balance-harmony-chronic-illness

Balance & Harmony in Chronic Illness

2020 is now upon us, and that means a new blog theme for the year at MS Mommy Blog. 2020 is the year of vision: think about the importance of 20/20 vision, and the phrase “hindsight is 20/20.” It is also a year of balance, something that happens once a century. With that in mind, I wanted to focus this year’s theme on balance and harmony. While the year itself holds no power, we can use it to remind ourselves of the importance of incorporating balance and harmony in our lives with chronic illness.

I feel that focusing our energy on personal balance and harmony is timely considering the surge of global unrest and the role this year plays in American politics. I promise never to get political on this blog, but what I will advocate is finding ways to give yourself a break when the news gets to be too much. 

2020 is a year geared towards making a commitment to yourself and finding what keeps you centered in the face of politics, painful news stories, your health, your professional life, and your personal life. There’s a lot to handle this year, so now is the time to say, “I can handle it healthily.”

Let’s take a quick look for what to expect for the rest of this year.

Looking Ahead

In the coming months, look forward to posts on the following themes:

  • Moderation in our habits & mind
  • MS Awareness
  • Further examination with self-compassion in the face of physical limitations
  • Learning to balance strong emotions
  • Working through mental imbalance and bringing that into harmony
  • Embracing self-acceptance
  • The importance of work-life balance with a chronic illness
  • Embracing self-care for overall satisfaction
  • In the face of uncertainty, finding internal balance
  • Healing from disappointment and external turmoil
  • What is inner peace and how to find it

Balance & Harmony in a Chronic Illness

So what is balance and harmony with a chronic illness?

I am hoping that this year will help answer that question. I have my ideas of what it looks like for me, but as I do an in-depth examination into what others say on the matter, I might find my answer changes. I want to spend this year exploring this theme not just for myself, but for my readers as well.

Like last year, I will be chronicling my journey as I learn more about myself and what helps me manage my MS

New Features to the Blog

2020 is a year of different opportunities for me that I want to share with you. I plan on having several new features that run weekly or monthly on the blog. These include:

The weekly newsletter will be revamped shortly, so look for new newsletters in the coming weeks. If you haven’t signed up for it yet, please do so now!

Attention to Chronic Illness Bloggers!

The MS Mommy Blog is looking to collaborate with other chronic illness bloggers for this year. If you have a chronic illness blog and would like an opportunity to tap into the MS Mommy Blog audience, please contact me here. I look forward to hearing from you.


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2019-a-reflection

2019: A Reflection

For the past two years, I’ve written a reflection for the last post of the year. Read 2017 here and 2018 here.


2019 was the year of the crucible. I underwent a lot of “lessons” in life; some brought on via self-reflection and others brought on by the natural flow of life. I learned a lot about myself, my capabilities, and where I see myself going in the future. In the three years, I’ve done these posts, it was the most challenging year emotionally, but the easiest year relating to my MS.

The Down Points

  • From October to December, I encountered some of the most challenging months in my adult life. These months rivaled my diagnosis with all the emotional upheaval. I lost Lytton in November, one of my forms of emotional support, while dealing with other challenges at the time. It felt piled on.
  • I continued to do a lot of heavy self-reflection, particularly with my role in my relationships and anger. The self-reflection often left me drained, but I am getting better at managing both. 
  • While I am getting better with my time management, I still struggle to get ahead on my work and stay ahead. With the past few months of upheaval, I’ve fallen drastically behind on several projects. I am struggling to get back into the swing of things. Additionally, I am grappling with being kind to myself because of this lag. I am seeing missed time as time wasted.
  • I am fighting against a victim mentality that crops up when experiencing a downcycle. My cat passed, I am falling behind, I am struggling to achieve goals, etc. – all played into previous internal tapes of “woe was me.” I have moments where I curl up in bed with a book or my phone to escape, but I try to set myself a timer to break out of it and be productive again, even if it’s with one task.
  • This last one needs to be at the end because it straddles a down point and positive point: getting back on my medicationThe down aspects of getting back on Tecfidera: it definitively means Ash and I are stopping with Jai for children, it’s a physical acknowledgment of my MS, and the pain I am about to undergo with the first month of side effects. 

