Multiple Sclerosis at Age 19
I grew up in an all-white rural community in the Midwest, spending my early years on a farm. When I was nineteen years old, I had my first attack of multiple sclerosis while on a college drama tour.
I recovered, but as I finished college and got married, there were more signs of an unstable nervous system. At age thirty- seven I was largely paralyzed from the neck down and spent several weeks in a hospital and nursing home.
Over the next fourteen years I experienced repeated attacks, sometimes as many as six a year, resulting in increasing disability and paralysis. I used a wheelchair and then an electric scooter, and we eventually purchased a van with a wheelchair lift. My children grew up helping Mom, pushing me in a wheelchair and managing my scooter. My lower left side became paralyzed and seriously atrophied, with the left calf about one-quarter the size of the right one. I had little control over the left hip and leg and could not flex at the ankle, knee or hip. My doctor attributed these disabilities to lesions on my brain that were documented by MRI.
During my illness, I was ordained as a handicapped female in a Southern Baptist church, a position for which I had no role models and for which I had to forge a new path of ministry.
At one point I was in such serious condition that my pastor came to help prepare me to die. I thought there was nothing I could do to help myself except follow doctor’s orders and pray with all my heart for a miracle.
A Remarkable Healing
My oldest son took me to Tai Chi class and introduced me to Tai Chi master Bruce Moran at a time when things seemed hopeless. For me, going to Tai Chi class was about as bizarre as going to the moon. As a Christian, I was suspicious of Eastern practices, but I saw that the movements were slow and healing, and I decided I would try it. I sat in the back row of the class on a stool and waved my arms because I could not stand for any length of time.
On March 31, 1996, at a Tai Chi class on Palm Sunday, Sifu Bruce used his amazing skill in bodywork to unparalyze my left side. He did it in twenty minutes. He said, “The problem is not in your head, it’s in your hip. I just released your sciatic nerve and lined up your bones so they can function.” Who ever heard of anyone doing a thing like that! Nevertheless, the nerves in my left side began to turn back on. This remarkable experience set me on a new path of healing that has changed every part of my life.
As I began the long, difficult process of rehabilitating my body, I discovered that getting well was much more difficult than getting sick. I have chronicled my adventures in Rising UP! My Recovery from Multiple Sclerosis, Disability and Despair.
Life with Joy!
Today I am healthy and fit. I stand straight and tall, no longer bent and collapsed as I was before. I fit into my wedding dress--well, almost!. I walk with a limp that is improving as I continue restoring function through daily exercise, Tai Chi and bodywork. I enjoy travel, hiking with my trekking poles and working out. I recently took a trip to the Gobi Desert in China and had a long ride on a camel!
I used natural therapies alongside of traditional approaches for a period of years but have taken no drugs since 1998, maintaining my health since that time by natural means.
Life is good. I live a normal life, currently making my living by doing private educational consulting and tutoring, in addition to my writing. I have put the skills I learned in recovery into practice by teaching Tai Chi Tao and Qigong classes, specializing in work with those who have disabilities. I have four married sons and four grandchildren and look forward to the future with joy.