“I believe everything happens for a reason”

Georgina Colman on how she has learned how to live holistically which helps her manage her symptoms

In 2002, shortly after the birth of my son, I began experiencing headaches and bouts of double vision. I brushed off concerns raised by my doctor regarding an MRI mainly because I had returned to work when my son was only three months old, so I put it down to just being exhausted and dismissed the need for further investigation.

However, as the symptoms persisted, I reluctantly underwent the recommended scan. A few weeks later I met a neurologist, who informed me that there were some white patches on my brain scan and that I most likely had ‘benign MS’. His advice was to go away and forget about it as it was unlikely to impact me. Remember, this was a time when the internet was unlike it is today – there was no Facebook, no MS groups and nowhere to get information. I recall that I did a quick search but didn’t find out much, so I just went on with my life and tried to forget about it as he recommended.

Subtle signs

Thirteen years passed, with the MS seemingly dormant, though subtle symptoms lingered unnoticed or were put down to other things, for example two fingers on my left hand lost sensation – I could still feel them but they were different to my other fingers. At the time the nerve specialist told me it was caused by me constantly sitting with my elbows on my desk during my computer work but that the nerves themselves were fine and it was nothing to do with my MS. This later proved to be false information.

In 2014, I got remarried and we made a neurologist appointment for the following April to talk about the risks of having another baby, as I was conscious that the MS flared up when I gave birth back in 2002. When we got to the appointment we were met by a newly qualified locum as the original neurologist was off sick. He took one look at my walking gait and said he believed I had progressive MS – can you imagine the shock? He had spent less than five minutes with us, had no scans and I was still at a stage when I wasn’t even convinced the first neurologist was right with his diagnosis. Words however have power, and almost from that day forth my walking went downhill.

Starting treatment

It was almost a year later by the time I saw the original neurologist as my appointments kept getting pushed back. When I finally met her in late February 2016, she felt I wasn’t yet at the progressive stage and that I still had time to prevent further deterioration. She offered me two different disease-modifying drugs and I felt I was under pressure to act quickly. I wasn’t informed about other options like taking a more holistic route and in hindsight I should have done more research myself. So, feeling the pressure of time, I embarked on a two-year course of Lemtrada (immunosuppressant treatment) only to find my condition continued to deteriorate.

In 2017, after I had finished treatment I was disabled. My mobility had got worse with my right leg not working properly. This made me re-evaluate the approach to my health and since then I have changed my lifestyle completely. I started focusing on holistic health and I am pleased to say that I feel much better for it.

Holistic approach

I am probably the healthiest I have ever been, as I am very conscious of what I put in my body. I avoid inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, refined sugar, processed foods as well as toxins from health and beauty products. I exercise regularly and I look after my wellbeing so I read lots, relax through hobbies like building Lego which is very therapeutic, meditate and basically reduce my stress levels as much as I can. I also take a lot of supplements and am always open to learning how to improve my nervous system.

I do many other things to help with my mobility like acupuncture, neurophysio, sports massages, and chiropractors as they all help in different ways – I often liken all the different things that I do to pieces of the puzzle that help keep me moving. I have walking poles that I use for short distances and then a lightweight wheelchair for anything else.

Living positively

My life has changed a lot in the last seven years, but I don’t see MS as a negative thing. Of course, I’d rather not have it, but I am a true believer in everything happens for a reason and there are far worse things out there. My life is much more balanced now, and I don’t let my disability stop me from doing anything – sometimes it might be more challenging but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go for it. I am really lucky that I have an amazing and supportive husband as well as a great network of friends. They are always saying how inspiring I am because I just take my disability in my stride. I just believe every situation can be improved upon with action and that sitting around moping about my situation isn’t going to help me.

The stress connection

When I look back at my life, I can see how much stress has impacted me, especially in my late teens and early adulthood. I have always lived in fight-or-flight mode and have high cortisol levels so my advice to anyone recently diagnosed is to try and reduce your stress levels as much as you can – which I know is sometimes easier said than done. There is so much advice out there now for holistic therapies and living with MS and perhaps if I had been shown these earlier on in my journey, then maybe my mobility wouldn’t have deteriorated quite as much.

It took me a long time to accept I was disabled and probably a longer time to accept using mobility aids, however, these are your friends. Much of my walking gait problems have arisen from my body compensating when something wasn’t working properly. If I had used two walking poles or even a single walking stick from the minute I was finding it harder to walk then I might not have developed bad habits. These bad habits take longer to undo as the minute you stop using the right muscles they get weaker and weaker. One walking stick will cause other gait issues particularly with your back and posture so just go with two and don’t worry about what others think as it’s more important to maintain correct posture and gait. I wish someone had told me that.

My new venture

You probably know this already but it’s expensive being disabled, in fact according to Scope research it costs on average an additional £1,000 a month when you live with a disability. This just seems so unfair to me. We didn’t ask to be disabled yet we have to incur a higher cost of living compared to our non-disabled friends and family. This injustice has led me to start my own business so that I can help the disabled community offset those additional costs.

I have recently launched Purpl, a disabled discount programme that will provide exclusive discount codes for products and services to help the disabled community stretch their pennies further. It’s really important to me that I help others and as part of my business I will be launching a ‘giving programme’ that will donate money to disabled charities. My long-term aim is to create The Purpl Foundation that will give grants to those who need additional financial support above and beyond the disability benefits that exist. If you are reading this and want to be part of the journey then please go to https://purpldiscounts.com/ and register. Our full website will be launching soon but while you wait, you can register and then receive our emails to keep updated on new offers that have already launched with different brands. You can also follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/purpldiscounts

Thank you for reading my story and I hope you will join me on my journey to help our community.