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07 April 2021

“Being outside is essential for my health”

OMSer Susan shares her love for the outdoors and all the benefits it has for her both physically and mentally.

Growing up in the American south, I’ve always loved being outside on a pretty day. Riding bicycles, climbing trees, swimming (for fun), and playing in the backyard were summer staples for me as a child. As I got older, I learned to water ski, snow ski, sail, and snorkel thanks to my Dad. Years later, I married into a family with a small cabin on a river in Arkansas so canoeing and kayaking a few weekends each summer became a new hobby. Mind you, I’m not an athlete but just someone who enjoys being outside whenever the weather is nice.

Receiving a diagnosis

Life carried on with the occasional outdoor jog, walk, and bicycle ride as well as the usual yard work but I had mainly switched to exercising indoors at a gym. In 2002, I showed my first signs of MS and saw three specialists yet no diagnosis was made at the time.

My brain MRI was normal and eventually my tingly legs improved so I carried on with life and wrote off any weird zings and twings to sleeping wrong or a pulled muscle.

Then, in 2015, I felt a patch of numbness to my thumb after a yoga class and sought the help of a neurosurgeon I knew from work. He ordered a cervical MRI thinking I had a disc issue but as it turned out, I had three “shadows” on my C spine and thus began my month long journey toward an MS diagnosis.

Discovering OMS

Like many PwMS, I was both upset and relieved as I felt something had been physically wrong with me for years.

During a cursory internet search while awaiting a confirmed diagnosis, I ran across the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis website and was intrigued. This was the first MS site that offered hope and positivity for PwMS. This was something I could do to benefit my health!

I ordered the book, devoured its contents, and put the program into action immediately as Prof Jelinek’s evidence was compelling and just made sense. I first started with the diet, exercise, and vitamin D supplementation and then moved on to meditation which took me a while to fully embrace but is key to working through stress.

My new life with MS

Being outside on a sunny day has new meaning for me. Now it is essential for my health and well being in my new life with MS. Today I make sure to get outside on any beautiful day that I am not stuck inside working and just do something.

It’s kind of like getting back in touch with the childhood version of me. The girl that played outside all summer and soaked up all that glorious sunshine except now it’s a walk, or mowing the grass, or walking my dogs, or just simply meditating in the hammock. While I may have slowed down some, I realize that being outside in nature and listening to birds elevates my mood and lessens my fears about having MS. Meditation has taught me that.

I just had another set of MRIs and am overjoyed that I have “no new lesions” and “no active disease”. OMS has been working for me for the past five years and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I still canoe and kayak occasionally and love to swim (with fins) in that cold river water when I get a chance. So get outside if you are feeling low or tired. A pretty day and the sounds of nature will surely elevate your mood and relieve stress!