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S2E6 Coffee break with community member Maisie Markham

Listen to S2E6: Coffee break with community member Maisie Markham

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Welcome to our first Living Well with MS Coffee Break episode! We decided to do something a little different in expanding the range of content we produce here at Living Well with MS. Since our community forms the beating heart of Overcoming MS, we are commencing this special series called Coffee Break, which features short interviews with members of the OMS community talking about their personal journeys adopting and staying on the OMS 7 Step Recovery Program, the challenges they encountered and how they overcame them, and their tips and tricks for sticking to the path that leads to better health. We hope you enjoy and learn from these intermezzos between our regular episodes, and as always, your comments and suggestions are always welcome by emailing [email protected].


Episode transcript

Geoff Allix  00:02 

Welcome to Living Well with MS Coffee Break. I’m your host, Geoff Allix, we have decided to do something a little different in expanding the range of content we produce here at Living Well with MS. Since our community forms the beating heart of Overcoming MS, we are commencing this special series called Coffee Break, which features short interviews with members of the OMS community, talking about their personal journeys, adopting and staying on the OMS seven step recovery program, the challenges they encountered, and how they overcame them, and their tips and tricks for sticking to the path that leads to better health. We hope you enjoy and learn from these brief chats between our regular episodes and as always, your comments and suggestions are welcome by emailing [email protected] that’s [email protected]. And don’t forget, if you enjoy these and other Living Well with MS podcast episodes, please leave a review on Apple podcasts or your favourite podcast listening platform. So welcome to Living Well with MS Coffee Break, Masie Markham. To start off with can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, your life, where you live and anything about yourself that you’d like to share with us? 


Maisie Markham  01:17 

Oh, yes and thank you very much for inviting me. I’m a retired Army officer, I left the army two years ago after 38 years of service, currently living in the Cotswolds. I didn’t know where to settle once I retired after being on move for so long and moving every two years. But at the moment I’m in the Cotswolds. I have two grown up children, who both live in Edinburgh at the moment. I’m currently studying at Worcester University, a course in Nutritional Therapy. So on leaving the army, I didn’t quite know what to do. So i’m very interested in nutrition because of the MS and went off to university for two years. Just about to finish that course in the summer. I was diagnosed with MS in 2016, this was whilst I was still in the army, fairly busy, stressful job. And at the time, I was training for the Berlin marathon and I put the numbness in my feet down to the fact that I was pounding the streets, but it turned out obviously it was a bit more serious than that. 


Geoff Allix  02:22 

So how long have you been following the OMS seven step recovery program? 


Maisie Markham  02:27 

Well I discovered OMS last January, so just over a year and that was whilst I was studying Nutritional Therapy, I was doing some research and all of a sudden I came across OMS. I’d seen some other studies before like Swank, and I looked at the Wahls; minding my mitochondria. So I was aware of some of the dietary changes and just through research, through the course I found OMS. And I think that sort of changed my path completely really, I was already adopting some of the lifestyle and nutritional steps anyway, but I also then started to look at meditation as well. And the biggest thing for me was going on one of the retreats. So last July, I went on the Ammerdown retreat, which was amazing, and where I met some wonderful people, and we’re all in it together was the key takeaway from that. And they’re now really good friends. 


Geoff Allix  03:34 

And so what’s your favorite thing about the program and the things that you feel that made the biggest changes for your MS in your life? 


Maisie Markham  03:44 

I think with OMS, it’s knowing that the support is out there. And knowing as I said, you know that you’re not alone, there are other people with this, and it’s a positivity of it, because when I was doing research, I looked at some of the other MS charities and I just feel that OMS is far more positive and gives you that positivity to move forward with this. And that you can have an impact and change your life through your lifestyle choices. The nutrition, exercise, and I was largely doing that anyway, but it was just that encouragement to do it and see the benefits in doing it. And the powerful thing with the retreat was was you know, the fact that all the facilitators there had MS as well. And the fact that everyone was was living well with MS. 


Geoff Allix  04:34 

Have you had any challenges? I mean, you say you were sort of largely there anyway, but have some of the things been challenging to adopt? 


