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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Health: Debate over best system will continue

There is no doubt that I prefer social healthcare. That means I support healthcare funded by countries, such as the UK and Spain, rather than needing to buy private health insurance, as in the US.

Now, that is not to say either healthcare system provides superior medical care. It is purely about the costs.

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An American protester calls for the country to have one health plan.

Neither system is entirely free as workers pay something from their salary or wages as contributions toward the cost. But there are other big differences. Social medicine is free at the point of use, with no charges for doctors’ treatment or hospital care. The same cannot be said of private health care, where even GPs charge fees and you need health insurance. In fact, in the US, not having health cover has legal penalties.

Despite that, many people find the cost of insurance to be prohibitive.

I find it strange, and more than a little ironic, that insurance costs got worse after the US passed the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. How can ‘affordable’ equal more expensive? Some monthly premiums escalated from less than $60 a month to more than $300. And others cost a lot more.

Let me be clear, I am not saying the American system is flawed. It is just not for me.

Prescription costs a question of health

One item of contention in the UK is the cost of prescriptions. First, you must recognise that the UK IS made up of four healthcountries. A trip to the pharmacist in England will cost you £8.60 per prescription drug or item.  But prescriptions in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are all free.

Since Lisa and I moved to Spain almost two years ago, we have been surprised by the low prescription charges here. Yes, we do pay – but just cents, certainly not excessive.

The standard of care here is excellent but, as anywhere, it can vary from doctor to doctor. We recently chose to change our doctor to another within the same health centre. It was so simple.

Last week, I had my first appointment with our new doctor. He listened to what I had to say, prescribed a couple of medications, and, as I have MS, he referred me to see a neurologist. Stopping at reception on the way out, I left with a confirmed appointment with a neurologist. It will be my first in 12 years.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Sensitivity to heat not affected by summer sunshine

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As summer continues with temperatures in the 30°s C (high 80°s), the hottest days now seem to be behind us here in the south of Spain. The temperatures peaked at over 100°, so the high 80°s is quite pleasant.

What’s more, the good news is that the hot weather has not caused me any heat sensitivity problems at all. But then, that’s exactly what I expected. And that is because my heat sensitivity is triggered by changes in temperature not consistent heat.

Some people were concerned about heat exhaustion when the learned that Lisa ad I announced we were moving to Spain, two years ago. But after a series of sudden temperature changes experienced in the UK, this is a walk in the park.

Heat in your marriage

Talking of my beloved Lisa, she never ceases to amaze me with her selfless dedication to my wellbeing.

I have heard from so many people with MS who have split up ad divorced when their partners decide that a life as a caregiver isn’t for them. It is so sad.

Lisa has known that I have MS right from the start of our relationship, I never tried to hide it. She agreed to marry me knowing what was in store for us both. Furthermore, her granddad had MS too, so she knew more than most husbands and wives when their spouses are diagnosed as having MS.

Perhaps that is not incredible, perhaps it should be expected but there are many who have found that not to be the case. The “till death do us part” of the marriage vows appears to have been lost on their partners.

Do you have the loving support of your spouse or have you split up? And just how does heat sensitivity affect you, or doesn’t it? Please let me know.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Even a little independence is a great feeling

If you have mobility problems, getting out and about is extremely difficult. And doing so without the constant presence of a helper, assistant, or caregiver is something that is next to impossible.

As multiple sclerosis affects my left side, I cannot propel myself in a manual wheelchair. So, forget any thoughts of independence. It’s just out of the question.

But earlier this week, I managed to visit both the health centre, and a bank, in our nearest town. Alone.

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This is my wheelchair.

It was all thanks to my lightweight, foldable electric wheelchair. It is so compact, when folded, that it goes in the back of our car. The only trouble is that, although lightweight, because of my disability, it’s still beyond my ability to lift by myself.

So on Tuesday, after I drove the five miles to town, Lisa lifted the chair out of the car and I was quickly on my way to see the nurse. Encountering just a short delay from my appointment time, I practiced my very basic Spanish language skills, and was soon on the second leg of my journey.

Worry-free independence

It’s a fairly long but straight road from the health centre to the bank, although it is uphill and has several side roads. I negotiated all the dropped kerbs successfully, and it really felt good to be able to do all of it by myself.

In the meantime, Lisa was doing a bit of shopping without having to worry about me.

We met back at our car, as arranged. Lisa was there first and suggested we visit a nearby snack bar for a pastry and orange juice.

Finally, we returned to the car where we jointly lifted the folded chair back into the car, before I drove home.