The Positive Points

  • I decided to re-start my medication because I knew it was the right thing to do for my health. By re-starting Tecfidera, I am creating a more significant buffer between my well-being and my MS. It is an insurance policy to help me manage my MS when I have another downcycle of stress/emotional change. It’s also a physical acknowledgment, to myself, that my health is worth it.
  • I rediscovered my love of reading this year. It’s been over ten years since I sat down and read a book for pleasure. While in graduate school, I was afraid of wasting time on pleasure books when I could be doing research. I also found that graduate school temporarily blocked my love of reading because of all the heavy lifting I did. But I vowed to read more for the blog, so I started with audiobooks and graduated back into the physical medium. As I started getting into depths of the emotional upheaval that was this fall, I read more to escape. I found reading to be a soothing distraction, educational at times, and it also sets an excellent example for Jai. I plan to continue to read more in the coming year.
  • While my time-management was less than ideal, I learned that the more organized I am, the more satisfied I feel. I also found that I am less stressed if I have a flexible plan in place. I am less likely to put things off, though I still have my moments of procrastination. If anything, I learned that I am one of those people who benefit from structure, minimalism, and organization.
  • Last year I contemplated the role toxic friendships played in my life while feeling frustrated that a lot of my relationships had harmful elements. I recognized I stacked my friendship cards against me by rejecting or minimally pursuing positive relationships in my life. This year, I opened myself up to new relationships while maintaining my sense of self, something I hadn’t done before. Because of it, current friendships grew more profound, and I made a bunch of new friends along the way. 
  • My running took off this year. I ran in three different states (Florida, Nevada, and Wisconsin), and even PR’d on a half marathon, almost making it below two hours. I officially decided that I would begin the process of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. While I have a long way to go (like running a marathon in the first place), it’s a goal I’ve created for myself to see what I can achieve. I think my running has helped me manage my MS and my emotional well-being, along with getting me in a healthier space.
  • While it hasn’t been my most traveled year, I did get around the country quite a bit for 2019. I traveled to Florida for a Walt Disney World running weekend in January; I went to Las Vegas for my best friend’s birthday in March; and to Wisconsin twice (July & November) to visit with my in-laws. It was a year filled with a lot of new experiences, which I enjoyed very much.
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Checking In: MS Symptoms

This post was originally published in February 2018. I’ve updated it to include a follow up since the original publication.


What good is discussing diet and lifestyle changes if I don’t reveal the ongoing results?

Doing an honest self-assessment of any sort is hard, particularly when trying to find ways to manage an unmanageable disease. There’s a huge desire to make everything a “success” or engage in placebo effect-like thinking, but that isn’t always the case.

Overall, I feel like I am managing my MS better. Still, on a day-to-day basis, my mileage may vary because of various external factors.

Current Health Self-Check

Currently, I am not doing so well. Not necessarily because of the MS, but I have a weird seasonal head cold. Drippy nose, sore throat, and exhaustion. I can only assume that if a person without MS gets a virus like this, they may feel wiped out but can go about their daily lives with minimal interference.

With MS and any illness, I get so wiped out that getting out of bed is a hardship. Ash had to stay home until Jai went down for his morning nap on Tuesday because I was so worn out. I needed the extra couple of hours of sleep. This afforded me before I was able to start the day and take care of a toddler. Jai and I stayed in our PJs and read lots of books and minimized movement so I wouldn’t overdo it.

This is a crucial example of why getting sick with MS is “dangerous.” It won’t necessarily cause any physical harm. Still, infections are a significant cause of flare-ups, so there is a risk of needing to get steroids to treat the inflammation. I don’t get avoidant if I know someone is sick. Still, I do recognize that even a simple cold can knock me off my feet for a couple of days that might just inconvenience someone else.

I usually wouldn’t write about getting sick factoring into how I am currently feeling because I tend not to get sick all that often. Still, since having Jai, it has become a more common occurrence. 

Beyond the cold, I am feeling okay overall. There’s been some emotional disappointment in not being able to maintain my diet as strictly as I wanted. I am doing what is best for my overall health, and that is more important. My brain fog and memory issues haven’t lessened, but that may be because I am not doing enough mental exercises to help stimulate neuron repair.

Fatigue is still an issue, but not so much on the days that I am more active. I find high-cardio days mean that I have more energy throughout the day. On the days I only do yoga, there might be a more significant dip in energy by the afternoon.

Being completely honest: I haven’t noticed many changes since my last check-in after my diet reset. I feel more active, happier, less sluggish, but no apparent changes to my MS symptoms.

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Sugar and Chronic Illness

This post was originally published in October 2017. I’ve updated it to include a follow up since the original publication. Find my thoughts on sugar and chronic illness under my update.

2019 Note: This was a check-in post relating to a series of diet changes I made. Because I was breastfeeding Jai, I could not take my MS medication until I finished. I wanted to find a way to manage my illness until I restarted my medication.


Cutting sugar went smoother than I expected, though there were a few days where I was irritable, according to Ash. I refuse to believe him, but deep down, I know he’s right. No longer having that emotional crutch makes for a very grumpy me.

Psychologically speaking, it was a lot easier than I expected. As long as I didn’t have sugary treats in the house (I tossed all of our sweets or sent them with Ash to work); I avoided buying sugary drinks (everyone knows that my weakness is a good Pumpkin Spice Latte in the fall). If I had fruit for any sweet cravings, I was good to go. Every time I drove by a Starbucks, there was a temptation to pull in and just give in to that PSL craving, but I made sure to keep going and have a few bites of pineapple as soon as I got home.

A couple of times, I did eventually stop at Starbucks, and I made sure only to order an Americano. Before I was pregnant, I was in the habit of drinking all my coffee black unless it was a latte. It wasn’t hard for me to get back into drinking with nothing in them. I think it helped a bit too.

