Living With and Through MS: A Nutritionist’s Story

Living with an autoimmune disease can be daunting. It is reported that around 250,000 to 350,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis). According to Peter Riskind, M.D., PH.D in The Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute Letter, MS is most often found in young men and women ages 20-40, although the disease disproportionately affects women with a ratio of 2:1 to men. The symptoms of MS in women are not, however, more severe than those found in men, which leads researchers to believe that there are unknown factors that attribute to women being more likely to acquire MS.

One woman found proactive inspiration through her diagnosis of RRMS – relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.

Marielle Kehoe was diagnosed with MS in 2008 after experiencing persistent twitching of the eyes.  “I was experiencing twitching in my eyes and everyone said it was stress related or an allergic reaction. It continued for several days. I went to the emergency room after 5 days and was then sent to a neurologist who did an MRI scan to confirm.”

Living with RRMS inspired Marielle to start Live Well with Marielle, a personal nutrition consulting business dedicated to helping individuals achieve heath and wellness. Marielle claims, “Nutrition is an essential part of being healthy and I wanted to become healthy for my future and to help others achieve health. Health is wealth! I help any and all individuals with autoimmune diseases and health concerns one might have. I specialize in MS since it’s a personal issue. I also want to help those with the disease (MS) have a healthier lifestyle.”

The work shows – Marielle’s MS is “almost non-existent”. Although achieving an asymptomatic lifestyle was not easy for Marielle, she recommends these three basic health-based actions for women living with MS: “1) Eat a plant based diet with no processed food as often as you can, 2) Try to reduce stress in your life, and 3) Exercise. Find something you enjoy doing.”

Ultimately, Marielle claims that her RRMS diagnosis has changed her life for the better. “It made me wake up about what I was doing to my body and examine the kind of stressed out life I was leading. I now take better care of myself in every way.”

Marielle Kehoe offers her services through Live Well with Marielle, where one can choose from a variety of sessions offered at different levels of competitive pricing, dependent on individual or group counseling. Individual sessions are twice a month for 6 months at $200 a month. Group counseling is offered once a week for 3 months for $300, total. Initial consultation is free. Prices may vary over time and per person.

The best way to contact Marielle is through email. Currently, Marielle’s availability is flexible and she will work with your schedule, to ensure convenience. Marielle also offers referral discounts, which will be taken into consideration on a case by case basis. You can also visit Marielle’s Facebook page for more information!
Mention this blog and receive a free 1 hour session!

Liberia: The Next Step

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Courtesy US Army Africa

Since the ousting of former President Charles Taylor in 2003, the Republic of Liberia has democratically elected a new administration in 2005, whereupon Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been elected President. Although President Johnson Sirleaf faces severe challenges in rebuilding the country, including the reconciliation and reintegration of ex-combatants of the recent conflict into the Liberian society. In Liberia, up to 500,000 people were internally displaced during the country’s 14-year civil war.

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Courtesy Juan Freire

We must first examine the conditions in which individuals are living within their IDP camps, and see if there are any important cultural gender restrictions that have been over-looked, such as the location of men to women within the camps. If there are specific cultural gender restrictions, then humanitarian aid workers must adhere to these restrictions during IDP camp construction.

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Courtesy DFID – UK Department for International Development

One of the most important issues that must be addressed in the rehabilitation of Liberia, is the sexual assault and rape that women and young girls encountered throughout the country’s civil-war. According to Mary-Wynne Ashford’s The Impact of War on Women, systematic mass rape is used as a tool for ethnic cleansing and humiliation of the enemy. Necessary medical and psychiatric tools must be made available to provide treatment to those living with sexual abuse.

Accounts of severe psychiatric trauma, specifically PTSD, were noted in The World Health Organization’s Sexual Gender-Based Violence and Health Facility Needs Assessment recorded September 9-29, 2005. One woman’s account states: “I was forced to watch them open a pregnant woman stomachs and the baby taken out, butchered and cooked. They forced me to share the meat with them.” Another woman remembers: “The boys who raped me were very small that they couldn’t carry their guns. They raped me during one week. I am twice their mother. I feel ashamed to disclose what happened to me. I also feel that they laid a curse on me.”

Women and girls who suffer from the traumas of rape must receive both physical medical attention and psychiatric medical attention. I also suggest that the UN train and/or recruit female psychologists who specialize in rape and sexual assault, to work as humanitarian aids with the women recovering in Liberia.

I suggest female psychologists specifically because often times, women who suffer from rape, might feel less inclined to share their experiences with a therapist who is of the same gender as their attacker. Also, it might be culturally unacceptable for a woman in Liberia to be alone with a man other than her husband, even a psychiatrist.

