My Journey with MS by Garth McLean

February 26, 2010 by  
Filed under inspiration

It was a hot day in May 1996 when I found myself struggling to walk. Over the course of the previous month, I had been slowly losing feeling throughout my limbs and torso. With the heat, the tingling and numbness I had been experiencing spread to envelop my face and skull…I had lost feeling in my body from head to toe. It wasn’t just a pinched nerve as first suspected. Something was very wrong. After various medical texts, I was admitted to UCLA Medical Center where I was clinically diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Lesions had been detected in my cervical spine, thoracic spine and on my brain.
As I have always been a physically active person and not one to accept the role of victim, I asked my then doctor’s recommendation for my physical protocol. He suggested swimming and yoga, as long as I don’t overheat the body.

The initial protocol of intravenous steroids helped to get my symptoms into remission but along with the other medications prescribed for MS management, they do not offer a cure. With a pocketful of meds, I was released from the hospital and decided to explore some yoga – Iyengar Yoga to be specific – as the Iyengar system employs props to help the practitioner gain access to the poses in order to glean their potential benefits. So I made some necessary dietary and lifestyle changes, started yoga and chose to forego the medications.
The daily practice of Iyengar Yoga has had a profound effect on my course of the condition. However, my journey has not been without setbacks, as anyone’s might be who deals with relapsing-remitting MS, whether or not they are on the medications. The symptoms I have experienced over the years include: loss of feeling throughout my body, numbness and a banding sensation in the torso and limbs, difficulty walking, compromised gait, loss of motor skills to the point where I could not use a pen or use a fork to feed myself, optic neuritis (loss of vision in my right eye and compromised vision in my left); bowel and urinary incontinence; the L’Hermitte’s symptom (a symptom where electrical charges are felt throughout the body when moving the head in a forward fashion); fatigue and depression.

When I had two severe exacerbations within months of one another in 2001 – loss of eyesight in January 2001 (which returned within a couple of months) and loss of feeling from the navel down in June 2001, fear and doubt crept in and I started with the weekly protocol of interferon beta 1-A. As no medications offer a cure for the MS, I found the ongoing side effects of my weekly injections to be more challenging than the condition! While I am not advocating that people with MS ignore the benefits of the pharmaceutical approach in managing their course of MS, I personally opted for the side effects of a daily practice of Iyengar Yoga over the meds. In January 2004, I chose to once again forego the medication.
My agreement with my neurologist is to have an annual MRI to monitor the lesions on my brain. The MRI reports over the last five have been promising, showing a reduction in size of the brain lesions as well as consistently showing no change in activity – which is really good news. I have been able to successfully overcome the symptoms listed above and remain symptom free, with the exception of fatigue and the residual loss of feeling in my right leg and foot which results in strength and balance challenges on my right side. I see my doctor (Dr. Hart Cohen, Director of Multiple Sclerosis Research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles) semi-annually to continually monitor my course of the condition.

With these results, I am hopeful and my outlook for the future is positive. Undaunted, I carry on with “courage and caution” as encouraged by Yoga master, BKS Iyengar.


4 Responses to “My Journey with MS by Garth McLean”
  1. Hi Garth,
    I’m wondering if you have considered having a scan for blockages in the back of your neck, (Dr. Zamboni’s Liberation Treatment) and what your thoughts are about that. I’m also wondering what kinds of dietary changes you made. I read about <a href=””>Dr. Terry Wahls</a> and the dietary changes that she made, which included a great amount of kale: she’d been researching food that is good for the brain and developed a diet that seemed to help. The long and short of that is she went from being totally disabled because of her MS to being able to walk, ride her bike and even ride horses again. Saying that, the change in diet was only one part of her treatment, she also used a handheld electrical stimulator.

    I don’t have MS but my sister-in-law in Belgium does, and she’s just been presented with a choice of pharmaceuticals to combat the symptoms. I would prefer she doesn’t start down that path but try to find natural ways to fight. That’s why your posting is so heartening. Thanks for that, and any feedback to the above that you have.


  2. Garth McLean says:

    Hi Colleen,
    Thanks for your comments.
    As I have been relatively symptom free since 2001 and the practice of Iyengar Yoga has had such a profound effect on my course of the condition, i have not considered Zamboni’s treatment for myself…yet.  When I next speak with Hart Cohen, my doc, I will speak with him about to further explore the options and what is involved.
    As regards dietary changes, I sought out nutritional counseling and changed my dietary discipline.  I embraced a pesca-vegetarian diet (i eat a little fish, but also am conscious of the mercury content…so i ended up eventually cutting out fish for the most part… also from an ethical perspective… and eliminated caffeine for 12 years.  I have a little coffee every now and again now but mostly drink greet tea.  I limit my intake of wheat, sugar and dairy and regularly perform metabolic and gastro-intestinal cleanses.  The combo of Iyengar yoga, swimming, diet, nutritional supplementation (omega oils, a combo of amino acids and b-12 supplements) has been extremely beneficial.  This info will be on my website ( which is currently being updated (if you visit the site, please excuse any disarray of text).
    Sorry to hear of your sister-in-law’s diagnosis.  FYI, and in case you/she are interested, I had taught a workshop in the south of France last feb on Yoga and MS…there were a couple of Iyengar teachers from Belgium in attendance.  I will be back in Europe this coming June, teaching a workshop on Yoga and MS in Copenhagen June 18, 19, 20 and in High Wycomb, UK (near London), June 25, 26, 27, 2010
    yours in health…garth

  3. Hi Garth,

    I’ll check your website out, and pass the information on to Greet. Thanks so much for your reply.


  4. Renata Nowak says:

    Hi Garth,
    When I was reading your story I felt so inspired that I could move mountains. I do not have MS, however have a friend who had. Unfortunately she is no longer with us, but I pray that she is in a better place right now.
    Normally I would never write to someone I don’t know, but I have a craving to make the difference whenever I can. It maybe not a huge difference, but I hope it may  help  people with their struggles.
    I have been very ill myself with pulmonary embolism and couldn’t work for a year (I was extremely tired all the time and in pain).  I was taking medications that actually made me feel even worse.
    My friend from Rotary suggested that I try some mangosteen juice XanGo and see if that might help. So I did. I started to drinking 1oz. 3 times a day and this made me feel a little better. So I up-ed my dosage to 3oz. 3 times a day and I soon began to see amazing results. It has given me energy, my pain disappeared and I was off my medications (even against my doctors suggestions) 6 months later. At that point I started to exercise (Yoga), changed my diet and feel great. Even better than 10 years ago. Now, 3 years later I think this was the best thing that could happen to me and I never looked back. I sold my business and started sharing my story with other people and educating them about health benefits of mangosteen fruit, which is listed in top 5 Super Foods.
    I am so grateful now to have my life back and hope more people will realize that Healthy Diet, exercise and Mangosteen Juice XanGo can change lives for better, much better.
    Last November I met a person who has MS and drinks XanGo. She says she feels great and is off 7 different medications. I don’t make a claim, but I am trying to say that unless we don’t try we won’t know the outcome.
    And wonderful think is that Mayo Clinic in Rochester got interested in XanGo with its own study.
    Thank you for your attention. A reply would be very appreciated,

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