I know back then I certainly wouldn’t have, at the time I could barely say the words multiple sclerosis out loud. But a lot has changed since I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and I know that this is due to the OMS program and having attended the OMS retreats.
So when George asked if I would consider returning to the Gawler Foundation to co-facilitate a MS retreat with him I immediately said yes. I was pretty stoked to be asked to be part of the OMS team and really looked forward to the first day. I also started to feel pretty nervous about returning.
I was unsure what it would feel like to return in a new role. As I arrived, my memories of my very first visit and when I was diagnosed came flooding back. The fear and uncertainty that used to dominate my thoughts. I looked into the garden and saw where I had sat with my Mum. I remembered the sadness and the feelings of being a burden on my family.
But as people arrived my old fears faded away and I felt my confidence return. I looked around and saw the faces of people arriving. Others were nervous too but I could also see how open people were, they had arrived to learn and do whatever it takes to overcome multiple sclerosis. I felt excited for the group, I knew that this week would bring hope and inspiration for people, just as it has done for me.
The first time I attended the retreat I was caught up in my own struggle. But this time I could see people in the group inspiring each other and embracing the OMS program. As the week unfolded people who had found parts of the programme difficult were now finding it easier. Everyone was keen to learn and understand the evidence behind the programme.
Many people were excited about the practical ideas to make the diet work, while others embraced learning about meditation. But it was the day spent looking at our emotions and MS that really sticks in my mind. I could see people developing strength in themselves. I could feel the kindness that people had for each other, and by the end of the week the kindness that people had for themselves as well.
There are so many memories from the week that I will never forget. It was amazing to see the strength of relationships and love between people with MS and their mums, dads, husbands, wives and partners. It was also fantastic to see the new friendships forming between people in the group. Everyone was from different backgrounds yet all shared a great feeling of positivity and hope for the future.
It was wonderful to get to spend time with everyone and I especially enjoyed the chances to speak individually with people. So many people had a sparkle in their eye despite significant challenges. One participant who despite needing some extra help showed me his strength, dignity and a classic sense of humour.
On the last day everyone was invited to speak. I was so touched by what people said that I felt almost lost for words when it came my turn. So I hope I can thank the group now. To the group, thank you for sharing your openness, strength, inspiration and some great laughs. Thank you for giving me the chance to share in your recovery and showing me the inspirational potential for people to overcome multiple sclerosis. I have a very good feeling that a bright and healthy future lies ahead for you all.
Dr Keryn Taylor