My mom walks into my house carrying a counter-height chair. “I know you’ve been having trouble standing to chop veggies and cook, so I got you this at IKEA.” Wow, what an amazing gift: the chair and accompanying relief I get from imagining prepping meals seated.
A few months earlier, we had been on a Baltic cruise together, my mom, dad, husband and I, when I lost the vision in my right eye. I spent the entire vacation seeing only through my left eye and figuring I had months to live because I obviously had a deadly brain tumor causing my vision loss. I’m a happy, lighthearted person though, so I laughed and made a lot of jokes through the fear. My mother was not amused.
After coming back home to the states, it took a few months and a few traumatic doctors’ appointments to discover I had MS. I can’t describe the mix of fear and relief that came with my diagnosis. Relief because I finally knew what I was dealing with and could formulate a plan to combat it, and insane fear of the unknowns that come with that diagnosis. The first thing I did was Google what I could do, diet-wise, to help my situation. I landed on the MS Society’s webpage which said to stick to low-fat dairy and chicken in an effort to reduce saturated fat consumption.
The weekend following my diagnosis, we were visiting good friends, Allie and Ricky, and Allie handed me a book she bought for me, The Overcoming MS Cookbook. On our drive home I immediately read all the front matter and learned that animal products and oils were very harmful for my brain disease, and I quit them on the spot. Then, I bought Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis and read it cover to cover.
To say I felt comforted and empowered is an understatement. There was still a lot of confusion in my life, but I had the power to heal and to affect the outcome of my long-term health.
So, I decided to change my entire world at the drop of the hat, and the path that I chose was a lot of work. My expertise in cooking was capped at opening a Kraft Mac N Cheese box. Learning to cook came with a steep learning curve, and the intense fatigue I was experiencing did not help matters. Thus the chair. The magical chair that meant I could conserve what little energy I had so I could chop and mince and mix and all the other things that come with cooking whole-food plant-based (WFPB) diets.
After reading Overcoming MS, I also realized the importance of finding some sort of exercise I could do, and maybe even enjoy. Over several months, I tried a stationary bike (I was lucky if I could clock 5 minutes on it), exercise classes at the gym, water aerobics, exercise apps, until I finally found my jam. I had been watching my friend Ashley working out on social media and joined her virtual workout crew, The Fearless Squad. The name resonated with me immediately and I realize now that I started manifesting my fearless self the minute I joined the squad. We all worked out in our living rooms and posted our sweaty selfies after. I LOVED the workouts and started feeling kind of awesome and really strong within the first couple of weeks, with my energy and confidence increasing steadily. Four years later, I’m still doing the online workouts and loving both them and the incredible group accountability and support.
Making a big decision
In early 2020, I was feeling so good that I wanted to accomplish something BIG to celebrate the way I was feeling. What better way to do that than to run a marathon?! Did it matter that I hadn’t seriously run since high school 15 years ago? Nope! The confidence I had gained from the Fearless Squad told me I could do anything I put my mind to. So, I signed up for one in 2020, which subsequently got cancelled because of COVID, and the same thing happened in 2021. But FINALLY, in 2022, I got to achieve my goal!! I ran my first marathon on February 20th, 2022. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, and it was absolutely amazing.
So, here’s the big deal… 4 years ago, I didn’t have the energy to stand to cook my dinner, and now – I just ran a freaking marathon!
My healing journey has been filled with tears, laughs, fears, hope, and a ton of hard work. And I would trade a second of it for a different life.