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27 June 2016

MS misdiagnosis

“We’ve found an abnormality in your brain.” Say what? These were the last words I expected to hear three weeks before our wedding...

“We’ve found an abnormality in your brain.” Say what? These were the last words I expected to hear three weeks before our wedding. I’d been experiencing some weird symptoms during the previous week or two, things like temporary facial paralysis, some slurred speech, weakened grip in my right hand and mind-numbing fatigue.

A process of elimination

My primary doctor advised me to go to an emergency room and have a quick CT scan to rule out a stroke. This was supposed to be a routine test…

it was not supposed to identify anything actually wrong! After a series of several MRIs, a spinal tap and blood work, the doctors whittled it down to two possible causes. 1) Brain Tumor 2) Multiple Sclerosis I was advised to have one more definitive test, a brain biopsy, to figure it out. At this point, I was afraid, dreadfully exhausted, and just wanted answers.

A harrowing procedure

So, a week and a half before our wedding, I had a hole drilled in my head. This was a lovely procedure where I laid down wide awake, was given some local anesthesia and a hole was carved through my skull.

They asked me fun questions, like, “Can you feel this?” and “What day of the week is it?” to make sure they were not damaging my language skills whilst poking around to take out the proper piece of my brain.

To manage the incredible stress, my fiancé and I feverishly researched our options and decided that we wished for a brain tumor over multiple sclerosis. GASP! Why? Well, based on our research, MS was a slow debilitating disease for which there was no cure and would cripple and prematurely kill me. A brain tumor could be cured and voila! Life would resume as normal. We got our wish. I was diagnosed with a low grade glioma. We began to plan for a future of craniotomy and chemo.

An unexpected outcome

Miraculously, three days before our wedding, the neurosurgeon called to inform me that “Whoops! We made a mistake. It’s not a brain tumor. But we don’t know what it is.”

A few weeks later, the results came in… I had the dreaded Multiple Sclerosis. Looking back, I’d had two other episodes or ‘relapses,’ one during each of the previous two years. This certainly explained those weird symptoms like tingling, burning fingers, and a faulty gait! While I was glad to finally have answers, this time was fraught with so many emotions.

Elation from our new marriage, love of my fantastic partner who stood by my side throughout this impossible ordeal, fear and anxiety about the future, helplessness of not being able to control my body, and pure exhaustion from the physical and emotional stress.

Overwhelmed by information

I did the only thing I knew I could control and I patrolled the internet for answers, and I did not stop until I found them! And that is where I was introduced to Dr. Swank, Professor Jelinek, and Dr. Wahls.

It was incredibly overwhelming at first… there was so much information, some contradictory, and so many changes to make. But it was hope, and I clung to that hope like a life raft in a hurricane.

I immediately made dietary changes, because this, THIS was something I could control. I began to view food as medicine and food as poison.

I knew without a doubt that I could protect myself and my future family if I could change my lifestyle. It’s been over seven years since that fateful day when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and I’ve been relapse free every single one of them!

A cause for celebration

I’m so grateful for the medical pioneers who have researched alternative treatment to MS other than medication, and for the community of support that is provided through Overcoming MS.

So, my message to everyone and anyone who cares to listen… don’t let fear get in the way, and there is an abundance of fear involved for the newly diagnosed and those who have struggled with symptoms from MS for years. Focus on the HOPE, because it is real and this program works.

Andrea Chua