|My MS Recovery
The Road Back to Health
Finishing a triathlon, 18
months after I still
needed a cane to walk.
Special MS Recovery Email Series
A "Miraculous" Recovery
As I crossed the finish line at the 1993 St. Anthony's Triathlon, I was
overcome with a wave of emotions that brought tears to my eyes: joy,
exhilaration, gratitude, relief. Since taking up the sport in 1987, I'd
completed more than 20 races, so this was not just a beginner's reaction
upon finishing their first triathlon. And it wasn’t the new personal record I’d
just set for that distance. No, the reason why I felt so euphoric was much
more profound. Just two years earlier I was in a hospital bed, unable to walk,
my head spinning as I heard the doctor's words replay over and over in my
mind: "You have MS." I remember thinking, "This can't be happening to me .
My Recovery Story Begins
In February 1991, two weeks after running a 15k race in a new personal
record, I suddenly lost strength and feeling in my legs and became paralyzed
below the waist. After 10 days in the hospital, examinations by three
neurologists and a battery of tests, including two MRIs, a CAT scan and a spinal tap, I was told that
this was the first attack of multiple sclerosis, a crippling neurological illness which modern medicine
considers to be incurable. Hearing this sent me into a panic. I remember the neurologist telling me,
"While we don't have a cure for MS, chances are pretty good that your life won't be shortened--
although you should begin to prepare yourself for the physical and emotional challenges of dealing with
a chronic debilitating illness."
A Shocking and Depressing Prognosis
As a 33-year-old triathlete in the prime of life, I had long been physically active and strongly self-
reliant. After graduating from West Point in 1979, I served in the Army's Green Berets where I learned
to motivate myself to overcome any challenge--the tougher, the better. After leaving the Army in
1984, I spent two years in graduate school in Boston where my sedentary student lifestyle led to 20
extra pounds and heavy breathing at the tops of stairs. After graduation I moved to Florida and soon
I took up triathlon as a way to drop the excess weight, get back in shape and continue to challenge
myself mentally and physically. The thought of life in a wheelchair, unable to walk (let alone bike or
run) and dependent on others for even simple things, seemed awful.
I spent the next several months in a funk, mentally and emotionally numb. The drugs prescribed by
the medical doctors suppressed my neurological symptoms enough that I could get around with the
use of a cane for balance and support, but I didn’t seem to be getting any better.
A Startling Yet Eye-Opening Revelation
Then in June I read an article about the growing controversy over the adverse health effects of the
mercury that escapes from "silver" dental fillings. I wondered to myself, Could this have anything to
do with my getting sick? Over the years, I'd accumulated a large number of fillings--25 to be exact. I
could remember at least three times in the past when I'd been ill shortly after I'd had dental work
done--including some work done in December 1990, just two months before being hospitalized in
February 1991. I began to research the dental mercury issue: I gathered articles, read books, talked
to people who'd been down this path, and had tests done to add more pieces to the puzzle. The
picture that took shape was both intriguing and disconcerting.
The Truth About Dental Amalgam Fillings
I learned that so-called silver fillings are mostly mercury--50% mercury--and only about 28% silver;
that mercury is one of the most toxic of poisons, more so than even arsenic or lead; that mercury
vapor continually escapes from the fillings, and that, over time, the constant exposure and
accumulation of mercury in the body can affect one's health, especially the sensitive neurological and
immune systems. The more I learned, the more convinced I became that my 25 mercury fillings might
be making me sick. The only way I'd know for sure, however, would be to have them removed and see
what happened. So in September 1991 I went to a clinic in Colorado Springs run by Dr. Hal Huggins, a
dentist who specializes in carefully removing mercury fillings, and had all 25 removed and replaced.
Taking the First Step on the Road Back to Health
Initially, I felt noticeably better, as if my body was breathing a sigh of relief that the source of poison
mercury was finally gone. After about two weeks, however, I started to get worse--much worse. All
of my previous symptoms were exacerbated and some new ones appeared: most notably, my speech
and vision were severely affected, I couldn't write and I suffered from terrible mental confusion--"brain
This worsening was, paradoxically, a good sign: It meant that my body was dumping the accumulated
mercury, which can be a two-edged sword. To be sure, I’m far better off for having rid my body of the
stored mercury, but my cells were releasing it into my bloodstream faster than my organs of
elimination (primarily the colon) were capable of excreting it. While I paid a big price in terms of this
initial worsening of my condition, getting rid of the stored mercury was, I now believe, as important as
removing the source in my teeth and an absolute must in order to restore my compromised immune
system and ultimately regain my health.
