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07 January 2013

Seeing MS in a different light

The science which ‘proves’ MS is currently incurable and progressively disabling, is also being used to ‘prove’ that it is not.

I witnessed a solar eclipse recently. I won’t claim that I saw it exactly, but I was definitely around while it was happening, and the men in my household were onto it right away.

My 12-year-old wandered up to me at 7am and said vaguely “Mum, there’s something funny with the light,” which I ignored, thinking it was a request for home maintenance – how many mums does it take to change a light bulb?

My husband, however, took his comment more seriously. “No, really, look at the light outside, it’s very strange.” And then I remembered the solar eclipse.

In my defence, it was also our youngest daughter’s birthday that day, and being eight years old does tend to eclipse everything. We watched from the verandah as the light, which had indeed gone funny, stayed that way for a while and then went back to normal again.

Living 100km north of Brisbane we didn’t get the full eclipse, just the edge of it really. Further north at the top end of Queensland the whole sky would have gone black, like it was night time.

People flooded in from all over the world to see it, booking out hotels for up to three years in advance, and holding street parties in the morning to celebrate the event. Back in the Dark Ages though, a total eclipse would have been terrifying.

Without understanding the science behind it this sudden, unexpected plunge into night time must have made ancient civilisations and cultures believe the world was about to end. It’s interesting.

Science has come so far in helping us understand the universe, our physical place in it, the natural laws within which it operates. But in some ways we are still living very much in the Dark Ages.

And sometimes the very science that has helped to explain so much of our world seems to work against our spiritual and emotional maturity. The more we know the less we understand.

And half the time we don’t even realise there’s a problem. Healing is a good case in point. Many of us who have embarked on a journey of overcoming multiple sclerosis (however far we are along it – and who’s to know anyway?) are likely to have encountered hostile, aggressive, sceptical or in some way negative reactions to our assertion that it is possible to recover from MS.

The textbooks, and therefore many of the neurologists who study them, say that ‘MS is an incurable, degenerative disease of the central nervous system’. My own attempts to prove them wrong have brought support from close friends and family, and from my GP, but scepticism from the MS specialist I choose to consult.

For the first two annual visits, which I pay for, we just about managed to make our conversations fall into the category of debate and discussion rather than open argument. I’m continuing the ‘discussion’ in the hope that my recovery might help to change his mind one day.

That day might come sooner than I think. Because the science that ‘proves’ that MS is currently incurable and progressively disabling, is also being used to ‘prove’ that it is not.

We have Professor Jelinek to thank for that. Firstly for providing the evidence-based recommendations that give us the blue print for healing MS, and secondly for following up those who are adopting it using well constructed research techniques.

The five-year results, published last year in the journal Neurological Sciences, show a 20% improvement in physical and mental health for people with MS.

A new study, Holism, looking at lifestyle factors in MS was also launched last year and will add to the statistical evidence. So how long will it all take? How long before the typical reaction to a diagnosis of MS is  ‘I’d better change my diet’ or ‘OK, perhaps it’s time for a holiday’?

Not that either of those two things is enough on its own, and perhaps that’s one of the problems. Yes, it is possible to overcome MS, but it is not easy. So I’m imagining the future. A neurologist’s office in Australia in 2028.  A young woman has just been diagnosed with MS. She has her whole life ahead of her; recently married, planning children, enjoying her career.

And as they sit there facing each other, the young woman and the neurologist, the sky outside suddenly turns black. It is the next total solar eclipse down under, the one that has been accurately predicted to occur in July of that year. Outside there will be parties in the street, and people will have travelled from all over the world to witness the event.

No longer living in the Dark Ages, this will be a day to celebrate. And what of healing? Will it have emerged from the Dark Ages too? Will the young woman with MS be given some hope and the tools to bring about her own recovery? Let’s hope so. Let’s hope that neurologists everywhere will have seen the light, even if it has gone a bit funny. Karen Law