I am so grateful for the array of amazing women God has brought into my life over the last year or so. These are women of strength and experience doing exploits in so many areas of life. Wonderfully, they are lovers of God and in knowing him, I mean really growing in their intimate knowledge and experience of him, they are released to be themselves, no religiosity, no frills, no pretence. One such woman is Mary Stretch. Mary is just amazing. Here’s her story of being healed of one of the most debilitating neurological conditions – Multiple Sclerosis – through deepest, closest, most chatty relationship and reliance on God.
by Mary Stretch, Company Director, former BBC Breakfast Time current affairs presenter
Boing! it has a joyous sound! But bouncing back in my experience is hard, meticulous, painstaking work. I first learnt how to do it when I was placed in a North London Boarding School, where the nuns were, inexplicably, French. I was 6 years old, from a warm, close Nigerian family. Left there with my sister, I didn’t see my parents for 3 months on end. For 5 years, it was sink or bounce back. The experience hardened me into a sheet of positive steel.
The real test came at 32, when I was a successful BBC Breakfast Time reporter working 4 x24 hour shifts a week on Current Affairs. My fingers went numb; then my feet. How briefly and deliriously happy I was to get a week off work for hospital tests; less happy when the diagnosis came back as Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The prognosis was terminal, relapsing, wheelchairs and worse.
I stopped. I had to think. I remember reading a handful of the MS Society’s yellow & black self-help, manage-your-disease fliers. Fruit, veg, exercise, rest to order & pills. It might work.
I needed certainty. I prayed. I left my gruelling TV success. I needed to think.
Post TV I became a cleaner for a lovely family with 4 kids near the British Museum. Whilst I cleaned baths & floor tiles & made kedgeree – I pondered. How was I, unmarried, childless, going to cope with this devastating future & still have happiness?
I prayed hard on my knees, literally, scrubbing grime. The answer slowly came to me.
You have got MS, so live as though you have it: be uber-healthy, rest, eat 10 a day fruit & veg BUT THEN live as though you simultaneously don’t have it : go OUT, have fun and adventures, seek out art, culture, holidays and excitement. Live each day as fully as possible. The recipe God made was perfect for me.
That’s how I learnt trust, and the bounce-back began, for it was at that time that I actively sought the deepest, closest, most chatty relationship with my God. He became my best friend, I hurled every question at him that passed through my head. It was a non-stop minute by minute conversation. I asked him to look after me. I enlisted his help. I relied on him.
And that conversation and reliance continues to this day. Watching Him solve all my problems. Watching Him melt away my tatty pencil list of ‘impossibilities’. He brought me a handsome husband, 8 years younger than me at 34, a daughter, a new business partnering with global brands who strangely seemed to accept this single Mum who worked from home. There were dark times too, tough, lung-wrenching months of tears, mental struggle, dreadful loneliness and exhaustion for me, now a divorced mother.
But never did I get One Single Symptom of MS. My friends marvelled at my faith and my youthful appearance, which has lasted and lasted way beyond my due. Oh hurrah for the legacy of living as though I had MS – a 15 years younger look!
My bounce-back grew more definite. I entrusted Him with my entire business. I’ll do your work and you do mine, I said. I check in with him every few minutes, on decisions, with queries, with letters. If you are down (and death is as far down as it goes) ask HIM, trust Him. Then your bounce-back looks very like human resilience but it will actually be the energy that comes from God.