“It’s not the hand you’re dealt, but how you play the cards.”
Professor George Jelinek was the head of an Emergency Department in a major Australian hospital when one day, while doing his rounds he felt a strange sensation in his feet. In a matter of days he was numb from the waist down. When a scan revealed lesions on his brain he learned he had Multiple Sclerosis (MS), the same disease that made his mother take her own life in 1981. At the time of his diagnosis George was at the height of his career, working countless hours as the first appointed Professor of Emergency Medicine in Australasia.
“I think I got sick in hindsight because everything in my life was really out of whack. It was really out of balance and I was grossly over-committed to my work. And that was just the beginning of it. I mean, that was the thing that drove all the other things that ended up out of balance.”
“You see all these other people who are sick and you never expect that it can happen to you”
MS is an autoimmune disease that can be extremely debilitating and thought to be genetically inheritable. When she took her own life, George’s mother had been wheelchair bound and unable to feed or wash herself. George was 23 at the time and had just finished his medical degree. He was about to travel the world, and it was at his going away party that he’d learned of her death. “To be diagnosed with MS was just an enormous, an enormous blow. I mean, it's impossible to really to adequately convey how life changing that is to someone who hasn't had the diagnosis”
Months later, fatigued and unable to stand for long periods, George found himself on medication that did little to resolve his symptoms. He decided to put his skills as a doctor and researcher to work by searching the medical literature for answers. Before long he had thousands of peer reviewed academic research papers from which he could formulate his own treatment program.
"From what I've seen in my own personal experience now, I think it's perfectly reasonable to start a conversation about recovery from MS. Why not? It's just another chronic illness like many of the others we see in the West. Why couldn't you recover from that?”
Buried in the literature were recommendations for a number of lifestyle adjustments that included a plant based diet, exercise, vitamin D and daily meditation. George also sees a counselor in order to process his emotions, and writes in a diary regularly. He believes the diet and exercise component to his new way of life to be the easy part, but by following this regime he has managed to fully overcome MS. He’s written two books about his journey; Taking Control of Multiple Sclerosis, Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis, and Recovering from Multiple Sclerosis and has a dedicated website
that details the scientific evidence behind his approach. He also established retreats for people with MS at the Gawler Foundation
. Having overcome a supposedly incurable disease, George considers himself living proof that the ability to adapt to change is imperative to good health.