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: firstname.lastname@example.org