We’ve interviewed many different people, with a number of different stories, on this blog. We’ve interviewed people with Ulcerative Colitis, Hashimotos, and Raynaud’s Syndrome. We’ve witnessed people lose two hundred pounds in one year and reverse years of joint pain, IBS, and inflammation.
Each time we interview someone we believe it’s the most inspirational story we’ve ever heard, and no other story could possibly top it.
Then we get a story like this one.
V of PaleoBoss Lady was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in her twenties. She was bedridden and suffered from paralysis on parts of her body for years, until she started following the Wahl’s Protocol—a modified version of Paleo. Now in her fifties, she has dedicated herself to the community and is traveling across the country teaching people about whole-foods living. Four years ago, she could only drive five miles a week, and today her talks have led her to fourteen states and over fifty events. Keep reading to hear her incredible story toward healing. –Kara
This is Part 1 of a 2 part series. Check back tomorrow to hear the rest of V’s story!
Let’s start from the beginning. When were you diagnosed with MS?
I was 23 when I was diagnosed. When I look back on my childhood, I always had health problems. I was always a happy, smiling person, but weird stuff kept happening. I couldn’t walk up steps, I had problems carrying books, I had IBS; but doctors couldn’t figure out what it was. By 17, I was loosing my voice and went to speech pathology.
I married very young, to a neighbor of our family. Six weeks after I got married, I woke up and had lost feeling in the left side of my body. I was into aerobics at the time, and thought I pulled a muscle. I was known as the workout junkie at the hospital where I worked, and the nurses agreed. When I finally saw a doctor, he told me to stand on one leg. I immediately crashed to the floor.
They sent me to another hospital for a cat scan, where they thought I had a brain tumor. For six months, we couldn’t figure it out. Finally, a friend called in a favor to a neurologist. I paid eleven thousand dollars for an MRI (in those times, it wasn’t covered by insurance).
The MRI showed I had MS. There was no treatment, no drugs, no cures. They told me, “Don’t get pregnant. Don’t go into the sun. Here’s a bottle of valium for the pain.”
What did you do after you were diagnosed?
I had only been married six weeks when this happened. My mom is a prescription drug addict, so I said no to valium. After living with a pill junky my whole life, I chose to start my holistic health journey with essential oils.
I always wanted to be a mom, so when the doctor said, “No kids,” I went immediately to my mother-in-law. I asked her, “If this happens, will you support me?” By June, I was pregnant with my daughter.
I turned a death sentence into a life sentence. Doctors thought I was going to die, not become a mom. After my diagnosis, I had facial distortion, terrible fatigue, and trouble speaking. Once I got pregnant, the symptoms started reversing. It stayed that way for ten years.
With your symptoms under control, what took place over the next decade?
For most of my life, MS was invisible to the outside world. For ten years, I allowed myself to be a test for drugs. I was on the National Board of the MS Society, and was the number one fundraiser in the state.
MS was too much for my first marriage. I came from an addictive family, I got sick within six weeks of our wedding, and we were only kids! I built an international company and traveled 222 days a year. It was a dysfunctional marriage, and we divorced after five years.
MS may stand for Multiple Sclerosis, but I call it Marriage Sickness. After a decade of few symptoms, I remarried. Within six months of my second marriage, it came back. It came back with a vengeance, and did not let up.
How did your symptoms escalate during your second marriage?
MS comes in three stages—pre-clinical, relapsing remitting, and secondary progressive. Relapsing remitting is like the hiccups—it comes, it’s a pain in the ass, then it leaves. With secondary progressive, it comes and it never leaves. It only attacks.
I became a legally disabled American once I lost the ability to do repetitive motion. With MS, muscles and limbs become stuck. You’ll see someone with her leg straight out, and you cannot bend it. Sometimes, a muscle relaxer will make the leg limp, but not under control. I had rigidity in my hands and throat and difficulty swallowing. A significant number of people with MS die from choking.
