As we were slowly walking towards the end of the year of 2020 - that bad and trapping year of a worldwide pandemic - I was slowly starting to make plans for 2021. Questions like “which new countries can I go to?” or “maybe I can go on a hiking trip somewhere totally new and unexpected?” were starting to come up towards the end of the summertime. Much like everyone else expecting the end of the pandemic when the year turns (oh how naive!), 2021 looked very promising.
But 2020 still had its biggest surprise of all to be unwrapped - between October and November 2020 I was diagnosed with RRMS. After a few years of small episodes here and there, which I always rationalized so well that each time I convinced myself that it was nothing worth going to the doctor for (oh how stupid!), the diagnosis made sense from a logic standpoint but it was nevertheless devastating.
As it happens to anyone that has heard life-changing news, I was going through a shock-stress reaction and a very standard Grief Cycle and, by the time Christmas arrived, I was going towards a certain phase 3 of that cycle. I always liked to do sports and knowing that it improves mood by experience, I decided to get on a stationary bicycle. Instead of the usual drum’n’bass tracks I go to, I decided to search for “multiple sclerosis” under podcasts on Spotify - and that’s how I found the OMS Podcast (an early Christmas gift I wasn’t yet aware of).
There are of course other MS related podcasts but somehow I was drawn to the “overcoming” word. The definition that came to my head was “succeed in dealing with”, not necessarily a fix or a cure - I prefer an honest premise. After listening to the first episode where Geoff talks with Professor Jelinek where the overall OMS Program is presented, I was hooked: I became a “serial listener” of the podcast and checked the website at the same time for more details on how and why. My change process was messy and I adopted the “changing little-by-little all over the place all at once” strategy. Not my usual strategy nor approach to changes but the recent diagnosis made it all quite messy, so was my adoption of the program.
The website is great, easy to navigate and search, with delicious recipes at hand that you can incorporate in your diet from day 1. I do however recommend the book as the depths of it are something noteworthy, especially with steps 4 and 7 - these were really necessary for me to prioritize every step equally and fully. I ordered and waited for the book for about 1 month but totally worth the wait.
Becoming an OMSer
My path in adopting the OMS Program was, well, messy as mentioned. I preferred getting rid of my old food stocks and changing the diet as quickly as possible. Regarding sports, I was doing once or twice a week sports but that wasn’t enough so I had to find the time and add a daily sports routine into my life. It was also through the podcast that I found the OMS Strava group, when Geoff interviewed Alex Tsirigotis - it was surely inspiring to hear Alex and a great surprise to see how active people are through the Strava OMS group. It does highlight another aspect of the program - the community spirit, which is present online too.
Taking a little help from a meditation app (personally using Medito), I’m not independent when it comes to meditation but I do feel the benefits of doing it regularly.
I do need more time and do more in adopting fully the OMS Program. To help me in that change, I keep a quote from Professor Jelinek quite present: Most people notice that they get better and better at change the more of it they do. Change does become easier to do the more you do of it.
OMS makes it clear that stress doesn’t have space in your life, so change is at every corner. Bearing in mind this, I decided to change jobs and leave an increasingly toxic job atmosphere, knowing very well that such major changes bring additional stress for which meditation and its different techniques can help coping with.
I definitely want to thank all the podcast team, with Geoff and Alex and Jack coming to mind right away. Without the podcast I’m not sure if or when I’d find out about the program, and definitely not so early on after the diagnosis.
Listening to the different podcast episodes really did help make the change and jumpstart my change in adopting the OMS program.
After all this, I’m still making those resolutions and plans for 2021 - and much much beyond that too! And I do look forward to an OMS Retreat once this pandemic is all done.
I think this shows the powerful effect of the OMS program, including in the short term.
Although a “MS newbie”, I’d say that listening to your body and not rationalizing every single symptomatic episode, no matter how small, is important to an early as possible diagnosis and consequent action that it requires.
At the time of writing, I’ve fully accepted the diagnosis - but I actively reject the old-fashion prognosis of such a condition. And this rejection comes from the evidence-based facts shown in the book and incorporated into the OMS Program - so a deep thank you to Professor Jelinek and everyone that publicizes and makes the OMS program freely available!
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