Dr. Saray Stancic is a board certified physician who's been living with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis since 1995. For eight years, Dr. Stancic watched her health and independence decline while she became reliant upon several medications in hopes of slowing the progression of her disease. Then, in 2003, she came across some information that would change her life and health forever.
Today, Dr. Stancic lives a symptom-free life and is the founder of Stancic Health and Wellness, LLC, where she practices Lifestyle Medicine. She also recently released her new book, What's Missing From Medicine. MamaSezz co-founder Meg Donahue caught up with Dr. Stancic to hear her transformation story firsthand.
What was your life like before you changed your diet? What was your life and diet like? What was your struggle?
After my diagnosis in 1995, and largely because of neurological symptoms , I could do little physical activity. Also, my doctors advised that I limit exercise, as it was falsely believed at the time that vigorous movement could possibly worsen MS outcomes. My diet was largely the standard American diet, and my stress levels as a medical resident were very high. During my residency, I was “on call” every 3rd or 4th night, so a 36 hour shift with no sleep was not uncommon.
What happened? When and how did you realize you had MS?
My MS symptoms appeared very suddenly on a night I was working in the hospital. I felt very tired, took a nap, and when I was called to respond to a patient issue, I found I could not get out of bed, and I could not feel my legs. It was then that I realized something had gone terribly wrong. I was immediately brought to the ER for an MRI of my brain and spinal cord, and those studies confirmed a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
What did you do? Was there a defining "aha" moment that triggered change or did you have a gradual journey? How did a plant-based diet impact your health and life? How were you able to overcome doubts and fatigue and stick with such a dramatic lifestyle change?
When I was first diagnosed, I was terrified. As a physician, I knew what this diagnosis likely meant, and I immediately envisioned myself in a wheelchair.
The seemingly inevitable loss of my independence was most frightening, and I became depressed and isolated. I grew more and more dependent on medications, and at one point I was taking close to a dozen drugs to slow the progression and treat the symptoms of the disease. It was then, in 2003, that I came across an article discussing a connection between diet and MS. This was my aha moment, because it triggered a deep interest in understanding how food and lifestyle choices affect health outcomes. But the desire and strength to stick to my new lifestyle choices came from the years I had suffered, dependent on medications with significant side effects, as well as my powerful drive to maintain autonomy.
I knew these lifestyle changes would eventually offer me the chance to live a better life. What could be more valuable than that?
What is your life like now? What things do you do each day to maintain your health?
It has been 25 years since my diagnosis, and today I take no medications for my MS. I live a symptom free life and I enjoy an active lifestyle with daily runs, walks, or hikes. I consume a whole foods plant-based diet, and I tend to every aspect of my lifestyle as if it were a medical prescription.
I sleep 8 hours every night. I pray or meditate each day, both when I awaken and when I go to bed. I avoid substances altogether with the exception of a glass of wine every now again on special occasions. It seems simple, but I assure you it is powerful.
Bonus question: What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my book [What's Missing From Medicine]. I hope its simple message serves readers to introduce meaningful change into their everyday lives. When one person makes a change, it can lead to whole communities changing, and then ultimately to lasting change throughout the world. The idea that my book can serve to catalyze that shift is exhilarating.
Name one item on your bucket list?
To be a Dean at a Medical School. I was recently nominated by one of my students for an 2020 Inspiration Award from the American Medical Association – it was such an honor to receive this. Acting as a mentor to others who want to pursue this most noble profession is truly what I love most. As a Dean, I could create an environment that not only emphasizes academia, research and clinical excellence but also one that enriches and values the physical and emotional development of its students.
Have Your Own Plant-Based Transformation Story to Share?
We'd love to hear how the healing power of plants has impacted your life. Shoot the MamaSezz team an email and tell us your story!