Recently, I have had the privilege of connecting with an extraordinary lady with MS. Kelly has had MS for twenty-four years and has remained virtually symptom-free just through changing her lifestyle. She has never taken any disease modifying drugs. Kelly is living proof that MS progression can be halted through food and lifestyle measures. She has walked the walk and has so many years of experience treating MS completely naturally. She shares her wisdom with us in this incredible, comprehensive interview. I think you'll find her story inspiring and so encouraging for your own journey to healing.
Interview with Kelly
Tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live.
Not surprisingly, I’m a girl from Calgary in Canada. Alberta has a really high incidence rate of MS compared to international statistics. It’s not unusual for a fellow Albertan to have the disease. What’s unusual is the path I’ve taken with MS and the results I’ve experienced.
The road I took allowed me a family, work, sport and a rich volunteer life. My husband and I are proud parents to two nineteen year olds. And following (15 months behind) in their footsteps is our youngest who will be 18 early in the new year. I started my career in banking and brokerage and moved out to managing the automation of stock exchanges in developing countries. I continued to work throughout my family’s younger years on a part time and flexible schedule. I then stayed at home to raise our busy family. And for the past ten years or so I’ve been consulting and volunteering time with organizations, committees, and boards.
When were you diagnosed with MS and what were your first symptoms?
Odds are pretty good I had small noticeable symptoms back to 1991. Hindsight presents a lot of information with MS. In 1994 when I was 24 (half the age I am now) I was cycling to work daily and running 10k or exercising after work before cycling back home. I began to get a strange headache behind my eye and, ironically, the exercise was making it feel better. Once my doctor ruled out a sinus infection and I lost the inside vision in that same eye I was referred on for testing and received an Optic Neuritis diagnosis. At that same time I was “ enjoying” tingling in my legs any time there was heat. When you’re just starting out in the world it was definitely a shock and quite scary.
I attribute getting over my fear and moving forward to my doctor’s wisdom and open mindedness. He didn’t immediately order an MRI. Instead he informed me Optic Neuritis, a very high percentage of the time, leads to an MS diagnosis. He helped me to understand that if I had the disease it can present in many ways and we’d see what it had in store for me. He didn’t refer me to the ms clinic. Instead I was able to research positive experiences and diet and lifestyle options. He didn’t refer me to a neurologist or prescribe any pharmaceutical treatments for MS. Instead he supported my decision to see what was ahead and what would work for me. He is still my doctor today,
Have you seen much progression in the time you’ve had MS?
In 2002 I went in for my MRI and sure enough there was a definitive diagnosis. I had a follow up MRI in 2006 and my test results remained the same. The only relapse I experienced was in 2005. I was sick with a cold when I had my annual flu shot. Immediately following I experienced the temporary loss of the full use of my left hand and foot drop in my left, restless leg syndrome and dysthesia in my leg and back. In several months everything returned to normal. There are some days now where I experience a slight tingling in my left hand and a bit of the dysthesia in my right foot. Other than that I have no other symptoms. Very few people are aware I have MS and they are always surprised to find out. In fact there are times when they’ll dispute I have it.
What have you done to keep yourself well with your MS?
I use the word luck a lot when I talk about MS. Twenty-four years ago I was lucky to have found the SWANK diet book and immediately improved all of my eating habits. I was lucky to be lactose intolerant as a child so had pretty much removed dairy from my diet (Leaky Gut Syndrome is implicated in MS). I was lucky to live in a city that Ashton Embry (Direct-MS) lives in at the same time his son was diagnosed and he began his research into diet and health (Direct MSand MS Hope). Two of my children are celiac and I tested positive for the celiac markers - we all eat gluten free.
I’m lucky to be able to afford to work part time and not over-stress myself.
Instead of thinking about treating MS symptoms I always think about what I can do in my life to keep my brain healthy. This includes taking omega 3’s, vitamin D, a multi vitamin, and a probiotic. I practice flow yoga, restorative yoga and meditation. On an ongoing basis I follow an all natural diet (similar to the MS Diet for Women). I remove items that my body reacts to (IGG test). There are times I’ve cut out alcohol completely. But I do enjoy a glass of red wine occasionally. And I have a weakness for 88% dark chocolate. Sleep is a big part of my routine and I work hard to at least get eight hours a night. Now that may kids are older this is much easier. I use all natural cleaning products in my home. I had all of the mercury fillings from my teeth replaced (yep I just dated myself). I exercise daily or at the very least get in a walk with the dog.
I haven’t undergone CCSVI but I believe it has been helpful for people who are candidates. My ultrasound didn’t indicate any collapsed veins. I haven’t been on a medical protocol so I’m again lucky enough to know all of my efforts have had an impact on my overall health. I wonder if I’m healthier now then I would have been had I not have had MS in my life. Isn’t that just crazy?
Have you ever taken medication?
Once for restless leg syndrome, I took Lyrica for two weeks. My husband appreciated this because it was keeping him up at night :).
How important is staying active to managing MS?
It’s incredibly important. I would say it’s as important as the diet. The original books I read always stated exercise and activity was allowed but only moderately and never to fatigue. When I first returned to activity it was just that and I was tentative. Originally it was just meditation, restorative yoga and swimming. Gradually I would test these boundaries and I began to understand activity was improving my health. Now I run 5ks and not 10ks whenever the mood strikes. In the summer (short in Calgary) I walk the golf course for four hours a couple of times a week while trying to improve my game. I lift free weights and work out to gain muscle. Yoga is now Ashtanga flow two times a week. I’ve done P90X and other video programs with success. Climbing with my daughter once a week (on the wall) keeps me active and connected to my family. In the winter I try to get out to downhill ski every couple of weeks. I only took this up about ten years ago when my kids first learned. And I always dance in my kitchen and at concerts without any concern for my “mom dancing” skills. Every time I do anything I feel gratitude, in the moment, knowing I am lucky. There’s that word again.
What advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed with MS?
I’ve been asked to meet up and have coffee with folks who have recently received their diagnosis. The conversations usually go the same way. They ask me what I’ve been doing to stay healthy and they listen attentively. They then let me know they have seen a neurologist and have been put on a pharmaceutical protocol or even a clinical trial. And it’s definitely not my place to contradict any medical advice. What I do know is there is no pharmaceutical treatment that halts the progression of MS. And the conversation usually ends with them being sceptical that diet and activity can make a dent in managing the disease.
My advice is to give yourself a moment. There is an overwhelming need to understand why you have the disease and how to fix things right away. And sometimes these answers never arrive. But you can be actively involved in the management of your MS. Make the changes in your lifestyle, where you can, and see if your diet or lifestyle is improving your health. Have a look at the research and understand we haven’t found a cure yet but know where we are seeing positive results. Accept help where it is offered. It’s really hard to do this. Take the time to rest if it’s available to you. Join a group like Patients Like Me
. On sites like this you can benefit from chatting with people with MS who may be following the same path as use, have the same symptoms, or take the same medications. And read positive stories about individuals experiencing success. Everyone’s road is different but it’s also good to know it doesn’t have to be what you’ve imagined it is.