When Life Gives You Lemons

I have Parsonage Turner Syndrome. This is a rare condition in which there is damage to or complete destruction of nerves that control the muscles of the shoulder.  This results in paralysis of the muscles controlled by those nerves. The severity of the illness varies from person to person, but in my case, 2 nerves were completely destroyed and several others were damaged.  I have total paralysis of two of my rotator cuff muscles, as well as the muscle that holds my scapula against my rib cage.   

The issue started in the last week of August with a severe viral illness, which is a common trigger for this condition. The fever was followed by severe back and shoulder pain which then progressed into an inability to move my arm. Over time, my other muscles began to compensate, but I have no use of the three paralyzed muscles, which means I cannot train my upper body at all, or do any lower body exercise which requires stabilization of the shoulder. In other words, no squats or deadlifts. 

And even more frustrating, there is no guarantee it is going to get better (though most people do get some recovery), and if improvement occurs, it happens over months to years, and many people never get full function back. In other words, I may never be able to compete in bodybuilding again. 

I have tried to look at the positives- I have little pain, I can move my arm, hold my kids, bowl, etc. But in this instance perspective is not helping me feel better. It sucks. It just sucks. Patience was never my strong suit, and uncertainty kills me.  

This is the biggest challenge I have faced thus far in my life, as without the gym I feel lost.

Yes, I can train my legs with machines, but it is not the same thing.  Lifting weights are part of my identity and it helps me be a positive example for my patients. Now I cannot lift the way I want to, and I am really struggling with it. 

Anyone who knows my story has heard me talk about my battle with my weight, depression, and anxiety, and the thought of just giving up pops into my head frequently.  Although I know it is not a rational option, it doesn’t stop me from thinking about it. 

So what should I do? I suppose I must try to make lemonade. 

I was never able to effectively manage one part of my health without the other (nutrition and exercise), as I often fall into an all-or-nothing mentality.  Given how long it is going to be before there’s even a possibility I can train the way I like to, I guess I need to figure it out. Otherwise, I can see my weight climbing up again and that is unacceptable on every level.  

Here are the realities: 

  • My muscles are going to shrink.
  • Time is the only thing that can possibly make this better
  • I may have permanent deficits
  • My legs are my weakest body part from a competitive bodybuilding standpoint

It is easy to become fixated on these realities and lose sight of potential positives, like these… 

  • I may recover completely
  • The next 8-12+ months is an opportunity to bring up my legs so I will be more competitive should I ever be lucky enough to compete again
  • From a strict probability standpoint, I will have some recovery

Over the next several months, I will do everything in my power to get to the gym and do what I am able, follow my nutritional plan and try not to dwell on the worst-case scenarios. I will also continue work on appreciating what I have and how lucky I am. 

I didn’t write this to get sympathy, but more to demonstrate that everyone has problems and how you deal with them determines success and happiness. Hopefully, I can continue to be a positive influence on the people who listen to my advice not only through my words but my actions.

This means I will do my best to wake up each day with the best attitude possible, and remind myself that with every challenge I overcome I become stronger than I ever could just lifting weights.  That knowledge in my lemonade.


Do you have more questions about this blog post or Dr. Charlie Seltzer’s weight loss program? Contact Us and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours. 


Comments 4

  1. Graciela
    November 10, 2017

    You are an inspiration! It’s because of you that I stay strong. You always find a way to work around
    my health challenges and I’m sure you will do the same. Your family and patients need you make, take and share the Lemonade! Be well! Stay Strong!

    1. Charlie Seltzer
      November 10, 2017

      Thanks for the kind words. I’ll drink my lemonade, and make it fit in my daily calorie allotment. 🙂

  2. Stephanie Vaiano Budick
    November 11, 2017

    Hello mighty leader! Long time no see, just wanted to say I am thinking of you during this difficult time, and that I am convinced that you have been assigned this mountain to show others how it can be moved. When I was at my worst with Lymes Disease, I forced myself to stick with my gym routine and do whatever I could….It was so much less than when I was on top of the heap and competing, but keeping your routine helped me keep my sanity, and eventually I was able to regain what was lost. You’ve got this Dr. Charlie. Get well soon. 🙂

  3. HF
    November 12, 2017

    Man, this sucks, and my heart hurts to hear this. I haven’t known many experts who relate so well to their clients, far less, who’re willing to share in those commonalities. I think your willingness to speak these harsh, sometimes taboo, truths, speaks to another strength you have. I don’t doubt this is the biggest challenge of your life. At the same time, I don’t doubt that if anyone can make lemonade here, it’d be you.

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