It is possible to recover from Multiple Sclerosis.
However, many people across the community still believe those who develop MS will face a life of increasing disability. It is vital everyone knows that this is not necessarily so.
But how do we know this and what does it mean? For me, this became fact on meeting Neil Sambell, way back in 1978 and indeed, it was Neil’s singular story that propelled my interest in MS. Now, over thirty years later it is wonderful to note recent positive research evaluating the residential MS programs at the Gawler Foundation (TGF).
Remember “it only has to be done once to show that it is possible”?
Neil first contacted me via an erratically typed paragraph masquerading as a letter. One sentence explained how his advanced MS disabilities meant it took him thirty minutes to type his few words. He then asked if anything I had done to recover from cancer might help him.
My response centred around the theoretical possibilities for Neil’s body to regenerate. MS being an autoimmune disease, my suggestion to Neil was that if he could reduce his body’s inclination to attack itself, reduce inflammation and create the inner conditions (of body, mind and spirit) for regeneration and healing, maybe something could happen. In my view this was possible through applying the very same principles and techniques that had helped me and others with cancer.
This glimmer of hope prompted Neil to take up the principles described in “You Can Conquer Cancer” and to make his own more specific investigations regarding dietary and lifestyle benefits for MS.
One year later Neil sent me his first hand written letter. Four years later he called in on his way to a 5km bushwalk and today he is very much alive and well, virtually symptom free.
Neil Sambell proved to me it was possible to recover from MS. But while once is enough to establish a possibility, could others repeat Neil’s remarkable recovery?
When I documented Neil’s case in the book “Inspiring People” (now out of print), he spoke of the approach he took, describing it as “no guarantee for success…but partly (if not largely) responsible for my continued reversal”.
Neil identified the benefits of
• Creating a healing environment (as Neil put it: “a simple, peaceful, aesthetic, positive but purposeful life…at peace and guilt-free”).
• Diet, exercise and rest.
• Medical help (“some do not fully understand all my attitudes and activities”).
• The power of the mind.
• Divine Healing (“I did not aggressively fight the disease, but gave it over to God, peacefully prayed and sought prayer”).
How relevant then is Neil’s story? After all it is just one case, one anecdote.
Consider this and stay rational - if one sticks with scientific principles then either Neil had been misdiagnosed (but in my view to dismiss an anecdote like Neil’s as misdiagnosis is best described as intellectual laziness) OR he had experienced a full blown miracle OR his recovery pointed to a mechanism that was as yet to be fully researched and understood.
Good science advances when unexpected phenomena are noted and investigated.
As all this was unfolding, time was moving into the nineties, and with no specific MS program available, many people with MS actually joined TGF’s cancer programs. It was clear many came feeling pretty hopeless. The prevailing view was you get MS, little can be done; you are on a downhill spiral to misery. Sadly this was real for too many. However, Neil’s story along with my theory and optimism challenged this paradigm and many made a start.
The outcome? A clear divide. Those who made lifestyle changes and sustained them with a similar level of diligence to Neil, almost invariably seemed to do well. Over the years we saw more remarkable recoveries from MS and many found inner peace. However, for a multitude of reasons, others could either not make the changes in the first place, or were unable to sustain them long term and their illness seemed to follow the expected downward trend.
Now there is a challenging issue here that is worth giving voice to. Do these very words of mine raise the spectre of false hope or imply that if someone’s MS does progress adversely they have done something wrong, or worse, there is something wrong with them?
In my experience this raises a hugely complex range of issues, the detail and application of which have been of great concern and interest to me for many years and which I will expand upon in a future blog.
Enter Prof George Jelinek. Diagnosed with MS in 1999 and being a senior academic physician and researcher, George quickly ascertained from the existing research evidence that MS is a disease largely determined by lifestyle factors – both in cause and outcome.
Following publication of his ground breaking book “Taking Control of MS” (which based on more recent research and experience has been completely revised and renamed “Overcoming MS – an Evidence Based Guide to Recovery”), George and I began residential (and in the early days, non-residential) lifestyle-based, self-help programs for people interested in taking control and hopefully overcoming their MS.
Fortunately, we began an evaluation from day one. Then, supported by more recent collaboration with Melbourne University and with the vital appointment of TGF’s own Research Officer, the early phases of that research have been collated and published.
In simple terms, this research demonstrates a significant trend reversal. While on average, the evidence is that people with MS do steadily deteriorate over time, during the course of our study all the MS specific measures improved.
The full study is a good read for those interested and can be accessed on George's website.
Also, you can view George on the ABC's 7.30 Report.
SO WHAT TO DO?
i) For those free of MS
Be informed. If you know or support anyone with MS, urge them to read George’s book and to consider attending TGF’s MS residential program. Check with any doctors you know in case they are not already aware of this vital aspect of the comprehensive management of MS. Refer to the research, George’s MS specific website, and that of TGF.
ii) For those with MS
Take heart. Have hope. Translate that hope into action. These days there are many people who have transformed their physical, psychological and spiritual lives through MS. We even have people whose lesions on MRI have disappeared.
It is possible to recover from MS.
Overcoming MS – an Evidence Based Guide to Recovery: George Jelinek
You Can Conquer Cancer: Ian Gawler
For Prof Jelinek
Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis – healing program for MS
It only has to be done once
Go with the flow or intervene?