Maisie Markham  04:44 

Meditation, I found the hardest. I just wasn’t used to doing it and obviously being on the retreat with that week of doing it, it collectively, but coming back from that I had every good intention to do it every day, but didn’t manage to do it every day. And I wasn’t alone, I kept in touch with the other people on my retreat and in January, we actually got together a small group of us and had a weekend, where we had our own mini retreat, to concentrate on the meditation because we were all struggling a bit with it. And since then, it’s been a bit hit and miss. But this last few weeks have, you know, one of the advantages of being stuck at home is, it’s something I can do now, and I’m doing it every day. So it was a challenge, but I’m hoping to get over that challenge. 


Geoff Allix  05:40 

I think that’s the single hardest thing for anyone actually to, it’s quite straightforward to say, well, I eat this, so that’s the rules, I follow these rules. And I always eat that but to to add something into your lifestyle that you don’t normally do. And it’s an easy one to think, Oh, it doesn’t matter too much. I just missed that. I think I personally do. I think most people find meditation, the one that slips a bit. 


Maisie Markham  06:06 

The other difficulty is encouraging my children to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. Obviously, they’ve grown up living their own lives. So I send them Vitamin D and the linseed oils and, you know, they say, why are you sending me this, I haven’t got a cricket bat anymore came with the comment from my son, it’s not your cricket bat, it’s for taking every day. So it’s that, trying to encourage the children that they do need to be a bit more conscious, I don’t want to worry them too much that you know this, this is something that might affect them, but just to have that sort of understanding that the lifestyle choices they can make and prevent them from getting it. 


Geoff Allix  06:49 

Yeah, i’m the same with my kids. It’s just saying you’re just, the risks are low, I don’t want to scare them, the risks are low, whatever it’s not, it’s not something you’re necessarily going to get because I’ve got it. However, you can reduce the odds very dramatically by just doing some simple changes. It doesn’t need to be 100% what I’m doing but just some simple thing and then you can really reduce the statistical odds of you getting MS. So fairly on board, my daughter much better than my son. So work in progress. So with the current situation we’re going through, have you had to adapt in any way because of the Coronavirus; COVID 19 pandemic? 


Maisie Markham  07:38 

Yes, I have. I’m I’m cocooned in the Cotswolds because while I’m at home all day, every day on my own, and because of the disease modifying therapy I’m on, it’s suppressing my immune system, so I’ve been told by my MS team to stay at home. Obviously everyone is as well, but but that makes going out for shopping slightly tricky when I’m home alone. But thankfully, I am still managing to go out walking and running. So I do a walk with the dogs and then follow that with a run straight after. And because I’m quite rural, I don’t see very many people anywhere do keep their distance. So it’s that adjusting to being at home alone and you know, in the evenings, I find it harder, but that’s where you know, friendships come in, and you’ve got groups that you chat to. So from that point of view, it’s fine. 


Geoff Allix  08:36 

Okay, just finally, is there any other tips or tricks you’d like to share with everyone? 


Maisie Markham  08:42 

I mean, staying positive. I mean, it’s difficult times at the moment. But it is very important to stay positive and just take each day as it comes really, and appreciate the small things in life. I go out for a nice walk on a beautiful spring day and just appreciate what we have got. And you know, life will come back to normal fairly soon. I’m pretty sure of it. 


Geoff Allix  09:02 

Yeah, I think I read somewhere it may have been Johnny White actually saying that actually, we’ve got the tools to actually cope with this situation better than many because of having to deal with MS. And because of actually being mindful and actually there’s a lot of the tools that we use day to day that actually help us with the COVID-19 situation. So with that, I’d like to thank you very much for joining us for the first MS Coffee Break. And yeah, thank you for being our guest Masie Markham. 


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Maisie's bio:

Maisie lives in the Cotswolds of England where she settled in 2018 after travelling the world and being constantly on the move with the British Army. She has two grown children. In 2016, while training for the Berlin marathon, she noticed numbness in her feet, initially thinking it was due to the stress of marathon prep. The numbness continued to spread and caused her difficulty in walking. Running was out of the question.

Six months later, after medical referrals and testing, she was diagnosed with MS. Since then, Maisie has left the Army, discovered OMS and is just about to finish an MSc in Nutritional Therapy. She is back to running and last year completed the London and Snowdonia marathons and took part in the Thames Path Challenge for OMS. She is currently cocooned in the Cotswolds due to COVID-19 and the immune suppressing drugs she is taking for her MS.