Here, I note the importance of language and offer that our UN humanitarian aid workers be properly trained in the languages of Liberia, where in which over 30 languages are spoken.

The physical damage of those women effected by rape and sexual abuse demands proper medical care in the form of STD testing and treatment. According to the same account from the World Health Organization, many women complain of abnormal menstrual cycles, abdominal pain, infertility, and sores in around and their genitals – 8.4% are experiencing symptoms of vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF), 1.9% vaginal bleeding, 1.5% uterine prolapse and 1.3% bloody stools.

Humanitarian Aid Workers in Liberia must be well-trained in the language, culture and medical knowledge necessary to help aid the country’s rehabilitation process and any soliciting or abuse made against refugees must be held accountable. When helping to restore a country, you are helping to restore an individual’s and country’s humanity and the rehabilitation of Liberia must be treated with attentive care.

Women in Conflict Zones

Rape and sexual violence are commonly used as weapons of war. Women and their families living in these war and conflict zones are vulnerable to such violent attacks. Displaced individuals find themselves cut off from both medical and everyday resources, such as food and water. Common trips to fetch water become terrifying journeys where one could risk being raped, tortured, or even killed during times of war.

Together with my fellow classmates, we came up with two suggestions geared towards United States feminist groups that might help to aid these women and their families suffering in areas of conflict. We sought to address the basic necessities within these community that could be immediately addressed and expanded upon to further help women in crisis.

Our first idea was to establish a mobile community organization, similar to a “watch” group, that could walk women and children to and from sources of food and water as well as direct them to established “safe spaces” within their area of conflict. We hope to use social media to connect these citizens through blogs and Twitter, if they are available in these areas. If not, we would operate through safe organizations, such as places of worship, to distribute information on our community.

Our second idea, would be to establish a mobile medical unit that could reach women and their families in areas of conflict. This mobile medical unit would provide needs such as STD testing, rape treatment, pregnancy screenings, birth control, prenatal care and psychiatric treatment for PTSD.

In the hopes that our community would grow both within the area of conflict and the United States feminist organization we would be working with, we would seek to work with embassies in order to establish a demilitarized safe, neutral zone in the area of conflict. We hope to establish onsite grassroots activism as well as work with organizations outside the conflict zone to promote peace and safety for those living in these areas.

War, Rape, and The Power of Peace

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Courtesy FreedomHouse2

“I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen 200 limping, exhausted men come out of line—the survivors of a regiment of 1,000 that went forward 48 hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.” Our world has seen many wars since President Franklin D. Roosevelt made this address in the Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater in August of 1936.

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Courtesy babasteve

War does not solely belong to men on the front lines. Today most of the casualties of war are women and children. These displaced groups of people find themselves and their families vulnerable to attack. One of the most common forms of attack against women and young girls during times of war and conflict is rape and sexual assault. These violations are used systematically as weapons of war.

The staggering rape statistics of war since World War II, reflect how common rape is committed in areas of war and conflict. Especially when taking into consideration that these rapes have been reported. Many rapes go unreported, similarly to rapes committed all over the world, and many victims of rape are killed by their assailants. So even though the statistics are staggering, they are more than likely dramatically less than the actual number of rapes and sexual assaults committed.

Throughout the conflicts in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, rape was reported from women aged 3 years old, to 80 years old and acts of rape were committed in front of family members, included forced incest and gang-rape.

The Republic of Liberia, experienced a devastating civil war where, again, rape and sexual assault were used as forms of weaponry against women. But the women of Liberia, exhausted by the violence and destruction, decided to fight back to bring peace to their country. Women from different religious backgrounds (Muslims and Christians) gathered together to pray for peace. Without weapons or the use of violence, these women used their voices and their prayers and their solidarity to fight against the tyranny they had known for so many years in their shattered country.

Leymah Gbowee and the Women of Liberia show us through the brilliant documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell how grassroots activism can alter the history of nations.

PTSD and The Effects of War

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Courtesy Fibonacci Blue

Although war might seem like a distant event taking place overseas, the effects of war reach beyond the front lines affecting citizens alongside soldiers. Within our own country, war enters the home long after ceasefire in the case of PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the work, The Impact of War on Mental Health author Evan D. Kanter notes that the concept of PTSD arose in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. But only recently has the medical and public health community permanently recognized the long-term mental health effects of war. Then in 1980, PTSD was formally entered in the lexicon.

