Diane McLaren | My Story of MS And A Healing Journey
In 2,000 words ...
Back in the early 1980s when I was just 19 years old and studying to be a pianist at McGill University in Montreal, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (also known as MS). Over the course of the next 10 years before the age of 30, in addition to MS, I was also diagnosed with several other chronic incurable diseases: erythema nodosum, sarcoidosis, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
To go back to the beginning, it is important to understand - I was young, had recently moved to a new city, and was excited to be pursing my passion for music. For me, I was living the ultimate dream!
Unfortunately, that didn’t last long, as by my 3rd semester “strange symptoms” started piling up.
- I started experiencing weakness in my right hand to the point where I could not even brush my own teeth or hair, let alone play piano.
- I was experiencing extreme fatigue and the left side of my face became paralyzed.
- The doctors did not know what was wrong with me – they said it was just exhaustion and stress.
- Within a couple months, the symptoms disappeared and life went back to normal.
My entire world was collapsing
Fifteen months later, things took a turn for the worse and I lost 90% of vision in one eye and I became paralyzed on my right side from shoulder to toes. I began to lose regular motor functions and control over my bladder and colon. It was a completely humiliating and dehumanizing experience.
I was devastated, and I wasn’t even 20 yet
I went from doctor to doctor and they still didn’t know what was wrong with me. It took months of testing, probing and poking to finally come to the verdict – multiple sclerosis. At first, I felt fear and a bit of relief; fear becasue of many unknowns and relief because a diagnosis meant a solution had to be around the corner. Then validation, I wasn’t crazy after all! I mean, I didn’t remember hearing much about of MS before; except seeing posters of a mom in a wheelchair with her little girl beside her. But the relief and sense of validation quickly wore off as I began to understand the prognosis of this newfound diagnosis
The doctors didn’t sugar coat the MS diagnosis
I was told very early on,
- "You will never walk again except maybe with a cane and that’s a best-case scenario"
- "You will never again play the piano, better to abandon your dreams of becoming a pianist"
- They told me "I would never have a normal life"
- That I would "Never have the ability to work full time
- That "I should not (they did not say could not, just should not) have children and actually tried to convince me very strongly to tie my tubes…
- I was only 19 years old
This was heartbreaking to me as I always wanted children. Both my parents come from big families (12 children each). I grew up surrounded by all my aunts, uncles and cousins. I love children and had always dreamed of being a mother.
Then the shock and disbelief set in
Why was this happening? Why was it happening to me? I wasn’t a partier and I didn’t get in trouble. I did my best to be good and kind to others. I had dreams, ambitions and was genuinely in love with life. What had I done to deserve this?
The answer was nothing
Sickness, disease and illness do not discriminate. With no other options, I started following the medical route and recommendations. In the end though, there was little to no improvement. The general consensus was, that this was ‘my fate’. I was told there was nothing more they could do and I just had to accept it. I could not believe it.
It’s not that I was in denial, though the doctors certainly thought I was. I understood the diagnosis, I even clearly understood their prognosis.
I refused to believe that nothing could be done
You have to understand, I grew up in a small town in Northeast Quebec and had never travelled outside the country. But deep down, I knew , there had to be more out there. The world is just so big, I had to believe there were answers and options for me. I just had this unshakeable belief that this was not going to be my life.
Many thought I was crazy
At this time, I was confined to a hospital bed for months with little relief for my pain and symptoms. I would spend hours on end daydreaming, and anytime I would think of the future, I never saw myself in a wheelchair.
In one of my crazier moments, I started picturing a bed of nails on the seat of the wheelchair, forcing me to stand up right away. Obviously this was crazy because at the time I was paralyzed and stuck in that wheelchair, but I kept dreaming of the day that would no longer be the case.
I kept sharing these thoughts with my family, friends and doctors, many of who thought I was completely crazy. They even sent me to a psychologist, then a psychiatrist, to discuss ‘my emotional state and subsequent denial’.
But I was not to be moved; I believed with every fibre of my being there had to be another option. Finally, they gave up trying to convince me and just let me be.
Out of desperation and a lack of results
I started to look for alternative treatment options. I found a chiropractor in Montreal who ended up helping me tremendously and who was the first to introduce me to natural herbal supplements and nutrition.
With this help and an immense amount of time and dedication (on my part), I eventually regained full mobility on the right side of my body and was operating at 100% .