It wasn’t a great feat, and was nothing to shout about, but doing it by myself made me feel good.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Wife who is carer is really a wonderful, loving, angel

It’s been an eventful few days for the two of us at home here in Spain.

On Saturday, nine days ago, my beloved Lisa asked me to help put the washing out to dry. It’s an easy job that I can do sitting down, so I readily agreed. The trouble was that it was not one of my best days. Thanks to multiple sclerosis, I managed to fall while walking out of the back door onto our terrace.

I still have no idea how but the nail of the big toe on my left foot was torn upright. It was 90 degrees from its usual position. There was pain and blood – and plenty of the red stuff.

carerMy wife Lisa is also my carer and is quite used to me spending time on the floor and could not see my injury, so she didn’t rush to my side. But she certainly arrived fast enough when I told her what was wrong.

In next to no time, she had stopped the bleeding and strapped up my toe. Luckily, once bandaged, the pain eased so that it only hurt if touched.

Wife and carer is an angel

A couple of days later, I visited our doctor. He removed the dressing and the nail came off with it. The wound started to bleed again but he quickly stopped it and sent me to a nurse to get it redressed. That started a series of one visit every two days, something I had to get used to here. The Spanish health service goes the extra mile to see that patients receive the best treatment.

However, these regular visits to the health centre are putting more stress on Lisa. Lifting my electric wheelchair out of, and back into, our car is a task that should not be repeated often. Meanwhile, at home, she is doing virtually all the work. She is my carer and refuses to ask me to help in case I am hurt again. In fact, while doing anything involving standing or walking is difficult, I try to do what I can.

One thing though, Lisa is always so grateful for whatever help I can give. But all she does for me makes her even more than my loving wife and carer.

She is my wonderful, loving, guardian angel who walks here on earth.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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MS is No Excuse for Being Discourteous When Offered Help

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It was a trip, plain and simple, neither my leg giving way nor a fall. It was MS-related because it was directly caused by foot drop; the toe of my left shoe caught on the tiniest ridge at the bottom of a ramp.

My trip wasn’t dramatic, I didn’t end up on my face. In fact, I simply sat down on a small retaining wall of a flower bed, about two or three bricks high. No fuss, Lisa even told me afterward that I had managed to sit down quite gracefully.

After sitting there for about a minute, I could have stood up and continued my way inside the restaurant for our meal and, back in the U.K., that’s exactly what I would have expected to happen.

Not here in Spain, though! No sooner had I come to sit on the low wall than two young men from a group at a table on the terrace, rushed up and helped me back to my feet. But that was not enough for one of them; he was determined not to let go until I was safely seated at a table inside.help

I expressed my gratitude in Spanish and he returned to his group outside.

Lisa and I enjoyed our meal, three courses plus a drink and a coffee for just 10€ each (about $10.50, or £8.50), which is nothing to complain about.

Eventually it was time to leave and, as we came out of the door, the same young man who helped me earlier again sprung out of his chair to escort me back to our car. This time, I had not tripped or fallen; he just wanted to help.

We exchanged a few words in Spanish (not too many as I am still learning the language, but enough to guide him to the correct car, make him understand that I needed to go the driver’s side and then to, once again, thank him for all his help).

Like many people who have MS or any other disability, I am keen to be independent. However, not so fiercely that I would be rude or cause offense to anyone offering help. Even those times when I do decline an offer, I always do so in a friendly way and make sure that it is obvious that the offer was appreciated.

You must have come across people who are discourteous when offered assistance, which they reject with a terse “I’ll be all right,” “I can do it,” or worse, “Leave me alone.” These people are doing no service to themselves or the wider community of people living with disabilities.

Yes, I have multiple sclerosis and, yes, I have a disability that sometimes necessitates using a wheelchair. But the disease does not have me, nor has my desire for independence robbed me of basic common courtesy.

This article, written by me, was first published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Looking back to move forward into 2017

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It’s New Year’s Eve and so tonight we bid farewell to 2016 and prepare to welcome the infant 2017.

At this time every year, we hear some people say that they are glad to see the back of an unhappy time and look forward to a hopefully better year ahead. On the other hand, there are others for whom the last 12 months have been good and are hoping for that to continue.

yearThat made me think about how 2016 has been for my beloved Lisa and I. Not usually being one to formally sit down and take stock, this seems to be a good time to do just that. So, let’s take a quick look back at the old year as it draws to a close.

Having moved from North Wales in the UK to Andalucía in the south of Spain in November 2015, this year has been spent largely adapting to the different lifestyle, local customs, dealing with a change of language, a new currency and so on.

