April 19, 2013. A day that will forever stay ingrained in my mind. The day life changed. The day I realized nothing will ever again be as it was. This “about” page will likely be the hardest thing I’ll have to write. It’ll be long. But bear with me.
The week before, I had felt some numbness in part of my tongue… Then it spread to the side of my face. I was somewhat concerned, but not too much, figured it was a pinched nerve or something that will work itself out. I went to the doctor anyway, to check. I got an MRI. The doctor called on Friday evening to tell me the news: I have MS (multiple sclerosis). I had her on speaker phone, so my husband could hear the news at the same time. This was not at all what we were expecting. This happens to other people, not to me! I’m only 33. It has to be something else. Right? We held each other and cried.
Searching the internet for MS is pretty terrifying. I couldn’t do it. I stopped eating. I stopped sleeping. My stomach was a constant ball of nerves – not butterflies, but angry, mad hornets that would not go away. My husband, “M” I’ll call him, did all the research for us. He’s amazing. I’m going to say that a lot. You’ll see why. Anyway, he found some alternative research – by Swank, Jelinek, and others – who discovered a diet and lifestyle based recovery. There’s hope?!! Yes, there is. Your neurologist won’t tell you; I don’t know why. It angers me. They ignore so much evidence. Other doctors in Europe and other parts of the world acknowledge the link. Here? Not so much.
I was put in contact with a friend of a friend who has MS. She got it pretty bad her first time; essentially immobile on one side. A friend of hers told her about the diet/lifestyle link – a lady was in a wheelchair, unable to feel touch; after changing her diet, she’s now fine. The friend of a friend whom I talked with, she did the same – 12 years later, no relapses, is able to dance and play music. Another friend of a friend had a similar story. Maria, who has a blog I mention in the links below – 5 years on the new “diet” and getting better each day. It goes on and on. I found a good naturopath who specializes in MS. Of her 700+ patients in the past 13 years, only 2 are not fine (and they are exceptions; men who came to her already in wheelchairs, and she’s unsure of the MS diagnosis to begin with). Those are baffling numbers! Versus what you’d see from a traditional clinic…
So if there’s any possibility at all of living a normal life, for the rest of my life, I will do anything. As much as I complain about hating running, I love the fact that I *can* run. I don’t ever want to be limited. So if I need to cut out meat and dairy and gluten and eat lots of fish – I will. It will be hard, but not as hard as what could happen if I don’t do those things. And you know what? There is a wealth of people who eat this way by choice – and if they can do it, so can I. Plus, they’ve come up with amazing substitutes for things I love (I’m lookin’ at you, butter and cheese!), that are better for both me and the environment (including all the animals I love).
I love food. I love cooking. I love eating. Growing up, I always loved spending time in the kitchen. Traveling – I always looked forward to the great restaurants I’ll get to try; often planning a trip around the food I’ll eat (mmm… bacon! cheese! butter! sweets! eat all the things!). I dreamed of becoming a personal chef, or having a food cart, or something where I could cook all the time. Alternatively, growing up, I didn’t eat fish. I hated it. Getting this diagnosis and finding out I had to change everything, well, it sucked. But as I said above, if it would keep me from becoming one of “them” – the folks who continue to worsen with MS – I would do anything. Surprisingly, hypnotherapy helped get things started. It helped calm my stomach, to start thinking clearly again. To realize it’s not the end of the world, there’s hope, I have strength, and I can still love food! In fact, I now have to cook home more often and become creative with using “new” ingredients and methods of cooking. It’s getting out of any rut I was in before. It’s forcing me to expand my tastes into different things. Healthier things. “M” is joining me on this – he continually tells me, when I get down or feel guilty or whatever, “No – you don’t have MS. WE have MS. We’re in this together. Forever.” I love him more than words, and he has no idea how much this means to me. He’s my angel.
And, in the end, isn’t eating healthy, managing stress better, and getting regular exercise something we should all be doing anyway?
Go see a naturopath. Preferably one that is a little left of right, and a little right of left – mine is great in the fact that she doesn’t cut off traditional medicine; if it seems I should take drugs, she would tell me. But she also sees the power of diet and lifestyle changes, giving me hope instead of the despair I got at the neurologist. At first, it’s just vegan + fish and eggs, but then my allergy test came back saying I’m not so good with eggs or wheat, so that means no eggs, no gluten. Thankfully, I don’t have celiac, but I’ve read that wheat can cause all sorts of auto-immune like responses, so it’s out. Knowledge is power, and it’s better to know than to not know. Not one specific way works for everyone, which is why it’s so important to have a doctor you can trust, who will work with you and customize your treatment to your needs. This is my journey; it may change over time, and likely will. But I know, deep down, that I will overcome this.
A few links I suggest for anyone needing to read something hopeful:
Big MS Breakthrough (brilliant because science! I love science, and know they will figure something out, that’s not a drug that “can cause liver failure and death, compromise immunity, and not sure how exactly it kinda works,” hopefully within my lifetime – sooner rather than later, obvs 😉 )
Dr. Jelinek’s Overcoming MS book (he is also coming out with a “success stories” book soon)
Plant-Based Slow Motion Miracle (this woman is pure inspiration)
Time and time again, I go back to these links, to that “friend of a friend,” to center myself in the knowledge that there is hope – and it’s not a fool’s hope. It’s real hope. It gives me strength and confidence that I’m doing the right thing.
I’ll end with a quote that’s helped me a lot the past few months… It’s from LOTR, but very relevant (I’m a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan):
[Frodo]: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
[Gandalf]: So do all who live to see such times. But it is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.