My name is Alison Marwick and I have relapsing remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Quite simply, if I hadn’t found George Jelinek and his 'Overcoming MS' program I wouldn’t have been able to write that and I certainly couldn’t tell you to your face.
I would be living in fear, waiting for the next MS episode and for my life to be over. Instead, I’m cycling from London to Brussels (via Amsterdam) and am writing this article to tell you why.
My MS story
I had my first MS episode, whilst living in London, in early 2004, followed in early 2005 by a second. The first involved dizziness and the inability to walk in a straight line as well as numbness and tingling on one side of my face. The second, the right side of my face collapsed and I lost the hearing in my right ear.
Both episodes passed and although not formally diagnosed, Multiple Sclerosis was “highly likely”. I was told to eat healthily and exercise and hopefully nothing would happen for five, 10 maybe 15 years.
I bought books about eating healthily and what foods were good for your brain, immune system and central nervous system. I stopped eating red meat and dairy, starting eating a lot of fish, pulses, veg and fruit.
After a year I started exercising and I joined a gym. All was good, bar not being able to hear out of my right ear in a crowded environment, I had no permanent damage from both episodes and carried on my life.
Living in fear
I did, however, live in fear. I moved back to my home town of Edinburgh so that if I had another episode I would be near my family. I bought a ground floor flat so if I had trouble walking I could get around. Time passed and I got lazy.
I started to lapse from the healthy eating. So, in early 2011 I had a third episode. I got optic neuritis – my left eye what looked to me like a smudge across it and I was colour blind. This resulted in the diagnosis of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.
I knew that would be the outcome and wasn’t surprised when I was told. What I was surprised at was how five days later I fell apart. What I’d been ignoring and almost forgotten about had happened and my life was over. However, I was fine. I could walk, run, cycle, do a full time job, travel – everything I wanted to.
Managing my condition
But I couldn’t because what if....what if....what if? Everywhere I looked was doom and gloom – how to manage pain, how to cope with incontinence, how to tell family, what wheelchair to consider.
I couldn’t find anything about people like me – symptom free and how to carry on with life when you were fine with a time bomb ticking in the background.
Eventually I phoned the MS Society helpline, burst into tears and sobbed for about 30 minutes. If I had been able to speak and articulate my fear, I would have asked how many other people were like me and how could I ensure I could stay that way, but I couldn’t.
The very kind gentleman on the phone persuaded me to give the forum on the MS Society website another shot – so out of desperation I did. There, snuck in amongst a number of the discussions, someone had put – “buy this book Overcoming MS it will change your life.” Overcoming MS? Overcoming.
A life-changing read
That’s a novel idea, I thought. Overcoming? Overcoming? I’d like to try that. So I had a quick look at www.overcomingmultiplesclerosis.org and bought the book on Amazon. That book and website have changed my life.
The diet I had lived on for a number of years after my second episode was similar to that in Jelinek’s program so it was very clear to me that my lapsing of eating well in the lead up to 2011 was directly linked to my 3rd episode. My vitamin D levels were very low and I didn’t manage stress very well rather lived off it. I started following the diet, increased the amount of exercise I did, started taking Vitamin D3 supplements and started to manage my stress better. What difference has it made to my life? I am a stone lighter. My skin and hair are in excellent condition. My vitamin D levels are healthy. People say to me how great I am looking.
However, it is not about looking great. That is a positive side effect. However, I am fitter, healthier and happier than I have ever been.
I still get stressed at work and am about to start a new job back in London but I know the signs and triggers of my stress and I am beginning to meditate to help with this too. What does Overcoming MS give me? In a word – hope.
I'm not afraid
I don’t believe my life is over anymore. I don’t believe that I need to live in a ground floor flat just in case I can’t walk. I can tell my friends, family and new employer about what has happened to me and how I manage it because I’m not afraid anymore.
A grateful contribution to OMS
I’m cycling from London to Brussels in August because I can. It will be hard. I need to do a lot of training, will no doubt fall out with my boyfriend who I am doing it with, will hate the hills and wish I’d never agreed to it more than once. But every mile, every pedal, every ache and pain I will do because if the money I raise can give just one other person half of what I’ve got from this program then it will be worthwhile.