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.

Courage and Caution

February 26, 2010 by  
Filed under people oomph! videos

We profile Garth McLean and his unconventional battle with Multiple Sclerosis through Iyengar Yoga. The title “Courage and Caution” refers to the advice Yogacharya BKS Iyengar offered Garth upon learning of the challenges he faces with MS.

Courage and Caution from oomphTV on Vimeo.

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