Tessa hasn't let MS deter her from acheiving amazing things, having authored several books and forge her path within the local community through her writing. Here, she shares her story from diagnosis to present day.
I wanted to tell my story to show others who may be just at the start of their multiple sclerosis (MS) journey that there are ways, even without disease modifying drugs (DMDs), to manage your symptoms, achieve your goals and lead a full and enjoyable life.
I’m seventy now and have lived with MS for almost 35 years. I was diagnosed with progressive MS shortly after the birth of my first child, at a time when there weren't any MS drugs available. As a new mother, I was determined that my daughter was not going to grow up to be a young carer, and that meant researching ways to help myself. I decided to see if there was any evidence that changing my diet might help, and I soon discovered there had been quite a few trials involving MS and food. I then consulted a doctor who also believed nutritional medicine could help MS, and I started to feel better.
In fact, I felt so much better that my husband accepted a temporary teaching post in Australia, and we moved to Tasmania for a year, where I had another child. It was whilst we were in Australia that I heard of a radical new theory about treating MS, which involved intensive exercise – specifically, weight training. Back in Britain, I added regular weight-training to my low fat, gluten-free and dairy-free diet, and my symptoms stabilised. Although I had some residual disability, I no longer worried that my symptoms might suddenly get worse.
I remained stable for thirteen years, during which I started writing regularly, and began an Open University degree. My book about nutritional therapy for MS, The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book, was published in 2007, and I’ve since published three children’s detective novels, The Eye Spy Series. I’m now working on a Young Adult (YA) novel.
I’m not the only person with MS who has found that it has brought pluses as well as minuses into my life. Being unable to carry on working full-time gave me the opportunity to try writing, which had always been an ambition of mine. Being a stay-at-home mum with MS was sometimes isolating and lonely, but writing has helped me to get involved with the local community and make new friends. And although my MS symptoms have progressed a bit during the last ten years (mostly sight and bladder problems), I’m still able to walk around the house, and only use a wheelchair outdoors.
I was extremely lucky in finding the right advice just when I needed it, but I think it also helps that I’m a glass-half-full person. I’ve always seen MS as a challenge to be overcome, and not an insurmountable obstacle. I just wish that medical training included more about the benefits of a healthy diet and the right sort of exercise, so that medical professionals could start handing out advice on these at the same time that they hand out DMDs. Knowing that you are doing something to help yourself is hugely empowering.
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