Ann Romney says her devastating diagnosis of multiple sclerosis initially "destroyed" her self-esteem and led her on a long, often unpleasant journey to find herself.
"It was an unwelcome teacher but it certainly humbled me and it humbled me to the point where it kind of destroyed my feelings of who I really was as a person," Romney said Tuesday to Newsmax Health Editor Nick Tate on "Newsmax Prime."
"Because I was incapable of really doing much and you have a self-identity of 'I'm capable, because of this or that that I do.' When all that's stripped from you, all that's left is basically you are stripped bare."
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Now Romney, the wife of former Massachusetts governor and two-time Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is author of the new memoir, "In This Together: My Story,"
published by Thomas Dunne.
She begins with how she and Mitt fell in love in their teens, married, and then began a family that would be blessed with five healthy sons. In 1998, she was diagnosed with MS, for which there were no effective therapies or treatments at the time.
"From that point, you have to then grow and to figure out what's important in life and who you are," she said. "It's uncomfortable, it's unpleasant, it's painful but when you come out the other end, you're, in a very strange way, grateful that you had that personal growth because of the pain you went through.
"I want to make sure people understand my pain was not as great as so many others. I had a taste of it, I had a feeling for it — at least enough to teach me. I recognize there are other people that suffer a great deal more than I did."
She said her experienced has helped "open my heart to those that do suffer."
"For that I am grateful and I talk to that as being a great teaching moment, which I was unwelcomed to invite into my life, but it was there and I certainly learned from it," Romney said. "I have been low and depressed and in a very dark and scary place but through certain things I was able to pull myself through that and it's a message of hope.
"I want people to have the feeling that I have a sympathetic ear and not only that, I have this dream that we will be making breakthroughs in the neurosciences."
Now a grandmother of 23, she works closely with a Brigham and Women's Hospital facility in Boston that is named after her — The Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases.
"It studies not just MS, but multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's and brain tumors. This center is up and it's running. It's got 250 scientists and researchers already working on cures and treatments for these neurologic diseases," Romney said. "Right now in our labs, we have a vaccine for Alzheimer's that is in obviously experimental stages, but doctors are believing within our lifetime we will see the ability to tackle some of these really tough diseases.
"For the very first time, there is a drug for ALS that's in the lab that's going to be coming out within the next year."
In her own struggle, Romney fought an "unrelenting fatigue that just goes along with the disease and despite the fact that you'll have the medications you still have to deal with that.
"I had to come up with different strategies in how to make myself have a normal day or be able to do things beyond just barely getting out of bed. It was a process, it was a difficult process."
Her husband helped her greatly.
"Whenever you're going through something really, really tough it's so comforting to have loved ones that will go on this journey with you and help and drag you along sometimes," she said. "The other component is the faith component. With faith, my lowest point, my feelings about that were 'well, my life is tough, thank goodness there's eternal life and that I'll somehow struggle through this life and survive one way or another.'
"But the hope that there was another possibility of me to have an existence that I would be pain-free and symptom-free, that was the kind of hope and then of course there was my belief in the savior Jesus Christ and the fact that he had suffered and gone lower than anyone has.
Romney is the author of two other books, "The Romney Family Table: Sharing Home-Cooked Recipes & Favorite Traditions"
and "Whatever You Choose to Be: 8 Tips for the Road Ahead,"
both published by Shadow Mountain.
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