My Journey with Overcoming MS

Winter 2016, Living Well Magazine

by Corinne Nijjer

Most of my teens and twenties were spent eating rubbish, smoking, sleeping and being overweight, in chronic pain and depressed.

In my early twenties I received a misdiagnosis of Fibromyalgia due to the chronic pain, but in 2004 this was changed to a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis following an attack that left me with pins and needles and numbness down my right hand side.

Following my diagnosis I received an information pack from the MS Society in Victoria which contained a lot of info on the many drug treatments available but also a couple of pages informing me about The Swank Diet. The dietary approach made so much more sense to me (as I was terrified of needles!) so I started making alterations to my diet but refused to give up smoking (I know…) and I noticed my symptoms decrease.

Unfortunately when I returned to my Neurologist, he advised me not to bother changing my diet as ‘there was no science’ to suggest that this would have any benefit at all, and even though my latest MRI had shown a decrease in lesions, I listened to my Neurologist and went back to eating whatever I fancied. What resulted was more inflammation and more frequent attacks.

I couldn’t stop thinking to myself – if I wasn’t born with MS, why had my immune system decided to start attacking the myelin surrounding the nerves on my brain at 24 years of age? Something was happening to my body. It was desperately trying to tell me something. 

The only thing that really made sense to me at the time was the dietary connection. If my body was a car, I had been fuelling it with the equivalent of microwave cheese in a cup for the past 24 years and now I was wondering what the hell was wrong with it? Diet made sense. I was doing something to my body that it couldn’t cope with and I had to stop.

In 2006 I was introduced to Professor George Jelinek’s work and his 4-night Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis Retreat program at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. Although this further strengthened my feelings around the importance of a healthy diet, eating and living unhealthily had been such a strong part of my past that it was tightly wrapped into my identity, and it wasn’t long before I went right back to eating junk foods and smoking with my friends… there are many things I would do differently in hindsight.

Sadly 4 years had passed since my diagnosis, and my brother died of Muscular Dystrophy.  I was still smoking and bouncing between periods of healthy eating and unhealthy eating. I did however start to notice the connection between periods of eating well and reduced symptoms, increased energy and less or no attacks, aswell as periods of eating sugar-loaded and high fat foods resulting in symptoms returning.

The real wake up call came in 2008 when I woke with the entire lower half of my body completely numb. I had been living on a diet of energy drinks and cigarettes (I can’t express how disappointed in myself I am even writing this!) and now I couldn’t feel myself use the toilet. I could walk, but everything felt as though it was submerged in concrete or ice. Heavy. Frozen. I couldn’t feel ANYTHING below the waist… it was terrifying.

I quit smoking that very same day, and with the support of my family and friends, changed my diet and lifestyle for GOOD!  Thankfully, I regained full feeling in my lower body and here I am, 8 years later feeling better than ever. I will never go back.

Once I committed to the diet and lifestyle recommendations I had been taught at the Overcoming MS Retreat, everything began to improve – I lost weight, I no longer felt depressed, I began a love affair with running, and literally everything in my life improved for the better. I went from feeling hopeless and defeated, to feeling empowered and in control of my body and health. 

I now run 5km 7 days a week, I follow a low fat, plant-based diet, along with supplementation of omega 3, vitamin D and B12, regular meditation and loads of time spent in nature with my family. We even moved away from the hustle and bustle of the city and into the beautiful, tranquil Dandenong Ranges.

I truly love where my journey has led me.

I love supporting people to make changes to their diet and lifestyle as I have seen first hand how amazing you can feel when you begin to eat cleaner, exercise, meditate and begin to live more in line with your true self.

I didn’t incorporate all of the learning’s from the Overcoming MS Retreat overnight, but those teachings stayed with me and are now very much how I live and manage my own health and wellbeing with MS. I am so very grateful for all the things I learnt from Professor George Jelinek and his facilitation team – they literally handed me the tools to take back control of my own life and health. 

In 2014 I started a blog that focuses on plant-based wholefoods, recipes, lifestyle tips etc. (www.corinnenijjer.com), and am currently building my career as a health coach, in addition to my Reiki and Women’s Circle Facilitation work.

I love supporting people to make changes to their diet and lifestyle as I have seen first hand how amazing you can feel when you begin to eat cleaner, exercise, meditate and begin to live more in line with your true self.