Horses are my passion and have been from a young age. After I left school I took an Equine Studies course, we kept horses at home so I was accustomed to early morning riding, mucking out, and feeding in all weathers so I took to it well. From 14 years old I had competed in show jumping competitions, dressage and eventing (see picture below).
My story of MS began in 2004 (unbeknown to me)
My story starts when I experienced my first MS symptom a number of years ago, a loss of vision in my right eye coupled with a stabbing pain. I thought it could be hay fever and after a few days I could no longer bear it. A visit to A&E concluded negative blood tests for allergies and I was sent home with a nasal spray prescription. My sight then returned to normal after a week.
Three years later, in 2007, I had an MRI for a whiplash injury (resulting in a neck disc bulge) and was subsequently prescribed medication for pain relief. For years I’d had occasional back twinges, weakness and spasms. I visited an osteopath weekly to try and relieve my neck/back discomfort which worked for the first few days however it soon returned. I also noticed a tightness and irritation in my right eye every time I hacked my horse past a field of winter bean, which I presumed was hay fever.
Eight years after the MRI, my back went into spasm whilst opening a kitchen bin drawer. I was moved upstairs as I was unable to move my body or legs and had to miss out on a family birthday meal. I was unable to roll over in bed for weeks and was in tremendous pain for days. I had to use a stick when I walked. Eventually I was able to get down to our stable yard to turn my horses and ponies out to their paddocks, pleading with them to walk steadily matching my frustratingly slow pace. If it wasn’t for my horses and ponies waiting patiently in their stables for their breakfast and to be turned out, I would have stayed in bed, I was in so much pain!
During a holiday, I noticed new symptoms; numbness and pins and needles in my feet and legs, which turned into stabbing pains in my soles. My legs became wobbly and I had to stand with a wide stance to keep balance.I couldn’t walk off quickly for fear of falling. Shortly after arriving home all my symptoms settled and disappeared as quickly as they arrived. I carried on my everyday life with family and riding, I put the symptoms down to the heat or a trapped nerve.
Months later, the symptoms returned, along with feeling cold; I couldn’t even feel the temperature in the bath. I was extremely tired and my bladder didn’t feel normal. My torso felt crushed, I had constant tightness, I felt like hedgehogs were pressing from inside outwards. I couldn’t tolerate anything touching my torso, even clothing such as a waistband. It was much worse than October.
I visited the GP, who said there was nothing wrong and prescribed painkillers. They suggested if it worsens to go to A&E, so within four hours I was in A&E. I was there for 2 days and nights. They sent over a neurologist team from a nearby hospital and I was sent to MRI on back. I had a normal nerve conduction test. I then had three months of physio. I still had problems with my left leg, with loss of strength and power, (struggled to transfer out of a chair) but my symptoms were overlooked.
I told my mother-in-law that I could no longer cope with the pain and discomfort I was in and asked for the telephone number of her back surgeon. I had avoided an epidural 8 months previously when I’d seen a consultant regarding my back pain; I hadn’t wanted any medical procedures, but now I was prepared to do anything.
I telephoned the back surgeon’s surgery and scheduled an appointment for the following week. I told him my history of neck/back disc injuries and he carried out some tests, asking when I last had an MRI on my neck. The following week I had the suggested MRI and the findings were uncertain. He referred me to a neurologist and an additional MRI on my brain was organized, blood tests and a possible lumbar puncture. After months of physio rehabilitation I was determined not to have an epidural, pain relief that wouldn’t last or take strong drugs. I was exhausted, frustrated and desperate.
August 2016 (aged 45)
The neurologist I had been referred to confirmed my original visual symptoms as optic neuritis (swelling of the optic nerve), and the more recent symptoms as transverse myelitis (inflammation of both sides of one section of the spinal cord). I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and was referred to a specialist MS neurologist to discuss DMD’s (disease modifying drugs) and was prescribed medication for nerve pain (amitriptyline – 10 mg) which I took for 10 months. I used my yoga breathing to cope with the pain. My lovely thick, curly hair thinned due to the medication. I said to my husband “When I get my hair back, I will have overcome MS”.
I felt fine, and at the time of diagnosis the neurologist wrote, “I was struck by how positive both Emma and her husband were”. This was because I knew there was something wrong, and at that time I was simply relieved not to have a tumor. I was completely accepting of the MS diagnosis, but my next thought was “what am I going to do now?”
Finding Overcoming MS
I visited the specialist MS Neurologist. After examining me, whilst looking at my brain MRI he looked over his screen “I can’t believe you’re as well as you are” after I walked one foot in front of the other, heal to toe – perfectly! He discussed DMD’s – I told him I didn’t want to take anything stronger than paracetamol and I didn’t want to have to inject myself. It was left that I’d go away and think about it.
This was one of my lowest days. We stopped for lunch in a pub on the way home. I burst into tears and said to my husband “Did he just want me to crawl out of our meeting?”I didn’t know much about MS, I thought I was going to die and that I’d never get to see our daughters grow up and get married. I was very low for a day or two, exhausted, emotionally drained. I had time to think, how was I going to get myself out of this mess.
After sadly losing my old horse, unable to ride throughout winter, I joined a health club and tried my first ever yoga class. I told my teacher that I was newly diagnosed with MS, tears came to my eyes, she hugged me and said “When you walk out of here, go home and google ‘Professor George Jelinek’ and you won't look back!”
I did exactly that, ordered the book and ‘Recovering from MS’ which arrived the following day. I cleared our kitchen cupboards and 4 days later, started the OMS program and diet.
Reading both books made 100% sense to me and took me back to my studying days. I couldn’t turn the pages quick enough or put the books down. I knew that OMS was the right path for me and I wasn’t scared anymore. I immediately felt back in control. I took an all or nothing approach right from the start.