I hit bottom in February 1992 and then began a slow, gradual recovery aided by:
- A healthy diet of mostly raw, organic foods and “super-foods”
- Selected nutritional supplements
- A cleansing program to restore proper assimilation of nutrients and elimination of waste, toxins,
- Natural healing methods like homeopathy and Body Electronics, a powerful self-healing program
developed by Dr. John Whitman Ray
Instead of merely suppressing my symptoms, I learned how to identify and address their underlying
root causes, thus creating the conditions under which the body’s own self-healing mechanism could be
activated to regenerate damaged tissue and restore lost function.
Beginning the Climb Up
By April of 1992 I felt well enough to begin training again--or so I thought. After the living hell of the
past year, I was totally apathetic. Before I could begin working out, I had to overcome the
psychological and emotional inertia of a year off. I accomplished this by using a trick I'd learned in my
Army training--breaking a seemingly insurmountable challenge down into small, more manageable
steps. My first goal was simply to put on my running shoes and wear them around the house for a
few hours. It sounds silly now, but at the time it seemed like trying to climb Mt. Everest! The next day
I went outside and walked to the end of my driveway. The next day I walked 50 yards, then 100
yards, gradually working up to walking a quarter mile. Once there, I began to alternate walking and
running a few steps until I could run the entire distance. Biking was equally shaky at first, owing to my
difficulties with balance and leg strength. Swimming seemed to progress the most rapidly--not
surprising since most of my neurological symptoms affected my legs.
Back on the Road--My First Race
In April 1993 I entered my first race since getting sick--St. Anthony's Triathlon in St. Petersburg,
Florida. This race consisted of a 1 mile swim in Tampa Bay followed by a 25 mile bike ride and then a
6.2 mile run. I'd done this race three times before, my best time being 2 hours and 43 minutes. This
year I finished in 2 hours and 32 minutes, feeling stronger than ever. I was definitely back!
From May through September, I raced in four more triathlons, setting new personal records in each
one. I was enjoying training and racing more than ever before and feeling stronger and faster virtually
Stronger than Ever
Then, in October 1993, I crossed a landmark milestone in my recovery by finishing a half-Ironman race,
the Florida Challenge in Clermont. This consisted of a 1.2 mile swim, a 60 mile bike ride and a half-
marathon, or 13.1 mile run. I'd done this race once before, several years before I got sick, finishing in
7 hours and 26 minutes. My time this year was 6 hours and 15 minutes! Not bad considering that 18
months earlier, I was still using a cane to walk.
Lessons I’ve Learned
What lessons have I learned from my health challenge? Some of the most important ones are:
- Western medicine (also known as allopathic medicine, or drugs and surgery) is more about the
treatment of disease than about the creation of vibrant health. It's based on the flawed premise,
that the absence of symptoms equals health. This approach to health targets the symptoms for
eradication via suppression and usually ignores the underlying root causes of disease, which are
almost always due to one's diet, environment (internal as well as external) and/or lifestyle being
inconsistent with the laws of nature.
- If you provide the body with sufficient high-quality nutrients (not just what you eat, but what
you digest and assimilate), a healthy environment (internal as well as external), a balanced
lifestyle and adopt a loving attitude of gratitude, vibrant health is the natural outcome, and
miracles become the rule, not the exception.
- Success in life is not measured by how high you climb, but rather by how high you bounce after
- The tough times in life are meant to be stepping-stones to growth and learning.
- If you believe that something is possible, then you're right. If you believe that something is
impossible, then you're also right. You'll see it when you believe it.
The Gift of Illness
During my health challenge someone told me, "Illness is a gift." My initial reaction was, "How could you
say that? Haven’t you ever been sick yourself?" Later, after reflecting on it, I realized that she was
right. For me, illness has truly been a gift—when I think of the many blessings that might not have
happened had I not gotten sick. Now I can say with absolute conviction that getting sick, as terrible as
it seemed at the time, was truly the best thing that could have happened to me. I've come to see my
period of illness as a speed bump on the road of life: it caused me to slow down and consider the
path I was on and where it led—and taught me that I could choose a different path that led to a better
place. With my ever-improving health and fitness, and an ever-growing appreciation for life's gifts one
thing is crystal clear: as challenging as it was, I’m truly and deeply grateful!
|Andrew Duffy is an investment manager and an age-group triathlete who
lives with his children Sara and Matthew in Princeton, New Jersey. His
long-term goal as a triathlete is to finish the Ironman in Hawaii.
|The statements or information on this website have not been evaluated by
the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.