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Tackle MS With Positive Thought

Health activist Nancy Davis takes on multiple sclerosis.

From Concern to Courage continued...

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."

Education can be tricky, she says. "You need to stay up in the latest, but there is some strange information out there so you have to go to respectable sources." In her book, she highlights reliable web sites for health information.

"Listen, learn, and don't give into the negativity," she says. "Look for the light at end of the tunnel and know you know their body better than anyone else and you have a right to a great life."

While admitting this can be easier said than done, Davis says it's important to be honest with yourself. "It's about admitting you have a disease and not putting off going to a doctor," she says.

"One doctor may not be as thoroughly educated on your disease as you think he is," she says. "Medicine is so finite and specialized in different areas. It's your job when you get diagnosed to become the expert on your disease."

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