“How we are in the future will be founded on how we behave today”
I classify as a newly diagnosed person with MS. That is; I’ve been diagnosed within the last 3 years. Diagnosis for me came within a few months of my MS symptoms making their way to the surface. I’ve heard stories of people having symptoms for years before being diagnosed. This really brings it home how lucky I’ve been. I still feel I need to capitalise on that luck. Living close to Dublin city centre means that I’m never too far away from an arranged MS meeting or talk. I’ve attended a few talks about MS recently and it’s taken up a fair chunk of my free time.
The talks vary in content. Some information overlaps, some I’m hearing for the first time and some contradicts what I’ve heard in previous talks. I find myself trying to put all the pieces together to find what’s right for me. This can prove frustrating. The Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (OMS) diet is widely agreed to give the best chance of preventing relapse along with regular exercise. This takes discipline. A lot of discipline. I’ve cut back significantly on meat and dairy. Also, my wife’s coeliac so that makes it that bit easier to cut back on wheat and go for gluten free products instead. However, what I’m finding is that a lot of alternative products are very sugar based. In addition sugar substitutes are thought to be worse in a lot of cases than sugar itself. In particular one lady said if we took anything from her talk it would be to not consume anything which consisted of Aspartame which is a sugar alternative used in nearly all cordial and sugar free drinks.
So if I stick to the sugar options rather than the alternatives this raises the question, am I putting myself at risk of diabetes? Initially my doctor thought I may be diabetic when my vertigo symptoms didn’t subside. One of the speakers advised that we have enough to be concerned about with MS that we shouldn’t worry about diabetes. I attended a talk in Trinity College last week and raised that very question. The advice was to talk to a dietitian. A dietitian and not a nutritionist. In addition to diet, exercise and medication, it was highly advised to keep the mind active as much as possible. Again it’s a challenge to find what keeps my mind active; reading, crossword puzzles, computer games? A healthy lifestyle was deemed to be the most important way to stay healthy regardless of the status of your health.
Vitamin D, or the lack of it, is a big issue for people with MS. Apparently in Ireland, during Winter months, there is little or no chance of us absorbing Vitamin D directly from the sun. I didn’t know this but if your shadow is longer than you are when you’re standing then you are not getting any Vitamin D directly from sunlight. As such it’s highly recommended that everyone living in Ireland take daily Vitamin D supplements particularly during these Winter months. The Trinity talk was the most professional of all the talks I had attended and was broadcast live online.
As with the majority of my blogs I like to use an analogy or comparison with music, sport, fiction, whatever I can think of really. These are the things that give me inspiration. I nearly had a full blog written about the ill-fated Busby Babes and how Manchester United inspire me. I then realised the blog wasn’t MS related at all. The reason I started blogging was to let people know how I’m getting on and what I’m learning since diagnosis so I scratched the Man United blog and re-started leaving only the opening line remaining:“How we are in the future will be founded on how we behave today”. This is a quote by Jimmy Murphy the assistant manager of Manchester United at the time of the Munich air crash in 1958. This applies as much to my health now as it did to a football club in the depths of despair all those years ago. They were going into the unknown but what choice did they have but to carry on? The alternative wasn’t an option as depicted by David Tennant in the film United. A very moving scene if you get the chance to watch it; both heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time.
United carried on after the disaster despite having a depleted team and their manager, Matt Busby, fighting for survival on his Munich hospital bed. Astonishingly they made it to the FA Cup Final three months later only to lose to Bolton Wanderers. In the final United wore a phoenix on their crest. For me, it’s a reminder that hope always rises from the depths of despair although more often than not you have to fight for it.
Lifestyle choices made now may not catch up on us until years into the future and in some cases not at all. I consider myself to be lucky that MS caught me when it did so I have time to ring in the changes before any further damage was done. Although one additional brain lesion was found on my MRI scan in May compared to my previous scan in May 2015. This was my first real set back in 18 months. Although the lesion could have popped up at any time in the year between MRI’s, I was only informed of this in October. The neurologist asked me did I want to start taking stronger medication. I was a bit perplexed. I had only started my medication the previous October; bang in the middle of either scan. There was no way to tell when the additional lesion occurred so who’s to say my medication hasn’t been working? I’ve made a lot of lifestyle changes but perhaps not enough. Only time will tell. I refuse to increase the power of my medication if it’s not entirely necessary. The suggestion seemed like a knee-jerk solution from the neurologist. I was by no means 100% certain the medication hadn’t been effective so I declined the offer to change it.
I have to be resilient and defiant when I feel it necessary. And although luck plays a big part, I am the master of my own destiny above anybody else. Who knows, if I stick to my guns just like Jimmy Murphy and Matt Busby I may well exceed expectations just like they did. After all, following the trauma of Munich they saw a new Babe, the likes of which had never been seen before (or again), break through to inspire unprecedented success; Georgie Best! We have our own Byrne Babe en route in January 2017. If becoming a dad doesn’t inspire me to at least try to be a success nothing will.
One of the most inspirational stories that came out of the Munich tragedy was that of United’s Northern Irish goalkeeper Harry Gregg who saved a pregnant lady and her daughter. This is a clip of when they were re-united years later