My Story (1992-2015)

Hi, I’m John.

Up until 2014, I was a fit, healthy individual pursuing the glories of representing my country in the sport of Sprint Kayaking at the international level. Unfortunately, disaster struck when I kept incurring injury after injury which eventually, forced me into retirement from sports and physical activity altogether.

An entire year passed and my old injuries never seemed to heal up. In fact, they were getting worse. Furthermore, I was getting new injuries seemingly randomly without any specific trauma or incident. At this point, I was seeing physiotherapist after physiotherapist in a desperate attempt to accelerate my healing. I spent thousands of dollars on my thrice weekly visits. I even researched for the best diets and supplements for injured athletes to compliment my efforts but nothing seemed to be working.

In time, I started to lose hope of ever getting better. My emotional health took a toll as well. I was constantly depressed. It took all my willpower to force myself to get up out of bed to study for my university exams. I had given up everything I loved doing. The thought of just exercising was impossible because of the physical pain as well as the worry that I might injure myself even further. Those were truly my darkest days.

A glimmer of hope found its way to me when a mutual friend introduced a new physiotherapist. At the time, I had also given up on physio visits and was somewhat content to live with the pains. Since there was really no harm in trying another physio, I figured, why not?

Linda turned out to be my saving grace. Unlike all the other physiotherapists, she did not treat my injuries one at a time. Usually a physio will ask me which injury hurts the most and start from there. Instead, Linda took time to listen to all my complains and tried to find a pattern thereafter. Maybe my injuries had progressed to such a point that it was impossible for any physio to just look at one injury at a time. Or maybe it was her years of accumulated experience having treated hundreds or thousands of patients. Either way, her first step was to go about eliminating possible causes. She recommended an orthopaedic surgeon she trusted who examined me and sent me for an MRI to rule out cancer. Next, she recommended a rheumatologist because her next suspect was some form of arthritis or gout. A blood test later and I was diagnosed with Ankloysing Spondylitis (AS), an autoimmune disease that commonly affects young males. This disease causes an autoimmune response that induces the immune system to attack one’s joints and in late stages may lead to the fusing up of the individual spinal vertebrae.

It was highly recommended that I receive the monthly SIMPONI jab: a biologic treatment which blocks a substance which causes joint inflammation – tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α). In 3 days, it was as if a miracle had happened! I could now walk without limping because the pain in my feet was reduced significantly. My knee, lower back, elbow and shoulder pains also started waning away. I felt more alive than I had ever been in months and could now see that elusive ‘Light at the end of the tunnel’. I gave my body a week to recuperate and then it was back to my first love… EXERCISE! 😀

After a year of atrophy, I had lost 12 kg! I could not do a single standard pushup, could only do one pullup, could not jog or even swim. Clearly, I have a looooooong journey ahead if I wanted to surpass my previous fitness capabilities.

This life-changing experience has definitely taught me many life lessons. I now realize that training hard may achieve results fast, but at the expense of my long-term health, may not be worthwhile. It’s also pretty stupid to keep pushing when your body is clearly screaming at you to stop and give it a break. I’m still learning the art of listening to your body and heart. Our minds and willpower have the limitless potential to push past pain and suffering but our bodies may be wiser.

I started this blog with the hopes of sharing my experience and chronicling my journey from the depths of injury to the peaks of fitness. I intend to inspire everyone, young and old, healthy and sickly, fit or flabby. No matter what shape you are in, you have the right to enjoy the benefits of a healthy body, mind and soul. All it takes is that small spark to ignite your desire to optimize the way you feel, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Join me on this journey as I share my training, nutrition and lifestyle experience and tips and achieve the healthy mind and body you were meant to be!

To your health,

6 thoughts on “My Story (1992-2015)

  1. Hi John. Glad to have found your site. I have Sjögren’s syndrome rare in Singapore. I’m toying between seeing a naturopathic doctor or a functional medicine doctor. I’m already on anti inflammatory gluten free diet. But now that I’m off hydroxycloroquine after 4mths I feel like I’m back to where I started. My rheumy couldn’t give me an answer what will happen to me when we take out that med out of the equation. But well it’s back with vengeance. Please tell me more of your journey/decision to alternative meds etc thank you


    1. Hi MishyMashy, regarding my experience and decision with alternative medicine, I was just tired of the side effects I was experiencing with the more powerful medications like corticosteroids and immunosuppressive biologics. Once I was hospitalized for a bad case of stomach infection as the steroids make one more susceptible to infections. Also, I was reading up on the potential effects of taking such medication long term, especially on our hormones, gut lining and immune system (hence my decision to avoid NSAIDs from the beginning).

      When I discovered natural medicine and its philosophy of believing in the healing power of the body and stimulating the body to heal itself, it really resonated with me. I believe in the healing power of diet, a healthy lifestyle and mindset. Thus I decided to google and find a natural doc to help with my healing journey. However, after a few months and spending a lot of money on natural supplements that did not really give me much pain relief, I’ve stopped seeing her. I may return someday but maybe will consider seeing a functional medicine practitioner first.

      At the moment, based on my rheumatologist’s recommendation, I’m back on conventional medication – Celecoxib, a COX-2 inhibitor which is more specific in targeting inflammation than NSAIDs and with lesser side effects. On the spectrum of medication, it’s kinda like the first one to start on before moving on to more powerful ones with more side effects.

      I’ve been thinking hard about this and realised that we shouldn’t completely forgo conventional medication too. In my case, when not fasting the pain and inflammation in my system and certain body parts is really intense and debilitating. This pain is a physical stress the body feels and can impair healing too. Thus I’ve decided to continue conventional medication as well as continue my search for alternative, more natural methods of healing. When I get better, I will definitely talk to the doc about reducing or waning off medication but for now I feel it is necessary.

      Its been two weeks since starting on the new medication and the pain and swelling is steadily (albeit slowly) decreasing. I’m now experimenting with systemic enzymes and more fermented foods like fermented cod liver oil, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha. I think the combination of a healing diet, avoiding environmental toxins and chemicals, plenty of rest, some exercise and medication has given me some concrete progress in my healing. There is still a lot of pain and ache in my joints every morning and night when the medication wears off but feeling that little bit better each day is worth the medication.

      So to answer your question, I would recommend seeing a functional medicine practitioner for now (better yet if it’s also a naturopathic doctor but I don’t have any recommendations at the moment sorry), and experimenting with a combination of the conventional medicine that gives you the least side effects as well as alternative healing methods like diet, supplements and lifestyle changes. I sincerely hope you find progress in your healing and wish you all the best! I would love to hear about any updates you have in the future!


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