Coffee is a wonder drug (and sadly, probably something I need to add to my drop list), and can make a lot of things better.

I didn’t notice any headaches, though, at the beginning of the week, I was more sluggish and in need of an extra nap or two during the day. By the time Ash came home from work, I was very ready to pass Jai off to him, so I could lay down and not think or move for an hour. By day 3 or so, I had a little more energy, and by this morning (day 5), I had even more energy to do my running around without the need for a nap.

I also noticed that during my long run on Thursday, I was able to keep up with my mom and felt less fatigued at the end of it. I also felt motivated to go again this morning (though that would be off schedule). Me? Motivated to run off schedule? This really is unheard of – I hate running.

While shopping, I made sure to review all the labels like I said I would: any time it was High Fructose Corn Syrup or unidentified form of “sugar,” I would move along. From my research, they said that sugar is hidden in everything, and it really is true. Sugar is everywhere. Foods that I usually love to eat, like certain types of crackers or even grab-n-go frozen meals…all contain sugar. I also made sure to avoid agave and honey. If the item were sweetened with fruit juice or dates – I would be willing to grab it to consume.

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Veganism and Me

This post was originally published in November 2017. I’ve updated it to include a follow up since the original publication.


2019 Note: This was a check-in post towards the end of a series of diet changes I made. Because I was breastfeeding Jai, I could not take my MS medication until I finished. I wanted to find a way to manage my illness until I restarted my medication.

One week of the vegan diet down and going strong. It’s difficult to tell if there’s a difference in my energy level while I am still fighting this chest cold. Still, I do feel like my mood is relatively calm and mellow.

I am anticipating that once I start feeling better that I will notice a spike in my energy levels. After my first flare-up, but before my diagnosis, I went vegan for a few months. I found it as a natural energy booster while I wasn’t consuming caffeine. I expect the same results because I am eating similar to before, if not better, because I am not eating sugar or junk foods.

I am finding that I am craving meats and STILL craving fried foods. While I am not craving beef or pork, I am craving chicken and salmon, mainly fried chicken and fries. I still haven’t indulged in my fried food cravings, but I am astonished at how much harder it’s been to drop those foods. I expected sugar to be the hardest for me to remove from my diet with the cravings, and it hasn’t been.

I occasionally feel sorry that I can’t indulge in sweet treats, especially in the fall, but what I wouldn’t give to have some salty fries right now. Or onion rings. Or mozzarella. Or some sort of fried chicken skin…

I found some puffed veggie “fries” that work as a snack, and I’ve been making homemade microwave popcorn for idle snacking at night. I am going to try baking some fries or a vegan version of twice-baked potatoes. I think either of those might help satisfy my cravings.

Next week is the penultimate food removal and going to be the most difficult with functioning in the real world: gluten.

Overall Health Update

Getting on the scale this morning, I have officially lost 12 pounds from when I first started this journey. It was never about weight loss, but to see that this morning was a huge confidence booster. Hopefully more of it will melt off as I eat healthier and healthier and keep running. Once I finally hit a bottom with the weight loss, I will reveal official numbers.

2019 Health Update

It’s interesting how things come full circle. I maintained the vegan diet through the end of 2017 and into part of 2018 but found it unsustainable when I dropped gluten as well. I re-introduced eating dairy, meats, and gluten and never noticed that energy boost. Still, I suspect it had more to do with not maintaining as balanced of a diet as I intended.

In April of this year, I went vegetarian again and transitioned back to veganism in June. My reasons for transitioning back to veganism had less to do with health, though that was part of it. It had more to do with ethical reasons and being mindful of my overall environmental impact. This time I was more conscious of my diet, especially with all the running I’ve been doing. Since transitioning to vegan in June (but still eating gluten), I’ve had more energy and feel better overall.

I indulge in junk food, especially after several days of intense running training. I just ran an intense half marathon, so one of the first meals I had was a plate full of fries. I maintained the attitude I was going for back in 2017, and that is to embrace moderation.

I still firmly believe making dietary changes have helped me manage my MS while off medication. I won’t say it was any one thing, but rather, being mindful of my eating and ensuring it was balanced. If you could call my eating habits anything, it’s mostly clean eating with the occasional fried/unhealthy indulgence.

As to the weight mentioned at the end of the post, here is the official number reveal I promised. I was 164lbs when I started my journey in September 2017. When I wrote this post in November 2017, I was approximately 152lbs. According to the BMI standards, I was still considered overweight. At my most recent weigh-in, I am down to 130 lbs. This puts me solidly in healthy weight territory.

Two different races, two years apart.

I suspect losing nearly 60 lbs (I was 186 at my highest when pregnant with Jai) helps manage my MS. I don’t know if this is true, but I do feel better overall because of it. I understand this isn’t something everyone can do, especially with a debilitating autoimmune disease, but if you have the means to lose weight, it is worth trying. 

I wanted to revisit this post since I wrote it exactly two years ago, and it was interesting to see what changed and what stayed the same. It’s not often I think of taking the opportunity to see my personal growth.


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Featured photo credit: Canva