The day before I was diagnosed I browsed the internet like mad: McDonald criteria? Check. MS stories? Check. Cures for MS? Check. Thought my life was over? Check. I am sure that many OMSers can relate to the feelings of utter despondency that a diagnosis of MS induces but, on the flipside, the amazement, delight and overwhelming sense of relief that discovering OMS brings.

Hope via the OMS website

I devoured this website and discovered hope; hope that was attainable solely through choices that I could make which were based on solid scientific evidence.

Hope that was expressed eloquently and compassionately was there, freely available for anyone who might need it. It was a humbling and life-changing discovery.

I vowed, there and then, to follow this lifestyle, whatever the diagnosis. This was my choice. Cutting out meat was not difficult but I was dreading saying goodbye to cheese.

After a week the craving started to subside but I knew my love affair with Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar Kettle Chips would be much harder to end. I managed to not give into temptation but, I did fret over them every Friday night but, when a glass or two of Prosecco is permitted, desirable even, you have to accept that you are, in this, on the winning side. For the first few weeks, shopping, cooking, eating with family or dining out became times of multiple decision making.

My 'healthy' wasn't so healthy...

I realized, firstly, how the ‘healthy’ diet I had prided myself on for many years actually had not been that healthy at all. Secondly, I thought about how many of our decisions about food become habitual, ingrained and bound up with who we are. I love crisps and hummus with a glass of wine,

I enjoy coffee and cake with my mum, fine dining is a romantic shared experience with my husband. It leaves you reeling somewhat when these layers of identity are stripped away from you.

'I tried hard to be objective, to take a step back and look dispassionately at the conscious, sometimes painful, choices I was now making. Noticing that I did not miss the foodstuffs themselves, but more what they symbolized was a fascinating discovery.'

Environment vs food itself

I tried hard to be objective, to take a step back and look dispassionately at the conscious, sometimes painful, choices I was now making. Noticing that I did not miss the foodstuffs themselves, but more what they symbolized was a fascinating discovery.

It also made me think deeply about how much of our life is made up of habits. I also learned that it is exhausting to have to continually make choices, e.g., will I choose to eat this food?

Will I decline that invitation to a restaurant because I can’t face having to scan the menu for suitable choices? I learned that I had to alter my way of thinking about social situations; that is, it is about the people and the environment rather than the food on offer.

Making the necessary adjustments

So now I chose to drink decaf coffee with soya milk at my mum’s house, wine and hummus on OMS-friendly crackers, and, as for fine dining, I have discovered the joys of a local Japanese restaurant and the delicious choice of fish, steamed vegetables and rice.

The most recent choice I have made is to begin taking Tecfidera. Having read many forum and blog posts, I know that the subject of DMDs (Disease Modifying Drugs) can, at times, appear rather divisive.

My view, which has ultimately informed my choice, is that, for me, at this point in time, taking a DMD feels like the right thing to do alongside the OMS lifestyle. There are many people who choose not to include DMDs as part of their OMS lifestyle.

We have all made a choice which feels right for us. My choices are enabling me to stay peaceful and calm on a daily basis because I know that I have done what I can, today.

This choice may change in the future but, this year, I am in the business of taking it a day at a time and making sure that today’s choices are good for me long term. I have agonized over the potential downsides, both physical and psychological, of taking Tecfidera.

I have read horror stories about Tecfidera as well as tales of optimism about the promise that this drug may hold. Again, I choose to take Tecfidera as part of my OMS lifestyle: to do whatever it takes.

My choices are working well for me

Today, I am celebrating what appears to be a recent successful switch to the higher dose. Sure there’s a little flushing but nothing I can’t cope with.

A bowl of porridge with nuts and honey, taking the tablet, then rounding off with a piece of toast and scrambled egg whites has worked as a Tecfidera and OMS-friendly breakfast. In the evening, I simply take the tablet half way through dinner.

Plenty of water has also helped when taking the tablet. Today, I am, therefore, feeling positive and upbeat. My choices are working well for me.

None of us can predict what the future might hold but today I am feeling fine and, as I am learning, that is good enough.

Tristania Gough