Home

Our home itself is superb, being detached, all on one floor with level access at the back and a purpose-built wet room installed in place of the bathroom. It also has extremely low maintenance gardens, front and rear, as well as off-road parking.

The living room and kitchen/diner are joined by a wide arch while another links the living room to the interior hallway that has doors to the wet room and two bedrooms. The arches give more than enough room for wheelchair access if required. Overall, we have twice as much room here in Spain than we did in our apartment in Wales.

Health

The year did not start out too well when I had to be rushed to hospital when my urine turned to blood with a little urine mixed in. It turned out to be nothing to do with multiple sclerosis but as a direct result of blood thinning medication prescribed in the UK as part of treatment for a heart condition. Unknown to me at the time, the situation was more than serious; it was life-threatening. Amazingly, the Spanish health service had the problem under control in just six hours and discharged me after only two nights in hospital.

Since then, my blood thinning medication has been changed and has been kept under control.

As far as MS is concerned, of course it is still here – and always will be – but things have changed for the better. I visited the AA Maximov centre in Moscow in October to be assessed to see whether or not I would be likely to benefit from having HSCT. Four days of intensive health tests led to me being told, on the downside that the chemotherapy drugs might pose an unacceptable risk because of my heart condition. However, on the upside, all the MS lesions in my brain and spine are old and inactive; there is no current inflammation.

Interestingly, in order to help maintain this inactivity, I was advised by Dr Fedorenko to avoid all vaccinations – including the flu vaccine.

He also revealed that my vitamin D level was far too low. It was not just insufficient, it was even lower. It was classed as deficient. He advised taking a daily vitamin D supplement to correct the situation. Since starting to take this, I have seen improvements in balancing and walking ability although not endurance, have found muscles to be getting stronger (well, less weak), have suffered far fewer falls, and generally feel more ‘able’.

Writing is a passion of mine and to have expanded from this blog of mine to Multiple Sclerosis News Today is therapeutic in more ways than one.

Finance

The cost of living in Spain is certainly lower than in the UK. Groceries, car fuel, even the cost of eating out – everything seems to cost less here than in Britain, except electricity. And the knock-on effect of those cheaper costs means that our income goes further than before. Indeed, earlier this month, I managed to pay off a credit card!

Language

Linguistic skills have never been my strong point. At school, I spent five years studying French to quite a poor standard, and living in Wales for 23 years left me really unable to speak Welsh, although I can sing its national anthem Mae hen wladfy’n hadau and, from memory, can reci.e the countrhy’s longest place name, the Anglesey village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwerndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – oh, and I can spell it too.

The Spanish language is a lot easier and, although I am by no means fluent, I can take part in basic everyday conversations and can understand basic newspaper stories.

To sum it up

So, all in all, 2016 has been a positive year for us. How was it for you?

Happy New Year

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Reasons to be Cheerful at Thanksgiving

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While citizens of the United States celebrate thanksgiving this Thursday, the festivities are all but unknown in the rest of the world.

As my wife Lisa is American, it should be no surprise to anyone that my thoughts at this time of year tend to turn to thankfulness.

  • I am cheerful that the MS lesions in my brain and spine are currently inactive and that there are no signs of current inflammation.
  • I am cheerful that Lisa is my wife She is the love of my life, my lover, confidant, and my very best friend.
  • cheerfulI am cheerful to have enjoyed a career as a writer, about which I have a passion. Even today, when MS prevents me from going out to work, I am cheerful that I have the ability to write at home and to be able to use the internet as my method of publication.
  • I am cheerful for the support of members of the online community who continue to read my MS, Health and Disability blog at 50shadesofsun.com as well as for the owners and fellow writers who contribute to the various disease/disorder-specific news and information websites run by BioNews Services.
  • I am cheerful that Lisa and I moved to, and now live in, the sunny south of Spain.
  • I am cheerful for the ease with which we can communicate over such long distances in today’s computerized world. With friends and family in the UK and USA, as well as fellow writers and other contacts throughout the world, it is as though they are all just a couple of miles away.
  • I am cheerful for ease of travel and for the assistance available to people with disabilities when travelling by plane, ship, train, coach, bus, or taxi. Added to that, I am cheerful to have my folding electric wheelchair that makes such a huge difference to my life.
  • I am cheerful that I have been able to fulfil dreams that were once beyond the remotest of possibilities, such as sailing across the Atlantic, staying in New York City at Christmas-time, going to Hawaii, and visiting the Arctic circle. I am cheerful, too, that the opportunity remains to fulfil more dreams in the future.
  • I am cheerful to enjoy entertainment in whatever form it takes: films, TV, theatre, sport, music, ebooks, games or puzzles.
  • Finally, I am cheerful that I am alive and able to do what I can, when I can.

