.

If I asked you what you love doing most in this life, what would your response be? Write it down. The answer is usually your passion. Try not to think about it too much and answer as honestly as possible.

Chances are, it comes naturally, and more likely than not, you can generate income from taking action. You can actually spend the remainder of your life doing what you love, and if you love what you do, you'll never have to work a day in your life.

Doesn't a perpetual vacation seem great right about now?

2. Change your attitude.

When you change your attitude, the whole world around you changes with it. Perspective is everything. Forget about the half-full/half-empty glass. From now on, do what I do: Chug it and ask for a refill.

Be Jim Carrey in "Yes Man." Adopt the Richard Branson, "screw it, let's do it" mentality. Lose fears that hold you back and embrace changes that have the potential to bring forth great things in your life. Learn from mistakes and apply them toward a better future for yourself.

You give life a new meaning when you start hearing things loud and clear. Purpose starts waking you up before your alarm clock, and trust me, it's an awesome feeling.

3. Manage your time better.

When it comes to time, we're all equally rich. What you do with those allotted 24 hours each day will determine your wealth. All successful people are excellent time managers. They say time is money because once it's gone, it's gone for good.

Money can come back whenever you choose to do something about it, but nobody has a time machine. We can't just hop on the DeLorean and gun it to '88. Bottom line: If what you do today isn't getting closer to where you want to be tomorrow, I'm afraid to tell you you're wasting your precious time.

4. Always give 100 percent of yourself.

This one is a reference to Don Miguel Ruiz's "Four Agreements," a book that changed my views on life. Running on fumes means you gave everything you had for what you love. When that happens, you feel satisfied with your work, and you can sleep easier.

If there's still something lingering in your head before you hit the pillow at night, get it done, or at the very least, write it down. What doesn't get done today gets done tomorrow. If you can do better, do better. It's that simple.

5. Let the world know you exist.

This is my own personal motto. For an insight as to how I came to adopt it, click here. You're alive for a reason and only you know what that reason is. You matter plenty. There is nobody quite like you; therefore, no one can bring to the table what you can.

Take advantage of that fact. You are unique. Show the world how you can contribute in your own way. Give this world something to remember you by and don't give up until it happens; otherwise, a part of you will live in a state of eternal restlessness.

As a result of my experience, I feel I've changed as a son, friend and, more importantly, a human being. Adversity has a way of testing our perseverance and molding us into the people we're supposed to be, so whenever it rears its ugly head, welcome it. Through it, we find out what we're made of.

Remember one thing: Diamonds are made under pressure.