Germany to the United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi offers sufferers with a number of sclerosis the possibility of a holistic, wholesome way of life
Today Inken Stolley runs a beauty salon in Abu Dhabi together with her sister and follows the specialists at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
Photo credit: Delivered
Abu Dhabi: The diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) prompted the German to give up her stressful job at home and move to Abu Dhabi.
Now 41 year old Inken Stolley lives a balanced lifestyle in the United Arab Emirates and inspires other patients with MS with her holistic lifestyle.
“MS has become my friend. It forced me to stop and take a moment to think about my stressful life in Germany. I decided to reshape my life, letting go of my fears and limiting beliefs, and started becoming much more aware of my diet and lifestyle. MS is my constant reminder to take care of myself. Now I love inspiring people to lead conscious, healthy lifestyles, whether or not they have MS, ”said Stolley.
The expat moved to Abu Dhabi in 2010, about a year after she was diagnosed with chronic autoimmune disease. Today she runs a beauty salon in Abu Dhabi with her sister and follows the specialists at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
She told how she first went to an ophthalmologist in Germany after having blurred vision in her left eye. She was diagnosed with optic neuritis, a typical symptom of MS, in which the nerve that carries messages from the nerves to the brain becomes inflamed. Doctors performed an MRI on her brain to confirm the diagnosis of MS, after which she was prescribed disease-modifying therapy. However, in 2010 she relapsed with symptoms of numbness. It was then that she decided to move to Abu Dhabi.
“Today I am grateful. Without this condition I would not have flown as far as Abu Dhabi to begin my journey into a balanced life. I found my family here and now I live symptom-free, ”says Stolley, who is now the mother of a five-year-old boy.
Rising MS prevalence
Dr. Beatrice Benedetti, Stolley’s physician at the Neurological Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said that physical well-being and disease progression in MS patients are critically dependent on a healthy and active lifestyle, mental health and drug treatment.
According to a 2019 article in the journal Multiple Sclerosis International by Sheikh Khalifa Medical City researchers, the incidence and prevalence of MS is increasing worldwide and more notable in the Middle East. Another 2016 study, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with Abu Dhabi health officials, showed an incidence of MS almost twice the global average, with more than half of the patients Emiratis were.
“I believe [Stolley] is an inspiring example for people with MS. One of the most important messages we share with our patients is that they should lead normal lives. Most patients can get married, have children, work, travel, play sports and do anything they want, ”said Dr. Benedetti.
Although there is no cure for MS, relapsing-remitting MS can be treated well in most cases, especially if treatment is started early in the disease. Paying attention to diet and exercise can help improve patient health and strength, and slow the progression of the disease. Patients are advised to eat a balanced diet and maintain optimal vitamin D levels. They are also recommended to do moderate exercise and strength training to build muscle mass and overcome stiffness.
“There are several misconceptions about work and exercise among people with MS. They believe exercise can make symptoms worse. On the contrary, it is highly recommended that MS patients remain active in order to maintain their strength and balance. I keep reminding my patients that most of them can go about their normal activities as long as they take their medication, lead a healthy lifestyle, and follow their doctor’s advice, ”said Dr. Benedetti.
Giving others hope
According to Stolley, she managed to keep her symptoms in check by disciplining her holistic lifestyle. “I care a lot about my diet, the quality and amount of water I drink, spending time outdoors, and my healthy sleeping habits – all of which I ignored before I got MS. I exercise daily and start my day with meditation and mindfulness because it keeps my body and mind in balance, ”she said.
Stolley also connects with MS patients around the world as an MS Hope Ambassador to help them in the same transformation.
“I am on a mission to spread the word about healthy living. I want to help more people in the United Arab Emirates understand MS better and see this as a blessing to change their lives and lead a positive, balanced life, ”she said.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has launched a new website in English and Arabic that offers MS patients and their families practical advice in simple and easy-to-understand language on topics such as symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and lifestyle, exercise and diet. The website also provides support materials and curated external links for clinicians and the broader MS community in the UAE.