I first met Fran in 2004 when she attended one of the early live-in retreats for people with MS at the Gawler Foundation in rural Victoria in Australia. I had only been diagnosed with MS some 5 years earlier and Fran about 3 years earlier. So while reasonably confident that the lifestyle changes I was practicing and teaching would help slow or stop the progression of MS, I hadn’t had very long to see the results. Fast forward to 2019 and I am now 20 years from diagnosis and perfectly well, and Fran is 18 years from diagnosis and also doing really well. But as you will find out in the book, it hasn’t always been plain sailing for Fran, and indeed, for me.
Fran came to the retreat with her husband John. It was immediately apparent that they both had what it took and were very motivated to make the necessary changes for Fran to get and stay well. They were a delight to have on the retreat and made many friends, myself included. But going home and implementing changes to lifestyle is always harder in practice than it is in theory, given that these changes are for life and the retreat is only a week long! Fran found that out. For many years, she pined for her old life, for her old habits, for the things she had always loved. She felt for a long time that she was missing out.
But I characterize Fran as having an almost ‘accidental recovery’, in that while she was pining, she was also very diligent about the lifestyle changes, even though she didn’t really enjoy it! And quietly, in the background, these changes were working their magic on her physiology and her life. She will describe in the book how she ultimately realized all this, and realized that she was actually really enjoying life and was well, and things finally fell into place.
Fran is now living the sort of life that was once unthinkable for people with MS. I know. My mother had the illness in the 1970s and died from its consequences in a much shorter period than Fran has now lived well with it. And Fran will no doubt continue to.
I get enormous personal satisfaction from seeing Fran, now a grandmother of 2 small children, totally engaged with life and enjoying herself nearly two decades after what was once one of the most life-altering and terrifying diagnoses a person could receive. We have managed to catch up once or twice when I have visited New Zealand, although that has not been often enough. Fran’s story is an inspiration to the many thousands of people with MS the world over who are just starting out on this difficult journey. It is wonderful to know that overcoming MS is possible. Just ask Fran!
Professor George Jelinek MD MBBS DipDHM FACEM