Rowan Baker-Smith

Rowan is making the best of life, after a diagnosis of MS rocked her world last year, just as she’d been promoted at work and married her wife Alex. She is now taking part in ultra walking challenges, trying new recipes, meditating regularly and is back at work as a nurse. She is currently planning a trip to travel the world!

Imagine...

2018 was a long year, when a lot happened in Rowan’s life. Newly married and aged just 26, she had just been promoted at the hospital she works at on the south coast of England. Her world came to a standstill when she was diagnosed with MS and became too ill to work. 

In July 2018 Rowan was concerned by a constant tingling sensation, vision problems, difficulties walking and chronic fatigue which left her too ill to work. She had numerous tests and was subsequently told by her neurologist that she had MS.

As a nurse, she has seen the debilitating medical effects of MS and was worried about the future. She researched online and found many positive examples of people controlling, managing and living with MS. Armed with a copy of George Jelinek’s book, Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis, she studied the evidence-based seven step recovery programme.

Hope…

With time and dedication, she has now been able to return to work full-time and is fulfilling her goal of upgrading her home.

"I’ve been humbled by the reaction of my support network when I have needed them. I’ve laughed and cried (a lot) but I started 2019 with optimism, health, hope and contentment.”

Rowan completed the 50km London-Brighton Challenge walk in May and is planning to walk the 100km South Coast Challenge next summer, raising money for MS charities. 

She combines long walks, 5km runs and cardio exercise with eating well. Rowan, already a near vegan, now follows the plant-based, wholefood OMS diet, and is really enjoying the healthy changes she has made part of her daily life. 

She believes that adopting the programme has made a noticeable difference and in just a couple of months, has significantly improved her fatigue. She enjoys cooking from scratch, trying new recipes, and posting them on Instagram. 

Equally important to Rowan is her spiritual development. Managing MS, on her terms, has shown her that she is able to help herself and remain positive. She attends a yoga class twice a week and gets lots of benefits from watching daily OMS online meditation videos. A mindfulness calendar, that has a prominent place in Rowan’s kitchen, serves as a good reminder to do some simple daily meditations. For example, while doing the washing up or preparing food.

Rowan feels lucky to have had such support from the NHS and her MS team.

"I wake up every morning grateful that I can now brush my teeth and walk downstairs. In July I couldn’t feed myself or brush my hair and couldn’t walk more than fifty metres, meaning that I had to use a wheelchair to get around. I also had Optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve) which caused changes to my vision.

"I had three relapses in six months putting me in a highly active category, but since adopting OMS I’ve not experienced any new symptoms - I have come such a long way in a short period of time.

"While others think that I have gone back to normal, nothing could be further from how I feel. Health is a privilege and I now respect my body more. Eating well, exercising, meditating, resting and challenging myself is a fine balance that will take years to master, but the journey has already given me so much insight.”

Rowan also believes that the charity OMS has helped to provide understanding, hope and has empowered her to take control of her condition. “It really has given me my life back, even with some improvements. The advice, forums and information provided by OMS have helped me to accept the condition with optimism, alongside the medication options available to me.”

For anyone coming to terms with a diagnosis of MS, Rowan would like to share her view that MS is not the condition it used to be. With huge medical advances in the last 20 years, and with the OMS programme, I wholly believe that there is a real possibility in stabilising disease progression and living well with MS.”

Rowan’s Instagram @Me_MSelf_and_I

Glossary: 

MS fatigue - one of the most common MS symptoms, it is an extreme form of tiredness, one which can be debilitating and overwhelming.

Vision problems - caused by MS can vary and can be caused by lack of coordination in the eye muscle or damage to the optic nerve. 

Optic neuritis - refers to inflammation that damages the optic nerve – a bundle of nerve fibres than transmit communication from the eye to the brain. It is commonly caused by MS. Optic neuritis is often one of the first signs of MS.

Tingling - Abnormal sensations of numbness, pins and needles and tingling are common in MS, and are part of a group of symptoms called paraesthesia.

Highly Active (HA) - used to describe disease activity, not ‘type’ of MS. There is no precise agreed definition but includes frequent relapses with incomplete recovery, and/or high increase in lesions on MRI, faster loss of function after onset.