I have not written yet on this blog about having MS. This was a deliberate decision, because I felt for years MS defined who I was and how I lived my life. Over the last year, I freed myself from the cognitive and emotional shackles of MS and settled in a place of strength and spiritual calm about living with an unpredictable, chronic illness. Not dwelling on an illness does not mean denying its existence. It is hard to strike a balance, and it has taken me years to figure out how to own my illness without having it own me. This is not unique to MS. Anyone who lives with a chronic illness experiences periods of quiet punctuated by period of struggle and difficulty. For me the greatest challenge has been to learn to embrace each day without wondering what the next day will bring, while paying attention to advances in MS – in research, in medicine, and in alternative healing strategies.
Every scholarly journal article on MS cites the pathogenic role of inflammation in MS exacerbations. Only in recent years have researchers begun paying attention to food sensitivities and their role in chronic inflammation, which in theory can lead to a laundry list of chronic illnesses, depending on one’s genetic susceptibility. I have written about this concept previously, the epigenetic theory that we are each born with unique genetic predisposition but developing illness depends on the “right” environmental conditions to effect genetic expression.
While this makes a lot of sense in the food-as-medicine, we-are-what-we-eat universe, mainstream neurology has not yet embraced food and diet as having anything to do with MS. I wondered: What if my diet was causing chronic inflammation in my body? What if I modified my diet to remove inflammatory substances? Would it change the expression of my illness? Around the same time I tossed around these ideas, Terry Wahls‘ name started to circulate on the internet. If you haven’t heard about her, she is a physician with MS who turned her MS around through a combination of diet, electric stimulation (through her PT), and stress-reduction. Hers is a three-pronged approach, even though the diet prong has garnered the most attention.
One thing led to another. I tested positive for many food sensitivities just as I registered for a distance learning class through the Institute for the Psychology of Eating in Dynamic Eating Psychology and Mind-Body Nutrition. I wanted to learn more about how I could help myself. I came to understand that I needed to make peace with my chronic illness, and my greatest gift to myself was forgoing foods I loved and thought I could never live without. At the same time I embraced the body I have and gave up resentment, frustration and yearning for a thinner, lighter, more agile body. By the time I finished the IPE course, I was determined to share my story, my knowledge, and my wisdom to help others.
I no longer consider myself an MS patient. I do not see myself as suffering with MS. I have a chronic illness, Multiple Sclerosis, which is unpredictable, but life is unpredictable. I know there are many people with MS who struggle with their illness. I have been where they are. I have experienced the fear, anxiety, uncertainty, frustration and sadness as I battled and then made peace with my illness. The path to acceptance is not an easy one, but being at war with a part of oneself can be crippling. I used to brace myself for the future, believing I needed always to be prepared for what life threw my way. I have stopped preparing myself for what tomorrow will bring, and I live each day to the fullest, thankful for all the blessings in my life, thankful for life itself.