Heart & Strength Interview Series w/ Johnna Swilley-Lewis

Today I started a new series in which I highlight people living with Devics and/or MS who live life strong. Please let me introduce you to Johnna Swilley-Lewis, a small business owner living in Fort Smith, Arkansas who is living with Devics.

What prompted me to ask Johnna to do this interview with me is that she is a runner. I am looking for people to inspire me to push myself in my life with Devics/MS. Johnna did that for me. Thank you Johnna.

My goal is to show people that you can live well with a disease by placing “purpose and effort” into your life (not simply waiting for medicine to work, but by “you” the individual being proactive). I have personally opted out of taking medicine for my journey with Devics/MS. In no way in this interview do I wish to sway people on their medicine, that is personal decision. I do hope to shed light on the idea that we can have control over our health.

You call yourself the “crazy blind running fool”. What level of blindness are you at? How do you compensate when running being visually impaired?

My optic neuritis has not taken all of my sight, just the ability to focus.

I have a BIG mastiff "Hoss"(dog) who runs with me. At 225 lbs he is quite a deterrent and being the gentle giant that he is I feel safe. I also run with a local group.

My Opthamologist is awesome. He has seen me through a lot, especially the day that came last March when we realized I couldn't see the "BIG E " on the eye chart, which brings me to my favorite quote. "We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot."

You have a goal of running a 1/2 marathon next March. What challenges will Devics/MS place on you during your training?

Currently I am recovering from an achilles tendon tear, after rehab I will start training for a 1/2 marathon in March and with luck a marathon in April. Don't get me wrong , I realize I have to "reason" with "my Devics" from time to time and take a break.

(***Editor Note***) (After reading Johnna's e-mails prior to posting this interview, she inspired me to sign up for my 1st 10k to be held on the 9/25).

How has the practice of alternative medicine influenced your life? (I love the word practice, people need to think about their health as a practice)

A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thoughts to derive benefit from his illnesses - Hippocrates. I truly believe this, therefore I practice it. I do understand that Alternative Medicine is just that: alternative.

My journey began in 1986 and just like most has been the same. It started at a Rheumatologist, Neurologist, Pulmonologist and a lot of other "ologists". For me Western Meds made my personal situation worse, I was labeled "uncompliant" and even "crazy". I went as far as to get a Psych eval. Either way I HAVE DEVICS, IT DOES NOT HAVE ME! I have a vitamin regamen I follow that was prescribed and adjusted as needed by my Chiropractor, who is a Dr. of Naturopathy. Also, he has my MRIs and is well aware of my situation. I see him weekly. I also use a Massage therapist who specializes in reflexology.

What is your philosophy on living with Devics/MS?

I apologize to no one for the way I choose to face Devics, I OWN my life and until the time comes and I have to give it over to God I will plant my feet or whatever I have available to me and be a force to be reckoned with. I am the "crazy blind runner".

I am the "crazy blind runner". Thank you so much John for letting me share my story with you. God Bless