Body Transformation - Managing The Monster: Active Living With MS

When disease strikes, it's no picnic. Gillian saw MS weaken her body and limit her dreams. She couldn't even feel her feet. One day she dared to run. She hasn't stopped since.

Vital Stats

Name: Gillian Payette

Gillian Payette Gillian Payette


150 lbs
Body Fat:


120 lbs
Body Fat:

Why I Got Started

At 19 years of age I was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis, I am now 35. The day I was diagnosed was the day I let go of myself, I stopped dreaming, believing and being, I lost my inner strength, I gave up my power and passion for life and gave in to this MS Monster. Since my diagnosis I have gone from a wheelchair to a cane to losing my vision, to loss of feeling in my legs and feet, unbearable fatigue and list goes on. Today I live with numb feet and no feeling on the left side of my stomach.

I was introduced to a gentleman who has since become my inspiration for the changes that I have made in my life. I would see my dear friend Bill who lives with Parkinson's Disease be so happy, he was living, encouraging and so positive, doing things he never thought possible. I remember I used to think to myself how does he live with such courage, strength and determination? If only I could find that in myself ... In one of our many conversations about my MS and my attitude he looked at me and said "You don't have MS, MS has you."

In such few words my friend had summed up the last 12 years of my life. I guess you could say that was my "Light Bulb" moment. After so many years of being controlled and consumed by my MS demon, it was time to face it head on. I needed to have control again. For the first time since my diagnosis I started to do some research on the disease and came across numerous stories of how diet and exercise changed the lives of so many with MS. I started to reflect on who I was and whom I've become and remember when my life was guided by me, my health and fitness and how good I felt.

It was time to stop feeling sorry for myself and get on with my life. I needed to stop comparing myself to others, being angry at the world for having MS. It was time to rid myself of all my negative talk and thoughts. It was time to get real with me. There is no other person in this world that can be better at being me than myself, I just needed to figure out who I was. My negative thoughts and negative mind set had gotten me nowhere except living a self destructive, unhealthy lifestyle. I began my journey of re-self discovery, telling myself small changes lead to big results.

How I Did It

The first change I made was my diet. I changed to a clean eating lifestyle, which means no more processed and junk food. All efforts were made to eat the food I chose in its most original state. I began to discover a whole new world of food and eating. I used to be petrified of the kitchen and overwhelmed by the grocery stores, now I find myself creating and experimenting with my own clean recipes, cooking and sharing them with others.

Food is my fuel and my fuel is what keeps me strong and moving. What a difference that made, in just a couple of weeks I was feeling this new wave of energy, energy I hadn't felt in years. Not to mention the beginning of my 30-pound weight loss. I could feel my old self reappearing again, although I knew I would never be the same person I could feel the same values coming alive from my core, values I will carry on with me in my new path of life.

Now with all this newfound energy I wondered what else I could do. I joined a gym, I started swimming, doing weights, even some yoga. The thought of running seemed unimaginable - so unimaginable that I needed to do it and was determined to make it happen somehow and someway. I could hear that little voice in my head saying, "How could I run with MS?" especially at this point without having feeling in my feet.

The only way to know was to try. So, I laced up my running shoes and was out the door. After 1 minute of running I needed to walk, then I could run another minute and walk again and I kept going until I ran my 10 minutes in total. Wow, I could not believe it that I was running and had MS. My mind could actually train my legs and feet to run again.

I could feel this was the beginning of a magical transformation for me. The next time I went out I ran longer and walked less. I started to set small goals for myself and achieving them was life changing. The run around the block was turning into 2 runs around the block and then 3 runs and then there I was registering for my first 5k race.

Lots of doubt was embedded in my mind on race day with that little annoying voice in my head saying, "What are you doing, you can't do this." The gun went off, I faced my fears and ran and ran and the next thing I knew I finished the race, perhaps not the most graceful runner or the fastest, but that is not what matters, what matters is that I did it with MS and its effects. From that day forward I haven't looked back, mind over matter, anything is possible. By overcoming fear, we are able to move forward.

After my 5k race came a 10k, then 15k and then my impossible dream came true, I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon. And now with a handful of half marathons under my belt I have my sights set on crossing the finish line of a full marathon. Knowing that I can have some control over my MS with my diet and exercise and positive thinking keeps me motivated to continue to make my healthy choices day in and day out. I will never forget how I used to look and feel when I did not take care of myself, suffering so much more than I actually needed to; I will never to go back to being that person again.

Now that I'm taking care of myself first, I am more capable of being the mother, wife, daughter, sister and aunt, cousin and friend that I am needed, required and expected to be. I especially see my daughter grow and discover her world around her, I need her to see me as the mother she deserves. I need to set an example not only for her but everyone else I cross paths with in my life. Seeing and feeling the amazing result from all my hard work keeps me pushing and wanting more out of my life. I am now more determined than ever not to let my MS shape who I am.

M.S. put Gillian in a wheelchair, but she got up and eventually did the unthinkable, she ran! Now she prepares to run her first marathon.

Suggestions For Others

  • Create a picture of yourself in your mind of how you want to live and look and begin to live it, make it your reality.
  • Small changes lead to big results.
  • Your life is happening now, not tomorrow or next week, so you need to live NOW!
  • If you tell yourself you can or you can't you are right!
  • I challenge you to open your mind and discover the power it has, use positive thoughts and words and see your authentic way of being come to life.

    I encourage you to live and learn in your 'todays' which will make you stronger and wiser in your 'tomorrows.' Surround yourself and embrace those who share the same energy and desire for life as you and be a leader for those who do not.