All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for October 2002

Mrs. Romney Fights Multiple Sclerosis

Wed Oct 9, 3:21 PM ET
Local - WCVB

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney may be facing one of his biggest battles in trying to win the corner office, but his wife, Ann, is quietly fighting her own battle: multiple sclerosis.
NewsCenter 5's Liz Brunner said that Ann Romney talked very candidly about her illness and her holistic approach to healing, which she credits with keeping her in remission. "I was active, busy, doing everything, exercising, healthy as could be and then one morning, I couldn't get out of bed," she said. "It's so dramatic that you are instantly going in and seeing the neurologist. It's like what is going on, I am so sick?"

What was going on were the crippling effects of multiple sclerosis, an often progressive disease of the central nervous system that manifests itself very differently for each individual.

"There was a point in time when I was in a progressive state, losing pieces of my leg. It just kept moving and it was moving so quickly and I was losing so much of my balance and my equilibrium and my whole right side was going numb," Romney said. "I'll never forget, the doctor left, and Mitt and I sat and looked at each other and burst into tears."

That day back in October of 1998 brought on a frightening reality.

"How am I going to live? How bad am I going to be? And I was pretty depressed. I was never suicidal, but it was almost like I wish a truck would just come hit me, be done with it, this is like miserable," she said.

To stop the progression of her illness, doctors pumped Romney full of steroids. It worked, but didn't take away all of her debilitating symptoms.

"I've always been nervous about taking drugs, and I just didn't feel good on them so took this literally leap of faith. I felt like I was jumping off of a canyon wall to try some other alternative therapies to see if I could better," Romney said.

Now, not a day goes by without Romney doing something of a holistic nature -- acupuncture, reflexology, yoga, herbal supplements and even organic foods.

"I mean it is almost a full-time job for me to keep myself feeling like I do and I have learned to listen to my body. I've learned to listen to outside pressures and just turn them off. I've learned to slow down," Romney said.

Then there's her favorite form of therapy -- horseback riding.

"I started to ride, and it was just like magic for me," she said. "I was very weak when I started to ride, could only go around the arena once, had difficulty even getting on the horse because of my balance. When I was the sickest is when it was the most amazing because they took care of me. They are very intuitive animals. They were to me a very important part of my therapy. There's this wonderful joy that fills your soul and if you have that joy, your body can learn to heal itself."

Romney remains in remission today -- her struggle with MS slowly dissipating while living in Utah these past few years. Her husband was president of the winter Olympic games (news - web sites), and whether it was the fresh mountain air or Romney's holistic approach, she feels strong today.

"I was worried to come back. I was concerned, and it was a healthy place for me to be," Romney said. "My biggest fear is having the disease come back in a progressive state again. I kind of laugh with Mitt, his race is over on Nov. 5, but this race, that we're both in together, is lifelong. There is no end to the battle," she said.

Even with her hysterectomy earlier this summer, Romney and her doctors were concerned that kind of trauma to the body might bring on an attack. It did not. So this alternative approach appears to have worked for Romney, but since MS affects everyone differently, she's cautious about suggesting that others try what has worked for her.

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