2008 was the year that everything changed for me. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and it was one of the biggest shocks I have had in my life. I went home from my first neurology appointment with my head spinning. I couldn’t take it in. How could this be happening? Why don’t I feel unwell? Has the doctor made a mistake? What will I do now? What will happen next? Will I end up needing a wheelchair? All these thoughts and more were whizzing around in my head and I felt completely bewildered. I didn’t have a manual for this. There wasn’t a handy procedure that I could follow. I had to work it out for myself and in classic “Claire” fashion I decided that I would be absolutely fine and I could carry on with business as usual.
Fast forward 5 years……
Well that plan turned out not to be very well thought out or successful. The next 5 years were very difficult with serious relapses, long periods off work and a very bad reaction to the MS drug that I was taking. I finally had to accept that trying to balance working full time in an incredibly stressful job and coping with MS wasn’t working either for me or the company. I agreed with my boss that I would start working part time 3 days a week. I hoped this would mean that I could bring my MS under control and have fewer relapses. This was a decision that I found very hard to make , however, this was the only way that I was going to be able to continue in my job. For me the hardest thing to come to terms with after the diagnosis was feeling that I was losing control of both my body and my life. Working part time was a compromise I felt I had to make.
Having 4 days a week away from work gave me the chance to regain some of my energy and perspective about what was happening in my life. After thinking long and hard about it I realised that if I wanted to improve my health I had to make some serious changes to the way I was living. I finally realised that to make the changes I needed to I had to leave the company I was working for. We were all struggling with the changes that MS had made for me both personally and for my team. I decided the time was right to move back home to Scotland to be closer to my family and friends.
I had a lot of planning to do to make this happen and that started with putting my flat on the market. Property sales had been very sluggish in Kendal and I thought I would have about a year to make my plan. Incredibly the flat sold in 10 days. The ball was rolling and I had to get planning!
What I did next……
One of the frustrations of my job as a buyer was that I would have so many young companies trying hard to get an appointment with me to show me their products. There was a common theme with most of them – their ambition was far outreaching their capability to supply us successfully. This didn’t mean that their products weren’t good, more that they didn’t have the structure and correct pricing in place to work with such a large organisation. These were the companies that I loved to work with and I started to have the idea that if I was working freelance I could teach these companies how to get to the next level and supply larger organisations. I really wanted to help these companies to realise their dreams and push their businesses to the next level. I had nearly 20 years of experience as a buyer and I wanted to share what I had learned. I sounded out a few companies that I had good relationships with and took the plunge and started my consultancy business. I hoped that this would allow me continue doing the kind of work that I loved while helping inexperienced businesses to grow. The other benefit of this style of working was that I could spend a lot of time working from home and this allowed me to take better care of myself.
While I was building my consultancy business I was also starting to research how I could improve my health without taking any more MS drugs. Just before I had moved back to Scotland I had suffered from anaphylactic shock as a reaction to the MS drug I was taking at the time. This was an extremely frightening experience and as a result I was desperate to find alternative ways to manage my MS.
At this point I was making a big effort to get out to networking events to meet other business owners. I was invited to join a group who met in St Andrews who were teaching content marketing and social media, which at that time was a complete mystery to me! As part of a discussion at one of the nights I mentioned that I was looking at ways to improve my MS by making changes to my diet rather than taking the conventional drugs. I was recommended a local nutritional therapist, Sheila, by one of the group and I haven’t looked back since.
I had my first appointment with Sheila in June 2014 and it was an incredible experience. I was with her for nearly 3 hours and in that time I discovered that I was suffering from adrenal fatigue, leaky gut syndrome and of course MS. I was given a very long list of foods to avoid for 2 weeks and then a slightly shorter list of foods to eliminate for a further fortnight. At the end of this month I went back to be tested again and this then gave me the list of foods that I must always avoid. Since my first appointment with Sheila I have eliminated gluten, dairy, the nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, potatoes and chilli) coconut, soy and aspartame from my diet completely.
Over the next 6 months I saw Sheila regularly and we worked hard on improving my MS symptoms. I had managed to achieve my goal of improving my health to a level where I felt confident that I was managing my MS without any conventional intervention. I was determined for that to be the case for as long as possible. That was nearly 3 years ago and I am still managing my MS with dietary changes.
Why I feel that MS has saved my life…….
Back in 2008 when I was diagnosed I was scared of having MS. I woke up the morning after my diagnosis and I felt like someone had died. And then I realised that in a strange way it was me. Suddenly everything I thought I knew about myself had to be looked at again. None of my old patterns of behaviour and coping strategies were going to work for this. It took me a long time to start to get my head around this. Finally when I started my quest for answers about how to manage my MS without conventional drugs I discovered a completely different and wonderful way to live.
This journey back to health has been incredible for me. I finally understand that although there is no cure for MS we can walk on our own path and own the journey. I made a decision early on that MS wouldn’t beat me but I had no idea what that would mean or what it would look like.
Do you have a story that you would like to share about how you have made radical changes in your life to support your health or the health of your family? If you do I would love to hear from you. I find it incredibly motivating to read inspiring personal journeys and I hope that you will feel comfortable sharing your story with me.