Finding a Balance on a Roller Coaster Ride

by Paula-Noel Macfie, PhD

When I was diagnosed in 2001, I was a single woman and had just graduated with a PhD, having spent the previous six years traveling the world with tribal elders and surrounding myself with an academically alternative community. I was 31 years old at the time, and just beginning my brief teaching stint at Portland State University.

Currently, I am 43 years old, a single mother of two young children and have recently become a first-time homeowner. I have lived with the MS diagnosis for 12 years now. I have a completely different life than when I started this unpredictable journey with MS. I have a huge amount of responsibility (compared to my early thirties) and two children who depend fully on my care. Now that I look back, even with the mounted stress and my fair share of physical symptoms, I am healthier than I have ever been in my life. Now I am thinking to myself, how is this possible? Deep inside I know the answer.

In this moment when I reflect on living a Swank lifestyle, I look at my life and realize that my mind has “come to rest” with the middle road. For 12 years, I have incorporated Dr. Swanks’ protocols of proper diet, adequate rest and daily exercise. Every single day looks different based on how I feel, my moods, fatigue and the most influential part of my day – my children’s needs.

I have entered a time in life where my daily practice is to not plan beyond the day. This excludes making appointments and going on trips. On a daily basis I tell my children (which is telling myself) to be in the present moment…try not to jump ahead to an hour from now or several hours from now. I constantly tell my eldest daughter to “be in the moment”. This helps me immensely to check in with everyone’s needs.

As a parent, I am baffled at the mystery of children. There have been countless instances when they are misbehaving, having a tantrum or really unhappy. Many times I have missed the basic cues of the need for food, rest and exercise. It turns out, after having a second child and recognizing the signs, that nine times out of ten – when one of them is unhappy, they need to eat, they need to rest or they need a walk to the park. If these basics are not fulfilled on a daily basis, after a day or two – they start to act up, get more frustrated (or annoying to me) and have more frequent meltdowns. When I get the routine re-established after a few days – we are all back into a good rhythm. If I deviate from it in the slightest, the stress and negative moods return. It’s our rollercoaster. I feel it’s my responsibility to navigate so there are fewer ups and downs – and more balance, more neutral. This happens when we eat well, take naps and exercise as a family.

I have learned to approach multiple sclerosis the same way. It’s a rollercoaster ride that has moment-to-moment ups and downs. My body has tantrums, feels moody and is really uncomfortable and unhappy some of the time. I notice it the most when my mind wakes up from sleep and I become aware of my body first thing in the morning. My body aches and hurts the most when I wake up. Throughout the day, I have different experiences and not one is predictable. I don’t know when my right hand will give out. I am never prepared for the electrical currents that run up and down my arms and legs…and the fatigue. The fatigue is the worst. Waking up in the morning with what feels like heavy amour and having two young children demanding me to get up and feed them is the most difficult part of all. There are days I want to lay in bed and not get up, yet unless I am ridiculously ill, I have to override my body’s discomfort and take care of my children. Some days are easier than others.

I have posted on my fridge: diet, rest and exercise, along with a picture of Dr. Swank. I have to incorporate these three things in my day or I pay for it…..the rollercoaster goes up really high and comes down super fast if I don’t. It’s a fine balance and each day is as unpredictable as the next. What gives me the confidence to continue treating multiple sclerosis with Dr. Swank’s protocols is knowing that I am living a lifestyle of beneficial choices that not only effect my life but also the life of my children and those around me. I remember clearly Dr. Swank telling me, “You can have a long and fulfilling life if you follow these protocols.”

Twelve years into my experience of multiple sclerosis, his words ring true. It is a lifestyle change that will allows my body to heal and regenerate. I am thankful for the wise words of Dr. Swank who treated hundreds of patients - who lived and continue to live a life worth living, even with the challenges of multiple sclerosis. With a life that is steeped in cultivating a healthy mindset and being in the present moment as much as possible, I see that many of the challenges of MS are only obstacles showing me where to make lifestyle changes. When I make the changes (sometimes slowly over time), I experience an inner peace and find another level of acceptance of living with multiple sclerosis. I am learning to be at peace with my body and with myself; knowing and trusting that I am following the wise words of Dr. Swank, which have reminded me a full and enriching life is all around me every moment.

My deepest aloha, Paula Noël Macfie

I am a proud mama of two daughters and a philosopher who loves research. I spent several years with indigenous elders and healers developing a psychological process for western mind decolonization called “Remembering Our Ancestors”. My passions are dark leafy greens, backyard habitat, gardening and nutritional healing for multiple sclerosis. I “live the research” of Dr. Roy Swank and fully support everyone doing it too. I can be reached at: info@swankmsdiet.org

Paula-Noel Macfie

Paula-Noel Macfie is a proud mama of two daughters and a philosopher who loves research. She spent several years with indigenous elders and healers developing a psychological process for western mind decolonization called “Remembering Our Ancestors”. Her passions are dark leafy greens, backyard habitat, gardening and nutritional healing for multiple sclerosis. She “lives the research” of Dr. Roy Swank and fully supports everyone doing so, too. She can be reached at paula@swankmsdiet.org

Living a Swank Lifestyle

by Paula-Noel Macfie, PhD

In my life, especially before and during graduate school, there were many times I had personal experiences with humans who are extremely influential: philanthropists, philosophers, public speakers, elders and scientists. The most meaningful and most profound meeting of such a person in my life was when I met Dr. Roy L. Swank.

