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How I Did It: Chef moves from crisis to acceptance of MS

Co-owner Mikey Carrasco with former coworkers from 4 Hands Brewing Company enjoy the food at Taco Circus a few days before the official opening.  Photography by Mabel Suen

Mikey Carrasco remembers the day he awoke with numbness on the entire left side of his body. “I thought I’d pinched a nerve, or slept wrong, but the numbness didn’t leave for two days. I stayed home from work,” Carrasco says.

He’s a chef by trade. “I knew on the third day I had to go in and do prep work for the coming weekend. When I tried to pick up my knife, I couldn’t grip it. It slipped from my hand.”

He went to the hospital. “When I was home the first two days, I searched the Internet for explanations about what was happening to me. Today, I tell people if they have symptoms they don’t understand, seek help ASAP. Don’t try to diagnose yourself from the Internet.”

When the doctors and neurologists discovered multiple sclerosis was the cause of his numbness, Carrasco didn’t process it at first. “I was in crisis, in denial. I went through every wave of emotions — like a roller coaster, a train wreck, a teenager. My mom stayed with me those first weeks, which helped.”

Carrasco’s mother lives in Austin, Texas, where he was raised. “I didn’t even know how to spell ‘sclerosis.’ All I knew was there was a bike ride to raise funds for research, and those diseases? They are usually the ones with no cure.”

Carrasco needed to learn more about his disease. With multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the myelin sheath that covers nerve fibers in the body, which results in communication problems between the brain and the body. The disease can cause the nerves to become damaged permanently.

Symptoms vary widely and can result in mild to significant disability. Some people with the condition experience long periods of remission. The disease is rarely fatal and never predictable. There is no cure.

“My symptoms include chronic pain, especially in my feet and ankles, and nausea in the morning,” Carrasco says. “Mood swings often happen, but today I’m better at handling them. I tell people more about my feelings on those days. People can’t see MS on you. You have to let friends know what’s going on.”

He takes a proactive, measured approach to maintain his health. He looked at his life and reordered his priorities, starting with his work. “I work in a high-stress industry,” he says. “I needed to change my situation, to reduce the stress. That’s when my friend Christian Etheridge and I started talking about opening a small place serving the street food we loved from Austin. We soon opened our own restaurant, Taco Circus.

“When you make something you love and put it out there, it’s still stressful, but somehow more manageable. It’s gratifying. At the end of the day we’re building our own brand,” he says.

Maintaining a positive outlook is paramount for Carrasco. He surrounds himself with upbeat folks. “People who smile more often than they frown keep energy flowing,” he says. He focuses on positive things in his life three times each day.

He’s fine-tuning his diet to include more whole foods and less processed items. “I was raised on flour tortillas and grilled cheese, with high sodium foods, and those things taste good to me,” he says. “Now, I eat more salads, vegetables and soups. I try to fall in love with foods that make me feel better, but sometimes, I’ll eat a tortilla stuffed with melted cheese. I made a conscious decision not to be rigid and dogmatic with this disease. I need a sense of normalcy.”

Bike rides are part of normal life for Carrasco, so he organized a bike ride with his friends in 2014 to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis. His organized a ride this fall, but it was rained out, so the riders gathered in Carrasco’s downtown neighborhood, shared a few beers and talked with Carrasco about his disease. He tells them if they know someone with the disease, it’s OK to ask them about it, or how they are feeling. “When someone asks and acknowledges you, you feel better,” he says.

Carrasco never forgets he lives with an unpredictable disease. “It’s like a foot race. Every morning my MS takes off running, and I take off beside it,” he says. Carrasco finds ways to work around periods of low energy. He works to keep negativity at bay.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by STLOUISPOSTDISPATCH
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length


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