I may have MS but it does not have me, I refuse to let it!

Stay cheerful.

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ian profile50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/didorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

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One year on: Living with MS in sunny Spain

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It was this Sunday a year ago that Lisa and I arrived in Spain to start our new life in the sunshine, just 15 minutes from the Mediterranean.

Yes, although even the two of us find it hard to believe, we have lived here in Spain for 12 months. And we love it.

Two of the main reasons that we decided to relocate to the south of Spain were for better weather and for a hoped-for improvement in my health, having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in April 2002.

So, let’s have a look at what is going on in Spain:

  • My health: Well, of course, I still have MS but from an MRI scan last month I know that the lesions on my spine and brain are inactive. Now, I am not going to attempt to explain the technical details but will just say that my symptoms seem to have stabilized. I am now beginning to be able to move a few steps without holding on to furniture and walls, which is a good sign. It seems that I have got no worse since our move; whether that is linked to the sunny weather, I don’t know.
  • Weather: Sunny and warm most of the year. The area is renowned for having upwards of 320 days of sun per year. Such a change from the UK climate. Before we moved, it was not unusual to have to wear winter jackets in July; but here, in January his year, we were dressed in summer clothes sitting out in the sunshine. Luckily, my version of MS-related heat sensitivity is not affected by warm weather but by sudden fluctuations; this makes Spain an ideal place to live.
  • Healthcare: Like the UK’s NHS, the Sistema Nacional de Salud de España (Spain’s National Health Service) provides socialised healthcare for all residents. Our experience of this has included fast and efficient hospital service, both as in-patient and out-patient, efficient local health centre where our GP is based – including the ability to make appointments online. Prescriptions charges are so low as to be negligible and pharmacists here can provide certain products that require a doctor’s prescription in the UK.
  • Dentists and Opticians: While these are not covered by the health service, and so we have to pay, the costs are not excessive and even the sight test is free if you buy spectacles from the same place.
  • Roads and driving: Spain has the most amazing network of roads that are mostly wide, open and free. Some of the newest motorways, known as autovias, are toll roads. They have different designations. Near us, we have the A7 (free autovia) and the AP7 (toll autovia). Of course, like all mainland European countries, the USA and many more, the Spanish drive on the right-hand side of the road, unlike the UK. But, despite having driven on the left for more than 40 years, driving a left-hand drive car on the right side of the road has come naturally to me.
  • Restaurants, Bars and Cafés: There are so many from which to choose, featuring a wide variety of cuisines. Many also offer a Menú del Día option which is a reasonably priced Menu of the Day including a drink.
  • Shopping: We are well serviced by supermarkets, specialist shops, economy stores and the usual wide range of high street shops. No-one does home deliveries or click-and-collect however. Those advances haven’t reached Spain yet, at least not the rural part.
  • Motor fuel: Whether you want diesel or gasolina (petrol), they are both reasonably priced and cheaper than in the UK.
  • Electricity: The costs are higher in Spain but not so high as to detract from living here.
  • People: We have found everybody so pleasant and helpful; something quite unlike anything we’d previously experienced. Only two days ago, as Lisa was packing our shopping into bags at the supermarket checkout, a young man appeared and helped her, and then loaded them back into the cart. We thanked him but he insisted on escorting us back to our car where he folded and loaded my electric wheelchair plus all the shopping into the vehicle and even took the cart back and reclaimed the one Euro coin and returned it to Lisa. I was surprised to receive similar treatment in the USA but Lisa explained that the guy was paid to do it; it was his job. The man in Spain was not wearing the supermarket uniform, in fact it does not employ packers. He was just a member of the public who wanted to help!
  • Language: Our linguistic skills are improving and I find myself understanding the gist of what someone is Spainsaying in Spanish and being able to make myself understood.

To sum it all up, one year on from our big move, we both absolutely love it. We are healthier (in my case, with MS, I equate ‘no worse’ to being healthier), happier and financially better-off.

Now, where’s my Sangria?

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ian profile50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/didorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Can a healthy diet help MS? Yes, but it’s not a cure

Diet? Me? No. we just don’t get along. Try to lose weight, have some minor success, then get disillusioned when the diet continues but the weight plateaus out. Sound familiar? And you end up back where you started or, horror of horrors, even heavier.

And I have never paid much attention to people saying that diet cured them of MS. In fact, it’s nothing short of hogwash. That’s not to say that diet cannot help, just that it is not a cure by itself.

