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