I really, really want to be an MS success story.
I know it won’t come easy, and I will do whatever it takes.
Diagnosed with MS in 2003, I took Copaxone and then Rebif for years as prescribed by my doctor, as well as got periodic MRIs. With minor symptoms, I never missed a dose, my doctor recommended nothing more, and I did not ask.
Meanwhile, I continued decades of being a junk-food junky. I had always been very thin, so I assumed I must also be very healthy. I surmised that I must just have good genes. I ran two marathons, and I have always loved my job that provides enormous challenges, long hours, and plenty of opportunities for stress.
In 2010, my symptoms demanded more attention. During two different stressful assignments at work, I got optic neuritis twice. My doctor quickly resolved both cases with heavy doses of prednisone. Ignoring the significant long- and short-term side effects, I declared myself a success story.
More symptoms – raging eczema, frequent vertigo, numbness, heat-exacerbated walking fatigue, and so many more symptoms not appropriate for polite company, and additional diagnoses, atopic dermatitis, Meniere’s Disease, etc – led to a dizzying array of pharmaceuticals and endless doctors’ appointments and exams. I started to worry about where this plotline would take me. I couldn’t see through the chaos to my success story.
I found Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (OMS) in 2011, through a random and fairly desperate search for hope on Amazon.com. I bought the book, Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis and The China Study, and together they blew my mind and introduced me to a world of hope. Until that time, I had never heard the term ‘lifestyle disease’. Success seemed imminent.
I have seen great improvements in my MS symptoms since adopting improvements in my diet, adding meditation and journaling, and generally balancing work and life more constructively. Debilitating eczema and vertigo are gone, since identifying nutritional deficiencies and adding supplements. So often I have felt quite smug, thinking of all the neurologists who told me that I required drugs to manage (never cure) these problems.
Dr. George Jelinek, founder of OMS who himself has MS and whose mother died of complications of severe MS, once wrote that we need meditation most when we believe we are too busy for it. That’s nice, but I want to claim permanent victory. I want to know: where is the finish line? Haven’t I crossed it already because I meditated every day last week? You mean I have to keep doing this stuff almost every day for the rest of my life?
I have fallen off the wellness bandwagon more than a few times. When my health is good (usually after prolonged practice of lifestyle improvements), I drop wellness all too quickly and imagine writing my blog about my success in curing my MS. When my health is not good (usually after a lapse in lifestyle improvements), my instinct is to search desperately for a new silver bullet, rather than return to those things that require daily practice and dedication. I got rid of my eczema and vertigo permanently by popping a few supplements. I can do the same with all my other symptoms, if I just find that silver bullet. Right?
In addition to or instead of OMS, I have tried the Wahl’s Protocol, which allowed Dr. Wahl’s to get out of a wheelchair after six years (voila!), high doses of vitamin D3 (which mainstream doctors insist that I stop), emerging oral pharmaceuticals (with warnings of deadly viruses), more and different supplements, healers, and lately I became enthused about stem-cell transplants, ‘cold therapy’, and medically-supervised, water-only fasting.
My hope is indefatigable, and I will keep searching, but the process is exciting and exhausting. Exciting, because I do believe that research is getting closer to a cure. Exhausting, for an un-ending list of reasons, among them: until a cure is found, I need to be impeccable in my lifestyle choices, not joining my friends for wonderful, junky food and drink that I enjoyed mindlessly for decades prior to discovering OMS. Whatever it takes.
After all, however, I have only one conclusion: there is no silver bullet. No one-off pill to pop for a cure at the root level. There are only my lifestyle choices, which I know work well for me, but I just wish did not take any work on my part.
Had I been diagnosed with cancer instead of MS in 2003, I suspect my focus would have been on extraction of the tumor and resumption of my normal life. I have often felt a version of twisted (and stupid) jealousy for cancer patients, who have a tumor to extract, monitor, or blame. I have often wished that I could surgically extract MS.
To my surprise, I have felt occasional waves of deep gratitude for my MS, even though many more times I have cursed its limitations on my life. MS has forced me to slow way-the-hell down, listen, be patient and compassionate with myself and others, and accept ultimately, albeit usually begrudgingly, whatever MS and life toss in my lap. At the risk of sounding trite, I believe I am stronger as a result of MS.
So perhaps my daily wellness practices, gratitude, and mindfulness are my success story, with many, many more chapters to be told.