A few weeks ago, this site carried news that Lisa and I were going to start eating a totally healthy and balanced vegetarian diet.  Not one that has been sold to us but one that we decide for ourselves.

Before going further, l must make it quite clear, our decision to go vegetarian was not a desire to lose weight, there were no allergies involved, and we both actually like meat. Our motivation was purely the horrendous way we, as humans, treat other sentient beings with cruelty and contempt.

Hamburgers? No, no meat in these tasty veggie burgers.

Hamburgers? No, no meat in these tasty veggie burgers.

Having said that, how is our veggie adventure going? In short, amazingly well.

Lisa loves cooking and now uses her skills to create the most wonderful tasty meals that are nourishing and have a great balance of protein and everything else we need – minus the animal fats.

Must admit to having misgivings at first, but the dishes that are new to my palate are fantastic. We don’t just eat a plateful of vegetables, there’d be no enjoyment in that. There is so much that can be done in the kitchen, we have not even touched soya yet.

So, have we noticed any differences yet? Well, it’s early days yet but we are both delighted to have lost a bi of weight. Lisa has lost two kilos (almost 4.5lbs) while I am down to 105.8kg (that’s 233.25lbs to my American readers and 16st 9.25lbs to my British ones). Whatever way you say it, that’s my healthiest weight for too many years to remember. A few years ago my weight was more than 120kg (266lbs, 19st). A heart scare prompted my first step, the initial loss, and our new vegetarian way of life is helping me take the second.

What can a diet do for someone with MS? In my opinion, about the same as it can do for someone without the disease; a balanced diet helps to achieve and maintain a healthy level of fitness. But it is not a cure and never can be; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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ian profile50shadesofsun is the personal website of Ian Franks who is Managing Editor of the columns division of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease-specific news and information websites, including MS News Today.

Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media; during which he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, he is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Taming Heat Sensitivity at 100 Degrees

Many people voiced their concerns to me about anyone with MS moving to live in a sunny climate. That worry is understandable. With a disease that includes heat sensitivity, where even a hot shower can make you worse, how can any MS patient move to live in an area where daily temperatures average 22 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) in July and August, but where the highs this year have reached 40 C (104 F).

Well, it is now nearly 10 months since my beloved wife Lisa and I made the move from the mostly cloudy and often rainy U.K. to our dream home in Andalucía in the sunny south of Spain.

Back in the U.K., we lived in a ground floor one-bedroom apartment in an urban area, but now we have our own detached two-bedroom property in a rural community about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the nearest town.

With almost constant blue skisouth of Spaines, our home is nothing short of idyllic. We have palm trees visible from our kitchen window, an olive tree in the front garden, plus both orange and grapefruit trees very close by. And, in 15 minutes, we can be at the Mediterranean.

Our home has air conditioning and ceiling fans, plus we have an air conditioned car. I live in shorts and lightweight shirts, use plenty of sunscreen, and have a selection of summer hats.

Our home is just over 1 km (0.6 miles) from the main road, and that is reached by traveling between agricultural fields where, depending on the time of year, various crops are grown. So far, I have seen white cabbages, red cabbages and melons – to name but three.

The fields are planted and harvested by hand using gangs of traveling workers. Then, after the crops have been picked and sent on their way, a large herd of goats is released to clear the remaining plants.

Yes, it is hot here, but the good news is that it is affecting me less here than the very occasional hot day in the U.K., and that is because the humidity is much lower here.

The temperatures are more constant here, too. They change more slowly than in the U.K., where they can change up 10 or more degrees Celsius one day and down again the next day during what passes as summer. That volatility, the sudden changes, made me feel a lot worse. It took me a while to realize that my heat sensitivity was to those rapid and often frequent changes. I needed stability.

So having lived in Spain for most of a year, I can say that heat sensitivity is not an issue for me here. Overall, I still have good and bad days, but good now seem to outnumber the bad. Yes, I still fall, but far less often than used to be the case. Fatigue still happens but, again, less often. Pain is far less prevalent, too, but restless leg syndrome still plagues me in bed.

Mobility, or the lack of it, remains my biggest problem. But on my very good days, I can actually reach my car without sitting down halfway there, like I usually do.

So, do I regret exchanging the U.K.’s dreary weather for the almost constant Spanish sunshine? Not at all. Living it and loving it and, don’t forget, more sunshine means more natural vitamin D.

This article was written by me and first appeared in Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

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Ian Franks
Ian Franks is Chief Columnist and Patient Specialist at Multiple Sclerosis News Today. He has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media; during which he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain and uses his skills to write his own flourishing specialist MS, Health & Disability blog at www.50shadesofsun.com. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.
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