This year was full of surprises. Not the type that I was expecting. At all. As I mentioned in my “When Things Fall Apart” post, the traffic on this website, Elana’s Pantry, skyrocketed to over 900,000 unique monthly visitors, which was a good thing. Unfortunately, I had not scaled the site for such a high volume of traffic and so it crashed. And crashed. And crashed. Which was not a good thing.
I did not handle the stress well at all, taking it into my body, and by May of 2014 I experienced the first MS attack since the one that occurred in 2006 when I was diagnosed with this disease. I don’t often discuss living with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, as it is something I make an effort not to think about. This keeps my nervous system calm, and I’m happier, which is healthier for myself and my family.
Living with a major condition like MS is far different than dealing with a digestive disorder such as celiac disease. An autoimmune disease of the digestive system is incredibly damaging, an autoimmune disease of the brain and central nervous system (CNS) is something else altogether that can affect the function of each and every part of the body. Many things broke this spring, and I spent time in hand therapy, pelvic floor therapy, and vision therapy, all on top of my regular physical therapy.
Generally, my family and I grieve over these types of tiny tragedies privately. We have processed this all year long as a family in various ways –sometimes through discussion and at other times silently. I did not write about this MS attack sooner as I wanted to give my family time to grieve, feel their own fears, and process this situation. I also felt the need to digest this experience prior to sharing it. This strange and complicated event took me a long time to sort though. I still am parsing it and making meaning from it. Now, strangely, I am stronger. Perhaps not emotionally. I’m still scared, and just a tad traumatized. I had compartmentalized the MS into the year 2006, the year of my diagnosis. This year, somehow the genie was let out of the bottle. That is frightening. However, I am stronger physically. I can walk farther and my core is stronger. I am more flexible. I am healing. I am living and breathing and thankful. Interestingly, my faith is stronger too. Prayer has been my pillar in these times. So often we think of prayer as asking for what we want. My prayers this year have been of gratitude for everything I have, this acceptance too has made me stronger.
Of course, my healing plan has been more critical than ever. I’ve made sure to get extra rest. I cut carbs out of my diet –no more cookies or fruit (ok, blueberries once in a while). Lots more fat, vegetables, and protein! My blood work is better than ever. The doctors are amazed. The drugs I took helped me. And yes, I took drugs. When you face the choice of going the medical route or ending up in a wheelchair the decision is a simple one. If you are uneasy with my choice that’s ok, sometimes I am too. I wish I could tell you that my diet saved my life. It didn’t. Unfortunately, my life isn’t that linear. It took a lot to get me sick, and it has taken a lot for me to get well. Life is complex. At least my life, with MS is.
Healing has so many different forms for me –an amazingly clean diet, loads of sleep (8 hours per night minimum), various forms of physical therapy, prayer, and drugs. And when it comes to drugs, I can tell you, try everything you can before taking them, but do not resist them entirely. Not because it makes you more “successful” in your healing process, but because the drugs you take will work much better and you will need to take much less of them, and have far fewer side effects resulting in less quality of life issues. And when you take drugs, take them with love and a prayer. If your body is open to them and the healing they provide, their positive effects will work more deeply. Your blessing, buy-in, positive thinking, and openness are everything no matter which remedy, or remedies you choose. Sleep, exercise, food, or drugs –whatever you choose to do, do it with love!
Free exclusive eBook, plus recipes and health tips, delivered to your inbox.
Although I cancelled many activities that had been scheduled this year in order to take the time I needed to heal, I did keep one crucial commitment –a trip to Spain with our children. Part of the issue with being a parent and having a major health condition is showing up. You and your family will deal with a life of surprises and inconsistency. When dealing with a major, chronic illness, you can’t always be there, you can’t make it to every school play and activity. Being sick can make you unreliable. Some children adapt to this very well, others not so much. For my children, who have grown up with me in compromised health throughout their entire lives, I felt that taking a two week family trip was very important, something we hadn’t done before. We were all somewhat nervous about my taking the trip. Thankfully, with some very smart planning (a less than fast paced vacation) the trip turned out ok.
