Monday, April 14, 2014

(Just Like) Starting Over

Today marks a new beginning.You may already have noticed that there have been some changes around here. The blog has a new name. There's a new design across the top.  And there are other bits and bobs you'll notice as time goes by.

Why all these changes? It's mainly to do with changes I've been making in my life, changes I felt had to be reflected here.

So here goes... I've got a lot to tell you.

Four years ago this coming November, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). There had been an occasion three years prior to that when MS was suspected but the symptoms were too inconclusive for a definite diagnosis. No such luck in 2010. That summer, my right side stopped working properly. It was weak and didn't do what I asked of it. I couldn't drive. I couldn't carry things without dropping them.  I often missed the key I was aiming for when typing. And I was in constant pain.

Following a series of tests, I got the diagnosis I'd been dreading and was suddenly very frightened. I've been pretty healthy for most of my life and had always assumed I'd live to be one of those old ladies who inspire you with their vim and vigour. This vision of my future was displaced by images of wheelchairs and of me being looked after by others and I began to panic.

Telling others made me panic further. When I told my family and friends I could see shock and pity reflected in their eyes. I'd never been on the receiving end of pity before and it was not a place I wanted to be.

So I decided to keep my diagnosis relatively secret. Dingle is a small town where everyone talks about everyone else. I didn't want to be thought of as someone who was sick. I wanted to be seen as the same person I'd always been: someone strong, not someone weak and definitely not someone to be pitied.

I didn't have a lot of professional support at that time. My neurologist responded to all my questions with the exact same answer: 'the outcome is different for everyone; nobody can tell what will happen to you'. Everything seemed beyond my control.  My future - which had always shimmered brightly and enticingly in the distance - suddenly became a much darker and more ominous place.

When I turned to the internet, what I found there frightened me even more. Worst case scenario after worst case scenario: people in pain, people who were disabled, so many stories of suffering... I couldn't bear to read about it and didn't want to think that this could be me.

Instead I waited for my symptoms to subside, started taking medicine and put MS to the back of my mind. I carried on as normal and willed myself into forgetting about my diagnosis.  

Life allowed me to do this too. In fact, it allowed me to become busier than ever; even opening a café. So busy that I didn't have time to think about being or becoming ill.

That was until I got a wake-up call from a friend who rang one day to tell me that she too had been diagnosed with MS. She was devastated. I could see fear in her eyes. She could hardly speak for crying. And in her face were all the worries I'd been repressing for so long.

As she struggled with her diagnosis I too started to accept my own and I am so grateful for her example. Her symptoms at that time were worse than mine but her attitude was so much better. She discovered Dr George Jelinek and his diet and lifestyle changes which have been proven to minimise the long-term impact of MS (and a whole host of other conditions too). The changes are all super healthy ones, combining a whole-food plant-based diet with regular exercise and positive mental and emotional health.

So, for the past year or so, I've been trying to implement these changes. It hasn't been easy but it's why I'm writing this post today. For months now, I've been cutting out dairy, meat, certain types of oil, fried foods and chocolate (I still sob inwardly at the loss of chocolate) but I haven't reflected that here. That's felt dishonest and because I'm feeling healthy and full of hope for the future, it's also felt unfair. 

When I first started this diet, I saw it as restricting the choice of foods available to me and for a while, I didn't have the same sense of enthusiasm about what and how I ate. But slowly, a whole new world of food came into view. There are so many different ingredients out there and from what I've sampled so far, the fact that they are healthier than what I ate previously doesn't mean they are any less delicious.

So, it's a time of new beginnings. Because my diet is changing, what I post here will inevitably change here too. But don't imagine that things will change too much - it's still delicious in Dingle!

These changes start today and as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Sharon x

Spring has sprung in Dingle and it's a time of new beginnings for us all


  1. First of all, well done for writing this, it can't have been easy, as you said you are nervous about it. There's absolutely no need to be, you don't know who could be reading your blog, relating to it and helping others through it also.
    I'm so sorry to hear about your MS but great to hear you're not letting it stop you from living life.
    I think it's fantastic you want to share your new food experiences with us and I can't wait to see what you come up with!

  2. Publicly revealing a hidden part of your life takes a lot of courage. Good on ya. You'll always have my empathic ear. We MS-types gotta stick together!

  3. Nickki: thanks so much for your kind words. I think my main problem is that MS has such negative connotations in the public mind and I've subconsciously absorbed those negative messages. So there's a part of me that doesn't want to be associated with the condition - if that makes any sense!
    And I'll definitely be posting lots of healthy and delicious recipes :)

    Bill: thanks so much. You're a star!

  4. Bon Courage Sharon. I was thinking about what was the matter with you even when you were sitting on those back stairs... Isn't it rather funny how you were surrounded by those wholefood freaks (audrey and me)...? You can turn this around - the natural way....

  5. Thanks, K. Natural is indeed the way to go :)

  6. Big hugs and support for writing this, it can't have been easy x

  7. Hi Nancy, it definitely wasn't easy but it was the right thing to do. And people have been really kind and supportive - like you :)