I was walking, playing piano again, working full time, even skiing! I had no symptoms and the doctors, who had told me this was impossible, were simply baffled. They just shook their head and said ‘it happens sometimes’, no other explanation.
Then I relapsed, and refused to give up
While everything seemed to be looking up, that’s not where my story ends. Unfortunately, not long after, I relapsed and over the course of the next decade, I suffered several more crises.
Each time though, by focusing on lifestyle, natural modalities, herbal supplements and nutrition, I was able to get myself back to a ‘normal state’, despite the odds and doubts from the doctors. Whether it was desperation, stubbornness and maybe a little craziness, I knew one thing for certain – I was not giving up, no matter what.
My parents taught me that where there is a will, there is a way and I really took that mantra to heart. I had made the decision – I would not let any disease dictate my life or tell me what I could or could not do.
It was incredibly difficult to go through this process over and over again. Getting better and relapsing again. Each time, was both a mental and physical game, and when
The last crisis
I had my last crisis in 1991-1992, it was one of the most difficult I had suffered. It took me over 18 months to recover, and there were many dark periods during that time where I worried the doctors were right and I would never defeat this illness that had been “assigned” to me.
As I started to improve again, and the symptoms started to dissipate, I began thinking to myself – I’ve been able to recover individually from each crisis, but how do I stay healthy? Despite the success I was having, I was getting tired of the merry go round of ups and downs that I had suffered over the years.
I did not want to look back and find myself at a point where I felt helpless and hopeless again. Drowning in pain, exhaustion and humiliation, I made a promise to myself that I would keep searching to find a way to stay healthy.
A Long 12 Year Journey to Wellness
Over the 12 years that I suffered from MS, in addition to the numerous doctors and specialists I saw, I also sought out dozens of nutritionists herbalists, natural practitioners, naturopaths, chiropractors, physiotherapists and more as I was desperate to find anything that might work!!!
In my quest to maintain my newly recovered health, I began looking into why certain therapies and modalities worked better than others, using myself as the human equivalent of a guinea pig. I started taking courses, wanting to understanding not only why things worked, but how they worked.
Very quickly, what was first a necessity to my own health and sanity became an all-consuming passion. Motivated by my own health journey, I went back to school and with specialized education and training, opened my own natural health practice in 1994, and have never looked back. Even today, I continue to deepen my education and knowledge.
I was driven and still am today, to help others
My goal was and is, to share what I have learned and experienced so that others can avoid “what I went through.” There is so much I wish I had known – I feel it is my duty to let people know that there are many options. , even when we feel like we have no choice.
I know, firsthand, how overwhelming and confusing a diagnosis can be, with information coming from so many conflicting sources. However, through my experience and training, I have realized that “health can be simpler and easier; It does not have to be complicated and there are steps that we can all take that will make a world of difference in how we feel, to improve, and maintain our health naturally.
It does not matter where you are – we are never too sick or too healthy, too old or too young to improve on our quality of life
Beyond the physical steps I took to improve my health, I also give my mental approach a lot of credit for my success. I never took ownership or possession of MS as ‘my disease’ it was always ‘the disease to me’.
While I didn’t understand how powerful this was at the time, after learning more about ‘neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), I realized that this was imperative to the success of my health journey. I also unknowingly employed visualization techniques while in the hospital, which I'm certain further helped strengthen my mental state and ability to heal.
While this story is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of my long journey, my hope with this story and through my podcast episodes is to share my learnings, experiences and more about the programs and techniques I have successfully used personally, and also in my practice with many thousands of clients.
At the end of the day, our health affects everything in our life, and it is truly our most precious resource. We don’t know how valuable it is, until we no longer have it, and many times, symptoms creep up on us over months and even years before we realize there could be a bigger issues at hand.
While I recognize the essential and life-saving place modern medicine and technology holds, I also truly believe that a proactive and preventative approach to obtain and maintain optimal health can be life changing.
The journey is not over
I lead a normal, happy and fulfilling life. As a business owner I have built a thriving natural health practice focused on helping others. I can play the piano again; I can skate and ski and am the proud mother of 2 beautiful daughters. A few years ago I took up sailing, and still love to travel (when possible).
My journey is not over, and I continue to study, learn and improve daily. I do not believe I am unique … I truly believe that with the right mindset and tools, anyone can do what I have done!
I hope you can find value and perhaps find inspiration in my story, my podcasts and wish you well on your own personal wellness journey.