New Year resolutions: Do we want or need them?

New Year resolutions may have their place in some people’s lives but not in mine. That’s not to say that I never set targets, and set out to achieve them, but I cannot see anything special about January 1.

Yes, it marks the start of a new calendar year – but, so what?

resolutions If you want to start, or stop, doing something in your life, then you should start doing so immediately. For example, give up smoking on March 23 or start a new diet on August 4. There is nothing magical about the beginning of January.

And, if truth be known, most New Year resolutions don’t last very long. Determination of most people, even those with the very best intentions, tends to wane fast and their resolutions quickly fall by the wayside. Mostly, this happens in months, if not weeks, or even days.

I am completely sure that I’d be one of those who give up and ditch their resolutions sooner than later. And this is fine for anybody who wants to do something, but not for someone who needs to do it.

‘Want’ vs ‘need’

There is a great deal of difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. As an example, you might ‘want’ to eat a large meal, but it isn’t a ‘need’. However, you do ‘need’ to eat to live. To put it simply, a ‘want’ is something you would like to have, but is not absolutely necessary. While a good thing to have, it is not essential. A ‘need’ is essential.

As someone with a chronic disease, in my case multiple sclerosis, the need to look after myself is extremely important. It could even be described as critical.

It includes keeping a careful watch on what I eat along with the amount and level of exercise I take. Also, through my doctor, I have to keep an eye on my vitamin levels, particularly B and D. I was found to be vitamin D deficient in 2016, and a couple of months ago my vitamin B level was discovered to be too low. I have now been prescribed supplements of both.

To live as healthy a life as possible is an ongoing need. It is not related to the New Year and will not be put aside like a resolution.

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* * * * * 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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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.

Looking back to move forward into 2017


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.


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.


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.


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!


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

strap-new 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.

Blog review 2015 and New Year’s resolutions


This, my 50shadesofsun blog, went live on August 1 last year and so December 31 marked the end of its first five months. When starting it, I had absolutely no idea of what to expect, how many views it would achieve and how many visitors it would attract.

I was not sure how many posts should be written nor in how many countries my blog would find its readers. All I really had was my history of working almost all my life as a writer, mainly in journalism and public relations, and a great big dose of enthusiasm.

Choosing a blog hosting site, setting up the blog the way I wanted it to look and even coming up with an original and catchy name were all tasks that had to be accomplished before the blog could go live. It took a few weeks to research and accomplish all of it – and that alongside the preparations that Lisa and I were making for our move to Spain.

So, how has it all gone? I am more than happy with progress so far but my target is to grow the blog as it goes along and hope to be talking about greater numbers in 12 months’ time.

In its first five months, my blog has attracted 3,246 views from 1,747 visitors, and that’s an average of 649.2 views from 349.4 visitors per month. One more established long-time and award-winning blogger has a monthly average three times the size of mine but then 50shades is still a baby in comparison to hers.

I have written 149 posts in 153 days, so my output is quite prolific but then writing has been my life at work and now continues through this blog which, hopefully, informs, amuses, educates and even inspires its readers.

Time for your New Year’s resolutions?

Today, New Year’s Day, is your first chance to succeed, or fail, to keep any resolutions you may have made. Traditionally it is a time to choose to try to better ourselves by giving up smoking, stopping drinking or one of many other such worthy targets. You may be even aiming to carry out one random act of kindness every week or every month; an act that will benefit someone else.

Now, my list of resolutions is blank. Yes, you read that correctly, I don’t have any. Never had, never will. That’s not because I am perfect, far from it, but because my targets are set at various times and they don’t get stored up until New Year’s Day.

So, if you have made resolutions, all the best with your efforts but I’m happy to continue as before.



Life-changing 2015 – now we look forward to New Year







November 2013: In Barcelona we saw Columbus’s monument and met ‘Marilyn Monroe’.

Well, it has arrived – the very last day of the year. Tonight, at midnight, we say a fond farewell to 2015 and look forward to what we hope 2016 may bring.

Ok, farewell but fond? I wonder how many times you have heard anyone say something like: “Thank goodness that year is over, it was really awful” or “Next year cannot be as bad as the last one”? Too often, I am sure; you have even probably said it yourself.

On the whole, 2015 has been a great year for my beloved Lisa and I as we have achieved so much and really made a significant change to our lives.

It all started right back in January when we were still living in a warm glow having returned on Boxing Day from a simply wonderful holiday in, first, Hawaii and, second, New York City. Coming back to the usual dull, wet and windy British weather got us talking. We chatted about how great it would be to live in Hawaii but realised that, for financial reasons, that would be impossible.

But that reminded me of the Mediterranean cruise we took in 2013 and particularly our shore excursions in both Palma de Mallorca (or Majorca to give its Anglicised spelling) and, the next day, Barcelona. It was November, yet lovely and warm. We visited Barcelona on November 8, my birthday, and as we sipped sangria in the seating area outside a café bar in the Rambla, we agreed we could live there.

At that time, no more was said and no action was taken but in January this year I reminded Lisa of that conversation and said we should at least see whether it was feasible. To be fair, she was worried that I would be leaving the country in which I had always lived and might feel uprooted but having reassured her, she set about finding out what sort of accommodation we could buy and the approximate costs.

In February, I started investigating whether my disability benefits would be paid in Spain, the quality of the Spanish health service and resumed pushing my ex-wife into selling our former matrimonial home. We had agreed that she could live there until August 2014 but then it should be put on the market. Eventually this was done but it involved a great deal of negotiation between she and I, the joint sellers, and the prospective buyer who is now her new husband.

header-leftWe travelled to Manchester in March to visit A Place in the Sun Live exhibition linked to the TV series of the same name as we were determined not to overlook any possibilities.

In April, Lisa’s hard work came to fruition and we travelled to southern Spain to look at some properties that she had found online and we liked. We also knew by then roughly how much money I’d be getting from my share of the house sale but still did not know when.

To cut a long story short, we saw a number of properties but fell in love with the second one we saw. After that, we were seeing how other properties measured up against that one. They all failed. So we had found our ideal property but could not buy it until the UK house sale was completed. Unbelievably, after we explained our situation, the sellers in Spain took it off the market to give us time to get the money. They did not even ask for a deposit. We returned to the UK on May 7, general election day.

The house sale shenanigans rumbled in through June but in the third week of July the cash finally arrived and we were then able to complete the purchase very quickly. In view of my Multiple Sclerosis, we needed some work done to improve access for my wheelchair and to rip out the existing bathroom and replace it with a purpose-built wet room. We had already agreed a quotation during our April trip, so now the work could proceed.

In August, we owned our furnished home in Spain and we began to make detailed arrangements. We packed what we wanted to send in advance and this was delivered here in September by a courier, we packed our suitcases and sent everything else to an auction. It was very exciting.

Oh, I should have said, I found my disability benefits would still be paid in Spain and that the health service here is rated much higher than the NHS.

Anthem of the Seas.

Anthem of the Seas.

In October we left our flat in Colwyn Bay and travelled to Southampton to start our holiday that had been booked before I suggested moving to Spain. It started with a nine-day cruise across the Atlantic aboard Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, followed by another nine days in the USA before flying back to the UK. We stayed two nights in hotels and then on Sunday November 15 we flew to Spain.

December has been our first full month in Spain and as it draws to a close, we have to say that 2015 has been a great year and that both Lisa and I are looking forward to 2016 with eagerness and enthusiasm.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!