I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS in April 2020 after a month of intense vertigo, nausea, and numbness on the right side of my body. In the year leading up to my diagnosis, I had also experienced sporadic moments of weakness and numbness in my hands and legs. At the time, I shrugged these sensations off as being part of my imagination. I was not experiencing extreme pain or discomfort and did not feel like I would be able to explain my symptoms to a doctor. It was a relief to finally receive an answer for these mysterious symptoms but any relief I felt was quickly overshadowed by fear and uncertainty. I was only 27 at the time, a few months from getting married, in the prime of my life, and afraid of what I might have to give up because of MS.
Jumping into OMS
After learning of my diagnosis, what I really needed was to find a source of hope. A great unknown had been introduced into my life and I wanted to feel like I still had some control. It was important for me to find ways to ensure I could still live my best possible life, despite MS. This is how I stumbled across the OMS 7-Step Recovery Program. Of all the information I came across in the weeks after my diagnosis, discovering OMS was the first time I felt like I found exactly what I was searching for – hope. I was drawn to the lifestyle-based approach of the program and was quick to order Dr. Jelinek’s book as well as work my way through the OMS website. I feel fortunate to have found OMS so early on. The program has not only provided me with a source of hope and optimism, but it has shown me how living a quality life with MS is now a reality for me.
Making use of the resources OMS has to offer
Beyond Dr. Jelinek’s book and the heaps of information offered on the OMS website, there are a couple of other resources I have found to be helpful. The first being the “Living Well with MS” podcast, which has been a fun and easy way to hear from experts as well as from those in the OMS community. I have found myself spending time reflecting on one of the more recent episodes - Coffee Break 12 Episode with Alex Storey. In the short amount of time since learning of my diagnosis, I have remained relatively private about my MS – only sharing with close friends and family. I am beginning to learn that there is power in reaching out to others in the MS community and the idea of openly sharing my MS story with others does not feel so scary anymore.
In addition to the podcast, I have been able to revisit the information provided during the Refresh with OMS webinar series. Being able to revisit these recordings has been helpful in the months since my diagnosis. I am probably not alone in saying that meditation is one of the steps of the OMS program I find myself struggling with the most. Even before being diagnosed with MS, I had attempted to build a consistent meditation practice without much luck. All that being said, I found week three of the webinar series to be particularly helpful as the focus was on the importance of reducing stress through mindfulness and meditation. There were so many actionable steps provided in the webinar that can accompany meditation, such as a practice of daily gratitude which I have been able to introduce into my routine. One of the other takeaways from this webinar was the idea that mindfulness is a journey – I am not expected to get it all correct right away and that is okay.
Hope for the next year
While there are still many unknowns as to what my MS will bring in the year to come, I no longer find myself focused on what I might have to give up because of MS. Instead, I am focused on all OMS can give back to me. I look forward to the year ahead with hope and excitement – there are new OMS-friendly recipes to try, podcast episodes to listen to, research and blogs to read, and community to build.