Most of the associations that have been made with PTSD occur between Troops and live combat. But PTSD has also been associated with sexual assault within the military. Especially with female soldiers. Kanter notes that up to 30% of female military veterans reported rape during their time in military service. And because sexual assault within the military is most often kept in secrecy, victims experience aggravated psychological symptoms. Although the first step in treatment is educating victims and their families on PTSD so that no one is alone and bewildered by the experience, these crimes against women in the military need not to be kept in secret. Female soldiers should not have to worry about the attacks they may incur from comrades while serving in the military.

Family members are affected alongside their veterans suffering from PTSD and although the treatment is available, not nearly enough military personnel seek treatment for their symptoms. But how can we reach our veterans? Like much of the difficulties explored within the intersections of media, gender and race – reaching out for help doesn’t necessarily come so easy. One must have the capabilities to do so. And when recovering from the traumas of war, it might not be so simple to come forward. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers treatment, but more importantly, the individual needs to recognize the symptoms. And the military must provide a safe space where Veterans can come forward.

Sex Education

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Courtesy Robotclaw666

From the film Juno to the series Teen Mom to Bristol Palin to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo – teen pregnancies, fictional or not, are commonplace within American society. And although the U.S. teen birth rate declined 9 percent from 2009 to 2010, reaching a historic low at 34.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15–19, teen pregnancy still happens.

So how do we learn about sex and teen pregnancy in America? If you were like me, you probably learned about sex before you were exposed to the visually disturbing photos of syphilis in your high school health class. Maybe a sister, brother, friend or maybe, just maybe a parent informed you of the birds and bees from an extremely skewed perspective. From there you probably figured it out by piecing together snippets of Hollywood blockbuster sex scenes and heresay.

I did not take this said health class until my junior year of high school. It was only a semester-long class and was a graduation requirement. We learned about “sexual health” for about two weeks towards the end of the semester. Basically we were shown pictures of various warts and diseases and watched an outdated less than made-for-TV movie about a promising young man who got a girl he somewhat cared about pregnant and had to work in an ice cream shop for the rest of his life.

This teaching format was a joke for more than the obviously reasons. My hometown (Pueblo, Colorado) has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates per capita in the country (60.4 per 1,000 women aged 15-19). So while I was forced to see grotesque pictures in class, the fear of sex and pregnancy was doubly compounded by seeing bumped bellies walking my high school hallways. Once in the public eye, either in classrooms or on television screens, teen pregnancy becomes just another scare tactic.

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Obviously scare tactics and “just say no” tactics fail as forms of prevention. But they succeed in ascribing the female individual who “failed” in some way by not abstaining from sex at a young age. Our society utilizes biopower to make visual examples out of the bodies of these teenage mothers. When, in actuality, our society is failing by not providing these individuals with the necessary education they need to protect themselves, and then publicly shaming and ridiculing them for their ignorance.

Yes, sometimes pregnancy accidentally happens to informed people. But it is preventable, and needs to be addressed in the public school system. It is part of our health education. I learned about how to brush my teeth in kindergarten. A dentist came into the classroom and taught us how to brush and floss. I shouldn’t have had to wait 11 more grades to learn how to put on a condom.

Women of Color’s Bodies in the Media and Online

How are women of color and their bodies portrayed in the media and online? Do you often (if ever) think of this question? Throughout the years, women have worked diligently to gain representation or even just be seen within the public sphere. The fight over gender equality and representation to be seen as something other than a object or stereotype is one that far from over. Within this battle, we notice the subset intersections of race and gender and must stop to think about how these intersections are presented within our society?

With millions of women logging online and tuning into media outlets everyday, our social world is expanding and connecting us at a rate in which we have never seen before. There isn’t just one idealized type of woman who can log on or tune in – so why are we seeing so many stereotypes and misguided representations of women of color and their bodies in the public media sphere?

Especially within the marketing world, women of color find themselves caught in a homogenous grouping of racialized, stereotypical, and often false representations of self and race. They have been whitewashed to conform to an idealized conception of what it means to be beautiful, or extremely stereotyped in order to appeal to their specific racial demographic. Either way, women of color are extremely homogenized in both cases. So where does the individual go?

In the video posted above, we chose to further examine some of the ways in which women of color and their bodies have been publicly portrayed online and in the media. What we found was that women of color, have constantly been seen for their color and that is the form of identification which supersedes all others. These women are not only seen as women, but Black women, Asian women, Latino women… And whereas racial individuality should be recognized and celebrated, we see it played out as a ridiculous stereotype within the public sphere.

Fortunately, we live in an age of social media and can revoke these forms of racial inequality amongst women of color and their bodies to demand a more equal form of representation via personhood.