Ann Romney is a remarkable woman. I know this because right now she is living with a disease that will ultimately attack the protective covering over her body’s nerves that will cause nerve signals to slow down or stop completely. That’s right. Ann Romney has multiple sclerosis.
The mother of five with 18 grandchildren recently visited the Silicon Valley home of Elayne and John Chambers. You may have heard of Chambers – the innovator who heads Cisco Systems in San Jose, California.
Ann talked about the economy and how her husband Mitt is determined to fix things. She shared her views on his decision to run and discussed the family dinner table conversation where some in the family weren’t quite as supportive of their Dad running again. She talked about a conversation she had with former First Lady Barbara Bush who told her she thought this election would be the most consequential election of her own lifetime. Imagine that – the wife of President Bush 41 and mother of President Bush 43 making that statement about Romney vs. Obama.
The economy is on Ann Romney’s mind because that’s the topic she hears most about on the campaign trail – she said 95% of women she speaks to are concerned about their family bank account, jobs, and leaving a better life for their children.
Political wonks like me who have done Presidential advance work on campaign stops can’t imagine how Ann Romney does it. How is this very strong, beautiful woman able to focus on economic issues, her family, her hectic travel calendar and all the while know that some day multiple sclerosis will stifle her productivity?
It’s really amazing and inspiring. Here are five things you may not have known before about Ann Romney’s illness – cited in The Week -
1. Ann felt like Pac-Man was attacking her
“By the time she began looking for help” in 1998, says Thomas M. Burton at The Wall Street Journal, Ann “had been losing her balance and stumbling.” Her right leg grew numb, she couldn’t swallow, and she “was losing strength in her grip.” Ann tells Burton that every morning felt like “a big uphill climb,” and then pain spread to her chest, where it felt like “a Pac-Man was attacking” and eating away her insides.
2. With treatment, she can keep her MS under control
Ann is “to all appearances vibrantly healthy,” says Susan Page at USA Today. After her diagnosis, she took steroids to calm her inflamed immune system, which “stopped the attack,” she tells Burton. (She has now been off steroids for several years.) However, MS is a “relapsing-remitting” type of disease that can flare up if she’s not careful. In March, days after Super Tuesday, Ann fell “flat on my behind” from over-exertion on the campaign trail, she tells Page. “My body was just telling me again, ‘You can’t just go. Knock, knock, I’m here.’”
3. Ann has tried alternative remedies…
Like others diagnosed with MS, Ann has taken up alternative remedies that soothe her immune system, including acupuncture and reflexology, “which involves massaging areas of the feet, hands, and ears on the theory that these areas correspond to various organs,” says Burton. Ann is also part of a wide-ranging study that tracks the progress of 2,000 people with MS, in a bid to learn more about the disease.
4. …But therapeutic horseback-riding is her passion
Ann famously took up horseback-riding as part of her therapy, which has “attracted criticism on the campaign trail, with some pointing out it is an expensive hobby that might add to the perception of the Romneys as out-of-touch with the average American,” says Alicia M. Cohn at The Hill. Ann has also trained in dressage, a genteel sport in which horses perform dance-like moves, which has been mocked by several comedians. But Ann is unapologetic about her passion. “This is my life,” she tells Page. “This is a vehicle that brought me health and joy and happiness, and if it’s misunderstood, I can’t do anything about that.”
5. She says MS has made her more compassionate
Ann acknowledges that her family, bolstered by her husband’s fortune, has not experienced the financial difficulties that many Americans experienced during the recession. “But I do have challenges, and all of us have challenges in life,” she tells Page. “For me, having this kind of serious health challenge has made me more compassionate, more understanding of those who are struggling.” She adds: “You think of yourself as a person who is accomplished and competent and everything else, and all of a sudden you can’t do anything… I learned that we don’t escape this life without a little bit of tragedy and chaos and difficulty.”
You can read the full article in the Wall Street Journal here.