The photo above was taken of us in Barcelona at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church. So much of my healing comes from my faith. Mosques, temples, churches and other holy places of prayer are imbued with a special energy that I find inexplicably beautiful and healing. We spent much time in these types of places while in Spain.
I guess the biggest lesson I learned in 2014 was to take care of myself and do so with a gentle patience and loving kindness. I’m hoping that 2015 is a little easier, perhaps even a little smoother, but with my faith stronger than ever, I’m ready to face whatever comes my way.
Hello Elana, I came across to your website, and really enjoyed with your ideas about cooking and baking (you are kind of my style), But I am sorry to hear about your disease. I guess everyone has something has to go through in this temporary life. But you know what, everything becomes easy when we walk with Jesus. With him, no fear (the ugly feeling we get all the time), so much peace and happiness. Sometime problems brings us closer to LORD . I will pray for you. There is nothing impossible with GOD. Good luck. Melania
Marilyn Flynn says
Pam Bartha is having a webinar Wednesday evening on How To Live Disease Free in 2015. She has beaten MS for the past 25 years without the use of MS drugs. You might be able to register by going to http://becomeawellnesschampion/diseasefree. I don’t know how to forward her email to this site. For your information.
For everyone but especially those with MS, TED video – http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxIowaCity-Dr-Terry-Wahls-Min
I have felt like a failure because the doctor finally put me on medicine last year for my fibro, eczema and thyroid issues. In 2011, I was originally diagnosed with MS, and began to follow the paleo diet. At that time, I was determined not to take medicine, and that my paleo diet would help be a cure-all for my illness. In 2013, it was finally agreed by my primary care doctor, my neruo and my rheumo doctors that I had Fibro instead of MS. My doctors tried to convince me to take medicine, especially to help with pain and foggy memory, which was becoming very apparent to my family and friends. I repeatedly refused the medicine. In November 2014, I finally relented, and I am now taking two medicines, and it has significantly improved my “fogginess” and my memory, and thus helped my performance at work (paralegal).
To read your honest reflections sincerely makes me feel better about my decision to start taking medicine Elana. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story, and as always, I look forward to your future posts.
Elaine Acierno says
Hello Elana, what a wonderful inspiring post. I too suffer from several autoimmune diseases and am on the GAPS protocol. It has changed my life. With autoimmune diseases you have to heal your gut where your immune is at 75% there. It heals you from the inside out. One day hopefully I wont need my meds. That would be awesome!!!
Sara Just says
Hello Elana – glad to hear you are feeling better after a difficult year. Sending you all best wishes,Sara
barbara tobar says
i love your story and i am moved by it..i do not have ms but i was hit by a car crossing the street december 27 2014..it has made many changes for me but has slowed for me what was always a very fast paced life…so for me back to work able to walk better but will never be perfect i have choosen to take care of me …i need so bad to lose weight and have major dairy issues these i never had before…so im planning paleo and trying to incorporate it into my life…thank you for so many helpful ideas and receipes..i have your meal cookbook and will get the other 2 this year..a very blessed 2015 for you
Renee Rowe says
You are a true inspiration to so many. Your bravery, honesty, and commitment to sharing your best recipes have made a huge difference in my life. I offer gratitude daily for the contact through the web with wonderful people like you. Know that you are making a difference. Take good care of yourself. May you be blessed with improving health and joy.
Your story is an encouragement to the rest of us with our physical problems. Sometimes you feel like you’re alone – an odd duck – but there are many of us sufferers out there and it’s very helpful to hear how people manage their challenges (like no carbs for you). I have autoimmune problems too, and deal with pain. Please keep us informed about what kinds of things help you – they may be a huge help to the rest of us (like using LDN! etc). I don’t want to take meds either, but am so grateful we have access to things that can help us keep going. In my prayers I’ve “reminded” the Lord that He knows what I have to do around this house and so on – it’s a blessing to have a good diet and meds when needed.
Thank you for sharing your story Elana! My 17 year old daughter was diagnosed with MS three years ago and I couldn’t agree more with your philosophy about taking care of yourself and giving your body the best shot it can have with a clean diet, rest, reduced stress and taking medication if that’s what works for you. Thank you again for being an inspiration!