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Tackle MS With Positive Thought

Health activist Nancy Davis takes on multiple sclerosis.

From Concern to Courage continued...

Like Davis, most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. Worldwide, MS may affect 2.5 million individuals, according to statistics from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

What sets Davis, the daughter of the late oilman-turned-Hollywood-mogul Marvin Davis, apart from the fray is her attitude.

Sure, "my first reaction was to hide under my covers, cry, and feel sorry for myself," she admits. But "people who do that don't do well. The people who do well get really educated and don't have time to be sick."

Davis is definitely on to something with her philosophy, says Judith Orloff, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles and author of Positive Energy.

"As a psychiatrist and a physician, one of the most important factors in whether a person heals is their positive energy and sense of empowerment," she tells WebMD. "Positive thinking primes our biochemistry so we are ready to heal."

Start by letting it all out, she says.

"Just scream wildly, cry, wail, and let every emotion out because it's not realistic to be too Pollyannaish from the start," she says. "The patients that do the best are the ones that are fighting for themselves with a positive attitude."

And that is Davis. "You can always make a choice to make it better," Davis says. "It's easy to get depressed, and I am not saying you don't have the right to feel sorry for yourself, but at the end of the day that's not going to help you. If there are things you can do today to make the quality of your life better, there is no reason not to do them."

Make Your Health Your Job

Making your health your job involves owning your diagnosis, becoming an expert on your disease, and finding the best doctor for you. Whether MS, Parkinson's disease, cancer, or AIDS, "it's about making the effort to really do your homework and learn every detail you can about your disease," she says. "If you walk away, your fear level will go up, but if you deal with things head-on, have conversations with family members, friends, other patients, and make lists, you are going to feel a lot better. Get educated, ask questions, write everything down, and just sit down and take inventory of your life and realize that everything bad can have a good side."

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