Once I was diagnosed with secondary progressive MS, my husband walked out on me. He drove me home from the doctor, said he was going to the movies, and never came back.
At the time, our family had a house on the Jersey Shore. My husband often went to the movies alone. When he left, he said, “I’ll be at the shore. I’ll see you at your appointment in Philly on Thursday. Then it will be Memorial Day, and we’ll go to the beach house.”
I never went to neurologist appointments alone. I hated waiting in the lobby for an hour and a half, seeing the other patients and know where I was headed. It made me want to lose my mind.
I showed up to my appointment and he wasn’t there. For thirty minutes, there was no sign of him. This was before texting, and I was worried. Finally, when I already in the doctor’s office, he showed up. He sat down next to me and said, “I’m out. I married you for the business woman in you, and when that left, there was nothing left for me.”
We had a prenuptial agreement, and the divorce was final in thirty days.
How could someone do that??? What did you do?
I lost it. For months, I couldn’t care for myself. I believed in my heart this was a forever thing. Never, ever, ever did I see this coming. I thought we were soul mates. The night before he left, we hosted a dinner party for twenty-five of our friends. He held a toast to me saying, “To his bride, his pride, his wife for life.”
I was barely functioning. I took 24 medications, had a sixteen-year old daughter, and my out-of-pocket healthcare costs were escalating. By the grace of God, the community was my ground until I could see straight, think straight, and walk around without holding a box of tissues.
The day my daughter moved to college, I packed up everything and moved to California. This was the second time I tried to question the status quo. My body responded well to the weather, and I began to heal. I became a spin instructor and a yoga instructor. I didn’t have to drive, because I could walk everywhere.
What did you do when you realized your symptoms were reversing?
When I moved to California, I turned to social media for help and community. As my world started getting better and I started healing, I went through the psychological weirdness of, “Well now what??” MS had always dictated what I could and could not do.
When I met Dr. Wahls I said, “You need to research Type A overachiever and MS.” I was a sick kid yet an overachiever my whole life. In 2008, I went back to college. I know—I’m the psycho person who decided to go back to school while they were disabled. I took things slow and steady, and graduated in 2014. I didn’t have control of my hands, and couldn’t hold a book. I had to speak to a computer. I pursued my Masters in Community Psychology to help disabled individuals learn to survive in the community.
Once you moved to California, how long did your MS stay under control?
When my MS came back, there was no stopping it. I couldn’t do anything besides feed myself and use the bathroom. I had chest compressions so bad, I would just lay in bed praying it would stop. It was in so much pain, and was scared all the time.
In September of 2010, I went to Burning Man. This is going to sound insane, but I felt I needed to go to a spiritual place. The people there cared for me—even though I was on a complete opposite schedule. They would leave at eleven at night and come back at seven to sleep, right when I was waking up. They hooked me with the EMT workers, making sure I was comfortable and cared for.
Each day, I walked to the temple and prayed. I’m not religious, but I prayed to…life? Through those prayers, something told me I had a toxic life. In order to heal, I had to cut myself off from that life, and everyone and everything in it.
So when you returned from Burning Man, you cut everyone out of your life?
I call it my Year of Hibernation. I did not socialize for a year. I was desperate. There were three things in front of me: I was going to kill myself, be homeless, or be institutionalized. When you consider those three things, cutting people off was not that hard.
I used to be the person driving down the road, giving the finger to anyone who cut me off. Never once did I consider what the driver was going through, or the kind of day they might be having. The people who got mad and don’t talk to me anymore never considered the shit I was dealing with. Lord forbid, I just needed time.
MS took everything from me. It took my house. It took my company. It took millions of dollars. I have a living will in place, I’ve talked to my daughter—at one point, I even had a suicide plan in place.
During the time at Burning Man, and in the times leading up to it, I made all sorts of promises. These are the promises I now have a moral obligation to fulfill.
To hear the rest of V’s story, and to learn her tips for fighting MS with Paleo, check back tomorrow!
(…Part II will be posted tomorrow)
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