I have kept a diary since physio days. Now I have these OMS diaries which I write in daily. The ‘Recovering from MS book‘ really inspired me because if those people could recover, so could I.
As a newly diagnosed MS person, I had my one and only meeting with my MS nurse. I cancelled my DMD appointment and my bladder clinic appointment because I didn’t need either and took control, I told them I was managing my MS with the Overcoming MS Program! In 6 weeks from starting, my symptom improvements totaled 20 – FANTASTIC! I could swim again, instead of not bearing water touching me. It had felt like waves crashing against a sea wall. I could swim 38 lengths. I can now ride, run, ski and do everything I love again. Thank you OMS.
Some of my improved symptoms:
- L’hermittes has disappeared
- Bladder and bowel function have returned to normal
- Huge visual improvement - particularly my right eye has stopped twitching and feels less strained
- Twitching on right side of my face and lips has stopped
- Balance much improved (I’ve been practicing Yoga for 5 months)
- Dizziness and vertigo episodes ceased.
- Improved concentration and cognition
- My speech is normal and no longer slurred.
- I can transfer from a chair now normally with no pain.
- I can walk normally with no pain
- I can walk up and down stairs easily, and sometimes even jog
- My neck at the hairdresser’s basin doesn’t need rolled up towel for pain – 1st time in 12 years.
- I can sit straight with my back against a pew in school chapel and sit without pain in my back or sitting bones.
At last a neurologist on the same page! He examined me, discussed my history and I told him about being on OMS program for four months. He said because I remain in extremely good shape 15 years after the onset of MS (unknown at the time), my prognosis for the future remains excellent. A health professional giving me a glimmer of hope was all I needed to consolidate that I was definitely on the right path. I’m so grateful that my inner strength shone through after reading George Jelinek’s books and that my “taurus stubbornness” kicked in to make me stand my ground when I could have veered off track and gone down any wrong path.
I received a letter to inform me of my neurologist’s retirement. Historically I would have worried and panicked about losing such a great neurologist after taking me so long to find him. Meditation helped me stay calm, clear thinking and completely accepting the situation.
I couldn’t have foreseen or dreamt what was about to happen when I met my new neurologist. He asked what diet I was on. I told him Overcoming MS, he gave me a big smile and said I will see you in a year. Before we walked out he said that I will be fitter and healthier than both him and my husband. The tables were seriously starting to turn! Onwards & upwards!
I had been relapse free for over 2 years since starting OMS, until a situation caused significant stress. Reading ‘Recovering from MS’ gave me the strength to deal with this situation and I have been relapse free ever since.
I attended the OMS Ammerdown Retreat which was life changing. The retreat confirmed my knowledge, but more importantly gave me confidence to trust myself that I was doing the right things to heal myself. Emma’s back – I feel free.
Thames Path Challenge
I took part in the Thames Path Challenge 28k walk with my daughter. I felt that I wanted to give something back & that it was the least I could do. To raise money for OMS, so that they could reach out to more people with MS Worldwide.
I knew in my mind from the onset that I was well enough to walk the distance & knew I could trust my mind/body (when I’d never had that inner connection before). I had a strong sense of determination that I really needed to do this.
So we trained on alternate days for a month & sure enough we successfully completed 28k in just over 6 hours. It was a truly fantastic experience & I loved every minute & were only a little stiff for 48hrs afterwards !!
I felt so passionate about doing this walk for OMS & if I hadn’t incurred my knee injury this year, I wouldn’t think twice about walking it again!
Where I am now
Without OMS and a plant-based diet I definitely wouldn’t be as well as I am today. Now that I have completed my story, I sincerely hope that it may help just one person newly diagnosed with MS realize that you CAN overcome these awful symptoms.
My journey has been long but I’ve got there and I’m a better person for it!
I love my life and I’m actually thankful for MS in a strange kind of way because I’m now complete and live my life to the full. OMS has empowered me with knowledge, support and hope, it has given me my life back. I honestly feel better now (aged 48) than in my thirties.
At diagnosis, I had an overwhelming amount of symptoms – I could have given in and lay in submission. However, I peeled each layer of the onion, one by one slowly eradicating each symptom I used yoga, breathing and meditation to achieve this. I recorded my achievements in my OMS diary, which spurred me on to achieve more success.
I know I keep going back to my passion of horses; they live in the present, they sense when you’re in pain and offer comfort. Riding has been my physio since being on OMS, gaining normal use of my legs, hips, pelvis, seat bones, back & upper body and also reconnecting my core.
Yoga and meditation runs parallel to this, my mind and body work harmoniously now and I listen to my body. I can’t get enough of the spiritual aspect of meditation. I live my life as if things will turn out the way I plan them and I take my body with me. Don’t give up on your passion.
My husband and I have two teenage daughters, I have spent years driving them and their ponies around the country competing. I have an extremely active, outdoor life; I drive an 18.5 tonne HGV, love skiing, gardening and walking our dogs.
On a short break at the same destination as October 2015, I am thrilled to say that it was NOT déjà vu! I had no problems with the heat or MS symptoms. We had a wonderful time, thank you OMS.
- Accept your diagnosis
- Take on the OMS diet with an “all or nothing” approach
- Keep a daily diary, finding something positive to write about every day, even when in pain
- Keep monitoring progress and increasing flaxseed oil to 40ml during stressful periods
- Exercise & meditate daily
- Smile and enjoy the moment, life is for living
- Annual blood tests for Vitamin D levels
- Be aware of overdoing things or over-exciting myself (I now have tingly fingertips when this happens)
- My ultimate goal: to gain a clear MRI