Dr. Jonathan White, 35, works at the Causeway Hospital, Coleraine and is a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (MRCOG).
He was diagnosed with Relapse Remitting Multiple Sclerosis in 2015 and has been following the Overcoming MS programme ever since.
Jonathan lives on the north coast of Northern Ireland, is married to Jenny and is father to a lively toddler. He trained at the University of Glasgow Medical School, graduating in 2008 and has since been practising in his home country.
He has raised funds for the OMS charity through 10 km and half-marathon runs and also assists OMS as a medical advisor and event facilitator.
Jonathan’s symptoms came completely out of the blue. He was working at a busy antenatal clinic in June 2015 when he noticed what felt like bruising in his left eye. He said it felt like he had been punched.
He went to the opticians who suggested a change of contact lenses and he carried on with his busy life, with a nagging feeling of uncertainty.
The second symptoms appeared soon after at a friend’s wedding when it felt like he had multiple mobile phones buzzing in his pockets, and “lightning” down his legs. Having medical insight, he suspected MS straight away and went off to A&E. He was referred for a MRI scan that confirmed he had lesions in his brain and spinal cord. He was told to take medication, that there was nothing he could do to change it, and to get on with his life.
As a doctor, he wanted to know what he could do to help himself, so he looked for research-based information online and quickly found Professor George Jelinek’s book on Amazon. He devoured the contents in 72 hours and knew it made complete sense and was the course of action he was going to take.
Jonathan gave up dairy and meat overnight, which he didn’t find difficult as he had suffered from severe migraines as a teenager and avoiding certain foods like cheese had previously helped. Despite being a doctor, he was not living the healthiest of lifestyles, eating food that is highly processed, high in fat and convenient, largely due to a lack of time. He lost over two and a half stones after switching to a wholefood, plant-based diet with seafood.
In addition, working in the NHS, his job was highly pressurised, and physically and emotionally demanding. He found adopting OMS’s stress reduction advice the most challenging part of the programme, but he has grown to love meditation and finds he really feels it if he misses a day. “It’s so important to look after yourself in these situations, and there is much more awareness now about mindfulness at work.”
Jonathan made a conscious decision to scale back the pressures in his life. He and his family chose to leave the busy city life and move to the countryside. He continues to work for the NHS, but with no on-call or night shifts, and in a new role that affords him the time and space to feel that he really makes a difference to his patients. He now also has much more time to spend with his family each week.
Living well with MS
“My life is more balanced now, simpler and liberating. I am four years into my journey, but in many ways it still feels like the beginning. I feel fitter now and have more energy and passion for life.”
Exercise has also played an important role in Jonathan’s wellness. As a keen cyclist at University, his MS initially resulted in problems with balance so he took up running as an alternative. He has completed a 10K run and half marathon, raising money for OMS along the way. Never that keen on running, he has now re-discovered his love of cycling and enjoys rides in his beloved Northern Ireland. A sporting challenge he would love to achieve is to cycle the length of the island. Maybe next year!
“I think I am a better doctor now than before my MS diagnosis. I’ve slowed down, I really listen to people and give them more care and attention not just the bare minimum available in the allotted time. I find my job even more satisfying and rewarding.”
Having MS has also rekindled his interest and his skills in researching medical evidence. He chose to be open about his diagnosis, he didn’t want to carry the burden of not sharing which has resulted in him finding a great kinship within the OMS community.
“I still have some bad days but I now recognise triggers when I’m stressed and tired. I know I can overcome these and overall, I think I live really well with my MS.”
Jonathan White, Northern Ireland, 35
- Relapse-remitting MS (RRMS) - A type of MS where there are periods of remission and recovery punctuated by attacks (relapses). RRMS is a misnomer, as damage continues between attacks during periods of so-called remission, unless the disease is stabilized.
Professor George Jelinek - a medical doctor who was diagnosed with MS and developed the OMS 7-Step Recovery Programme. His work is based entirely on clinical evidence and is independent from pharmaceutical and other company funding.