During the summer of 2001, I had just finished graduate school and found myself in the hospital getting an MRI, due to a collision. Three months later, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. After several pin pricks and neurological testing, a neurologist pulled my parents and me into his office and told me he was going to talk to us about “therapies” for MS. I was not really clear on what MS was or what the therapies would be, yet I knew with my seven years of graduate school and my education from indigenous elders and healers, that I would be able to handle what was given to me.

Shortly after my diagnosis, when I was sitting in the circle of newly diagnosed MS sufferers, it began to sink in what this disease looked like. Not one person had the same set of complaints and there were varying degrees of obvious disability with canes and wheelchairs, to people like myself who looked “normal”. When it was time for questions, I asked the same questions to the group that I did my very first neurologist: what about lifestyle? diet? exercise? a cure?

One person mentioned yoga and a man named Eric Small who had adapted yoga for MS and had written a good book about it. Another woman said something about a doctor named Dr. Swank and his diet was the only diet they knew of for treating the disease. After the workshop, I began to realize that the information I was seeking would be found within the people who had MS. Medical doctors began to seem more and more ridiculous to me. People who have the disease have the capability to navigate how to heal it. A woman came up to me as we started to leave the workshop. She told me, “If you are going to approach MS with nutrition and lifestyle, you must meet Dr. Swank. Here is his phone number.” A couple of people overheard out conversation and said that they followed Dr. Swanks’ diet. Then the rest of the group joined in and we had a conversation about their experiences on his diet. I knew I needed to meet him.

I called his wife Leanna the next day and set up a time to meet Dr. Swank. I ended up spending the next two years of my life meeting with Dr. Roy Swank. I met with him as a fellow researcher, a patient, and a wise elder on the subject of blood circulation, vascular conditions, neurology and multiple sclerosis. He understood multiple sclerosis and other diseases such a heart disease, diabetes and stroke – as nutritional disease. To this day, 12 years later, I attribute my quality of life and my well-being to the research and selfless wisdom of Dr. Roy L. Swank.

I am honored to be a part of the Swank Foundation as an Advisory Board Member, and a writer for the Swank Foundation website. It is my continued self-discipline and respect for the legacy of the research Dr. Swank and his memory that inspires me to write about ‘Living a Swank Lifestyle’. For twelve years, I have managed multiple sclerosis primarily with Dr. Swanks’ MS Diet Book. It is my intention that writing about my life, incorporating Dr. Swanks’ lifestyle recommendations, sharing recipes and contributing to nutritional healing, I will inspire others to find a balance in their life with diet, rest and exercise. This is also for those who have friends of family with multiple sclerosis. It is my hope that they will be inspired to encourage a lifestyle of well-being for those touched or devastated by the disease. This disease includes everyone. The cause and the cure for multiple sclerosis lie in the hands of each person who has it and the support of each sufferer. It’s a choice to treat MS solely with lifestyle changes and/or prescription drugs. With multiple sclerosis, there is every possibility of how people with MS treat their disease. I hope that by sharing my choice for a Swank lifestyle, that other may be inspired to live a life of wellbeing.

I am a single mother of two young children, ages two and six. I am a homeowner, a householder, a gardener and a cook. I have a daily life that is challenging, lesson-learning and a blessing all in one. I live with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and other health challenges. I am thankful beyond words for the human beings in my life, like Dr. Roy Swank, who have listened to me in such a deep way, that it catalyzed finding a profound acceptance of living with multiple sclerosis. Dr. Swanks’ research, writing and support of his patients is a gift to a disease that affects millions of people daily. It is my hope that sharing my version of a Swank lifestyle, I will be encouraged to stay focused on a path that brings me balance.

Living a Swank Lifestyle is my way of opening my life, from the day-to-day routine of parenting and self-care to the philosophically profound. To write about Dr. Swank and a lifestyle he insisted upon, is a purpose in my life that is meant to inspire others with multiple sclerosis that changes to a create a lifelong lifestyledoes heal the body. There are many times I feel isolated in my daily life, yet writing my experiences of a Swank lifestyle, heals my mind because I know that there are others reading this and saying, “Yes, I choose to incorporate a lifestyle of proper nutrition, rest and exercise.” Thank you for finding this website and thank you for reading. Aloha, Paula Noel Macfie, PhD

4 Comments

Paula-Noel Macfie

Paula-Noel Macfie is a proud mama of two daughters and a philosopher who loves research. She spent several years with indigenous elders and healers developing a psychological process for western mind decolonization called “Remembering Our Ancestors”. Her passions are dark leafy greens, backyard habitat, gardening and nutritional healing for multiple sclerosis. She “lives the research” of Dr. Roy Swank and fully supports everyone doing so, too. She can be reached at paula@swankmsdiet.org