When Ann-Marie Murrell was in high school, she was the cheerleader who could jump the highest and run the furthest – a model of physical fitness.
“My mom always talked about how I didn’t walk, I ran,” said Murrell, who coauthored “What Women Really Want.”
“I was the kid that was outside climbing trees, riding bikes, fighting with boys – I was a tomboy.”
But today Murrell, who has not yet reached retirement age, sometimes has to walk with a cane. She suffers frequent migraines, dizziness and blurred vision. She occasionally forgets what she’s doing or where she’s going. Her throat muscles sometimes constrict, making it difficult to speak. Her body is wracked by muscle and joint pain, as well as a numbness that causes a frustrating burning/itching feeling.
Such is life with multiple sclerosis, or MS.
When WND contacted Murrell by phone this week, she was preparing to travel to Fresno for a speaking engagement. She claimed it was the most nervous she had ever felt in her life because she would attempt to walk across the stage in high heels, and with her condition, falling was a real possibility.
“I should just be staying home, but, you know, I’m a political wonk and I have commitments, so off I go,” said Murrell, the publisher and editor-in-chief of PolitiChicks.com and a political commentator in various media outlets.
Murrell’s problems with MS began in 1999, although she did not know it at the time. She began experiencing problems with her vision, stomach, muscles and joints. Someone suggested she see a rheumatologist, and when she did she was ultimately diagnosed with fibromyalgia and ulcerative colitis.
However, none of the medications prescribed to Murrell seemed to help; her pain continued. After a decade she stopped taking her medications and just relied on Extra Strength Tylenol to get by. She was able to manage her condition until this past January, when her vision went out temporarily while flying home from a speaking engagement. Soon she began experiencing new symptoms, such as bladder problems and a numb, tingling sensation in her left hand and forearm.
In April, while taking part in the 5K MS Walkathon in Pasadena, she became extremely dizzy and then developed an intense migraine. She told her 31-year-old son, Jason, about her symptoms, and he said, “Mom, I hate to say this, but it sounds like you have MS.”
Jason would know because he had been diagnosed with MS only a year earlier.
Doctors eventually confirmed that Murrell did indeed have multiple sclerosis. She said her misdiagnosis 17 years earlier still frustrates her.
“Now I know that if I had gone to a neurologist anytime during that time and gotten an MRI, the lesions that I had in my brain and in my spinal cord would have been discovered back then – but then again, the medicines weren’t as good a decade ago, either, so who knows?” she said.
Other than a few recent Facebook posts, Murrell never publicly discussed her health problems until she issued a lengthy post on the subject Thursday on her PolitiChicks website. But her fellow PolitiChick and coauthor Morgan Brittany said she has known about Murrell’s health problems for a while – not the MS, but a lot of the other problems.
“I must tell you, she is the most amazing, courageous woman I know,” said Brittany, a WND columnist. “Not only does she NOT let this get her down, but she is staying strong and is determined to keep an amazing positive attitude. You will never see Ann-Marie dive into a world of depression or self-pity; that is not who she is.”
She may not be depressed, but Murrell told WND she constantly flips back and forth between being angry and accepting. The formerly healthy woman was initially frustrated when she couldn’t do basic exercises without being in severe pain. She gets frustrated when she is holding an object and then drops it because her hand forgets she’s holding it.
“[But] the most difficult part is having to experience the pain and suffering my son has been going through,” she said.
It was one thing for Jason to tell her about the pain he was in and the other symptoms he was experiencing, but quite another for Murrell to go through it all herself. She said it’s sad to think her son was going through the same ordeal for a year before she was diagnosed.
However, she said it’s also helpful to have a close family member who blazed the way for her.
“The good thing is he’s gone through medications and he’s learned what works and doesn’t work for him, so that part is kind of a blessing,” Murrell said. “He kind of paved the way.”
Jason has found success with the Wahls Protocol, a diet book written by Dr. Terry Wahls, and he has convinced his mother to follow the diet as well. Murrell said Wahls, who was once confined to a wheelchair because of an inflammatory disease, is inspiring her right now, but Jason is really her biggest inspiration.
“He is so positive about his illness right now,” the grateful mother said. “He’s come completely full circle. He’s calling it almost a blessing. It’s kind of like when someone dies and you appreciate life more; he now appreciates health more and understands the difference.”
Murrell said she is grateful for the many prayers, gifts and well-wishes she has received from friends and supporters all across the country.
“Every single day I have a network of people who have been texting me and calling me and coming over to visit, even when I want to put a pillowcase over my head so they can’t see me without makeup,” she revealed. ‘I’ve had to lose a lot of my pride in the last few months.”
Among her supporters are her fellow PolitiChicks and coauthors of “What Women Really Want,” Morgan Brittany and Dr. Gina Loudon. Loudon said from the moment she met Murrell, she knew they would be “sister-friends for life.”
“She has a special effervescence, a fearless loyalty to those she loves, and sense of humor that draws others in, but she also challenges those around her to be their personal best,” said Loudon, a WND columnist. “She expects the best from herself and exudes a quiet confidence that through Grace, she is capable.”
However, Loudon confessed that when Murrell was diagnosed with MS, she was going through personal challenges of her own. (Her mother died and her daughter was diagnosed with a chronic disease after weeks in the hospital.) Therefore, Loudon did not give Murrell the support she wishes she would have.
“No sugarcoating here, I was not a good friend to Ann-Marie when she needed me most,” Loudon told WND.
But Loudon claims her friendship with Murrell recovered, and she believes her PolitiChick partner’s strength and spirit will guide her through this difficult phase of her life.
“She will find a way to make lemonade out of this,” Loudon asserted. “That’s who she is: a heroic friend, a seasoned warrior, a faithful servant of an amazing God. She will write her own brave ending to this story – this I know.”
Murrell said her overall outlook on life remains “really good,” although she was not feeling well the previous day and didn’t know how she would feel in a couple hours, once she journeyed to Fresno for her speaking engagement. Her physical and mental conditions vary from day to day, but she remains positive.
“I’ve got a great team of doctors and I am on a path of healthy eating that I believe is going to help me, and I do want to be able to reach out and help people,” she said. “I have a huge platform with my website and social media.”
She wishes to remind people that May 25 is World Multiple Sclerosis Day, so she urges everyone to visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website to learn more about the disease and what they can do to fight it. She herself plans to spread awareness of the disease and hopefully find a cure.
“Anything I can do to help is also going to help me, because it helps me a lot to read and feel the support, and prayers especially, coming from so many,” Murrell said.
Brittany is confident Murrell will pull through.
“Once diagnosed, she gathered up all of her courage and resolved to either beat this or at least remain standing in the ring,” Brittany effused. “There was no way MS was going to knock her out!
“She believes strongly that God will walk her and her son Jason through this tough time, and miracles DO happen. One of those miracles comes in the form of Ann-Marie Murrell.”