All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for November 2003

Montel Williams fights for life

Talk show host shares his bout with MS in new book

November 14, 2003
J.C. Brooks

Montel Williams is probably best known for the Montel Williams show, which is now in its 13th season. But, aside from his show, the multi-talented Montel is an actor, best-selling author, motivational speaker and now adds to his long line of attributes, activist.

In 1999, Montel was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Since the day he publicly announced his bout with the disease, he vowed to use his celebrity to find a cure. He has traveled the globe to catapult research efforts on behalf of all people suffering from MS.

Montel is presently working on the launch of another book. This book is his attempt to open up to the world his personal journey through life after being diagnosed with the disease. One of the most important things he tries to convey to the public is the need to get involved in personal health.

"Something that is extremely important today, especially for African American men over the age of 40 - we think that we are either invincible or we don't want to know…is to start taking charge over our medical care," Montel adamantly explains.

"There's a lot of us walking around with ticking time bombs and we need to get out and get checked."

He admits that he too had a problem with getting regular check-ups before he began fighting MS.

"If you would've asked me [when's the last time I saw a doctor] before I was diagnosed with MS, I would've said, 'I don't need no doctor' and the truth is we need to get out and start checking."

In case you haven't noticed, Montel looks quite well these days. But, he shares the fact that the outward appearance reveals nothing of the tremendous pain and struggle he is experiencing with MS.

"A lot of people think that I am stronger than the rock of Gibraltar." He paused for a moment. "I think some of that has hurt the cause. What I've been trying to get through to people is no matter how bad it is we can get through it. But, people have to understand how bad it is and not many people know that and I'm letting them know that now."

He added that the upkeep of his deceiving outward appearance is not easy and extremely risky.

"That's one of the crazy things about this disease," said Montel. "I work out everyday. I take vitamins everyday. I'm on a medication regiment that would probably kill most people in this country and the residual effect is what you see. But let there be no question," he said adamantly, "one of the things that we do in this country that I think is also insidious when it comes to illnesses is that we look at illness as weakness."

"I'm ill I'm not weak by anybody's stretch of imagination, but I am ill and let there be no question that I am. Have I missed a day at work? No. Will I miss a day at work? No. Will I work through every single thing that bothers me with this disease? Yes."

Montel also suffers from a particularly rare element of MS that adds to the excruciating pain he experiences.

"One of the things that I have been so afraid to talk about with people is that … I'm one of these people that are in this five percent category of MS. I have extreme neuralgia which is nerve pain." He pauses again. "Though I try not to think about it I'm in pain 24 hours a day, everyday. The level of that pain goes up and down."

Montel explains another element of the disease that, arguably, is the most difficult to handle.

"One of the worst symptoms of this disease is also depression and that is what a lot of doctor's believe is killing the majority of people who have it," said Montel. "Believe me, the pain that I suffer has brought me to the brink of not wanting to be here on multiple occasions … It's a fact, that what you don't see may be what is the worst."

Although Montel suffers, he is able to offer inspiring words to people about depression, no matter what it is that the person is suffering from.

"No matter how bad it is, and there are people with a much more heinous story to tell than mine, but there are days that I truly have to stop and really talk myself into getting up, but I do it. And I'm gonna do it until the day that I can't and then that day I'm going to talk myself into waking up."

"There are two choices I think that we have on this planet. One is to live life to its fullest and another is to live life to other people's expectations and I've never been one to live up to or down to anyone else's expectations but my own, so I plan on living it to the fullest. But at the same time, it's showing people how they can do that because there are ways for us."

Montel is unusually able to grasp the essence of his depression and the effects of it and treat it. He offers the same advice to others who choose to live instead of struggle.

"I understand my own depression now. I don't take medication for it. I did for a little bit and that medication almost killed me in itself," he shared. "I didn't need that. What I needed was to understand 'Montel, you're depressed, so what are you going to do about it. You can either stay depressed or you can understand that you're depressed and understand you are chemically depressed, which doesn't mean you got like this by sitting around in a bad mood.' "

"My illness sends chemicals into my brain that are going to make me depressed … I choose to live on the side of hope. [With my book] I'm hoping that I can take people on a journey that they can understand even at their deepest moment of despair."

Next week we will delve further into Montel's crusade for a cure for MS and also elements of his book. But, here, Montel gave us a shocking look into what you can expect to read.

"I'm a little hesitant to give up a lot of what's in this book right now. I've had those moments where the pain was at a point where my only option seemed to be stopping it by stopping me. Period. There are moments throughout this book where I tried real hard. In that deep depression all I wanted to do was stop hurting. At that point in time I was going through a bout of MS, and fortunately, I haven't gone through another one since."

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