“On the road to change, be willing to contribute time and dedication. Practice good behaviors that move you forward, and do it repeatedly.”
My life changed forever in the summer of 2004. I was sitting in a sterile hospital office when the head of neurology said, “Mrs. McAlary, you have multiple sclerosis (MS). You need to prepare to spend your life in a wheelchair.” I was admitted to the hospital for five days of intravenous prednisone in hopes of regaining some of the feeling in my body. After three months trying to tolerate the side effects of severe nausea and fatigue, I decided to discontinue the outpatient treatment.
The following three years were filled with severe neuropathy, trigeminal neuralgia – a chronic condition affecting the nerve that carries sensation from your face to your brain where even brushing my teeth was excruciatingly painful – muscle spasms, restless leg syndrome, insomnia and depression. To help combat these maladies, I was prescribed 18 prescription medications daily. My condition continued to decline. I was at the end of my rope.
But another change began in the summer of 2007, when I noticed that butterflies were constantly around me, landing on my shoulders as if trying to send me a message. One day as I was attempting to take a short walk down my street, I noticed a butterfly at my feet. It had one broken wing and was gently moving the other.
I identified with that butterfly. I, too, was struggling to move and survive. I picked it up, cradling it in my hand and set it onto the grass. I prayed that it would be okay.
I recognized the need for transformation
When I returned home, I looked up the symbolism of the butterfly and discovered it is transformation. The message I was hearing was the need to transform my life and my health.
I recognized and activated my own path for transformation
I applied and was accepted into the Holistic Health Coaching Program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City in the fall of 2007. I decided that I would pursue a holistic approach to treat my MS. My personal transformation had begun because of an active decision I made.
I identified and followed steps to complete my transformational path
- I learned how to listen to my body and provide it with the proper foods. I kept a food diary, and it helped me understand which foods were the most beneficial to my body and its individual needs.
- I chose organic whole foods. I wanted to know that my body was getting the finest fuel to aid it in fighting off disease and improving its ability to heal.
- I worked to eliminate all processed foods, preservatives, additives and sugar – definitely not the proper fuel for a healthy body.
- I added healthy greens and grains. Greens are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E and K. They are loaded with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll, and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals. Whole grains are an excellent source of nutrition, containing essential enzymes, iron, dietary fiber, Vitamin E and Vitamin B-complex. Eating greens and grains has been shown to support sustained energy, blood purification, improved circulation, cancer prevention and strengthen the immune system.
- I increased my water intake. I found drinking more water was one of the most beneficial additions to my diet. It helped rid my body of toxins, give me more energy and improve my overall wellbeing. It also made a significant difference in my skin tone, hair and nails.
- I also started practicing meditation to relieve stress, which I believe causes the breakdown of the adrenal system. Physical and psychological stresses have been linked to the development of autoimmune disease, including MS, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and inflammatory bowel disease, according to a study in Autoimmunity Reviews. People with MS who have a mindfulness practice are also better able to respond to stress, and more likely to use positive strategies to cope, such as seeking out social support and information gathering, according to the Mayo Clinic.
As I changed my diet and stress levels, my symptoms began to disappear. Since April 1, 2008, I have been medication free. Today, I feel great and have now been diagnosed with benign MS. While my doctor will not claim that my healthy lifestyle cured my MS, he does affirm that it certainly provided benefits to the course of my disease – and continues to do so. My journey to wellness is one that I will pursue for my lifetime.