I was diagnosed with RRMS in February 2017 which, in hindsight,was probably a safe bet following several years when I had displayed a number of the common, minor symptoms. However it really felt like a heavy body blow when the neurologist told me the news.
I was off work for three and a half weeks with my first episode and went through the range of emotions; denial, mourning, fear, etc. Yeah, you’ve all been there!
During those dark times I searched website after website looking for quick cures or an easy solution; that wasn’t ever going to happen and my spirits descended. Things felt helpless but, with the support of close friends and family, I moved out of the shadow of victimhood. When I found Overcoming MS it felt that I had a grip on the disease and had gained some control of the situation.
My experience attending an OMS retreat
My wife Ann Marie and I arrived at Ammerdown with some trepidation, but a chance informal chat in the gardens with Gary McMahon, the CEO of OMS, quickly allayed any concerns.
We undoubtedly left with a renewed sense of purpose and a stronger spirit to genuinely overcome MS. So in that regard, the retreat was a massive success, although the food alone made this a not-to-miss event!
At our first session we each gave an introduction of ourselves and shared snippets of our MS journey. No two people were identical but no-one was entirely unique either – collectively we shared symptoms with others.
In a group of like-minded people with a common purpose of either managing an illness or supporting loved ones to do so, it wasn’t surprising that a strong sense of camaraderie emerged quickly.
I have only known the folks on my retreat for a week but have gained more from their friendship than from some “friends” who I have known most of my life.
However, it seems that it isn’t uncommon for people to rail away from people with illness. Some people find it easier to ignore them than to offer support, concern and compassion at the time it is most needed.
Our retreat group had a very cosmopolitan flavor with attendees from all over western Europe, showing the merciless reach of MS but also the impact of the OMS Recovery Program on those seeking a self-help option.
A Facebook post or tweet could succinctly summarize the OMS retreat: Dr Jonathan White explained and reinforced the science, research, evidence and proof in a clear and understandable way. Associate Professor Craig Hassed was incredibly calm and soothing, giving an insight into the self-healing we can all undertake but also the gremlins within our minds.
Véronique Gauthier-Simmons showed low-impact physical therapies that can get us stronger and keep us moving. Linda Bloom, just being there, busy, fit and healthy was an inspiration!
However, this quick summary doesn’t fully capture the many valuable moments; some of those follow below.
A few key learnings from the retreat
An early conclusion from the OMS retreat was that we can’t rely on conventional medicine alone. It has an important (possibly overstated?) part to play but we have to get to the cause of MS to find the answers to better health.
We need to understand that; acknowledging our individual triggers, and then believe that the solution actually lies within us all. It just needs to get untapped.
The environment and mood all week was supportive and completely non-judgmental. All our efforts were applauded and successes were celebrated.
Claire and Kelly were hugely inspiring in very different ways, with both young ladies simply not accepting what would have been a markedly different and inferior life. They found OMS and are now living a brighter life and better future.
Meditation isn’t just about peacefulness. There is a chemical process and anatomical benefit as the body starts to slowly but steadily form new neuro-pathways. The body is programmed to regenerate, we just need to turn that program on through positive interventions. This is not just to address damage but to heal. It is vital to understand the mind-body connection.
Underlying OMS is a requirement for patience. I have over forty years of self-damage (burgers, chorizo, pizza, soft cheese, stress, etc) inside me, so waiting three to five years for the optimum OMS benefits to emerge isn’t too high a price.
I’m twelve months into OMS and over the first six months I noticed little change. However, in the second six months, I feel an improvement of 1% to 2% every month. Which isn’t much month to month, but over the period an aggregate improvement of over 10% isn’t bad is it? Six months of learning, six months of healing!
We learned many facts upon which to build foundations. For example, my homeland of bonnie Scotland has the dubious honor of being world number one for MS. Can the land of the scotch pie, scotch egg, and deep-fried Mars bar really be surprised at that?
Before our Celtic cousins start gloating, Ireland is a close second, with outposts of our diaspora and our dodgy MS gene pool pushing MS into Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We can’t change genes, but we certainly can change lifestyles.
But the family-tree of auto-immune diseases has many branches, so MS cousins include a range of illnesses that weren’t as prevalent fifty years ago, like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and so on. Human physiology doesn’t change that fast, but the modern lifestyle does.
It seems intuitively obvious that there is a strong lifestyle link between modern illnesses like MS and modern lifestyles.
Letting go and healing
Towards the end of the week we participated in a group session where we let go of past events and histories that for many of us consume energy in a negative way. This was deeply moving and emotionally powerful, but a key step forward on our route to healing.
MS can’t currently be cured medically and no medication is restorative so MS remains an illness of steady deterioration. But at Ammerdown we witnessed several followers of OMS who are restored and living well.
Why the medical establishment doesn’t accept the probability that OMS is a worthy approach remains a mystery. PwMS just need to see the evidence; to believe and act.
MS will likely still be within me when I shake off the mortal coil, but I just won’t let it kill me. In fact, I won’t even let it limit my living.
When I was diagnosed I felt crushed and overwhelmed. Finding the Recovery Program gave me a spark of hope. Some small steps forward in recent months have given me faith I’m on the correct journey. My experience attending an OMS retreat has reinforced everything and given me belief.
Hope. Faith. Belief. Three small words which were absent from my life, for which I will now be eternally grateful.