Giving and Leading: Ann Romney Book: “In This Together”

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Ann Romney, the wife of former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, will discuss her new book, “In This Together.” The book is a candid exploration of her journey with Multiple Sclerosis, a disease affecting over 2.3 million people worldwide.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," Ann Romney joins us to discuss her new book on living with multiple sclerosis.

"Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Ann Romney, the wife of former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has written a new book about her experiences fighting multiple sclerosis, a condition that affects over 2 million Americans. The book is titled "in this together" and it's a reflection on diagnosis, recovery, faith, and family. We welcome Ann Romney to "Arizona Horizon." Nice to meet you. Good to have you here.

ANN ROMNEY: Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Why did you decide -- you have written a couple of other books.

ANN ROMNEY: I have. Three books that I have written. One was a cookbook that was just fun. Ended up on the "New York Times" best-selling list, shock to me. This one I got persuaded to write last year after I gave a speech and someone in the audience -- well, a friend of mine, he said you have to write this. And you know, I thought who is going to want to read about this? It is about my journey with MS, but it is really -- it is about all people that have eventually in their life they will have a struggle, they'll have a point where they're brought to their knees. How do we get through these moments and what things do we draw on to help us?

TED SIMONS: Could you have written this book earlier in your life? Diagnosed I think in 1998.

ANN ROMNEY: '98.

TED SIMONS: Could you have written this five, 10 years after the diagnosis?

ANN ROMNEY: No, no, I was still in the middle of -- still in the woods, or in the rabbit hole, and I am out of the rabbit hole and now I have perspective and I have -- I'm doing really well. I'm in remission. When you are in the middle of something like that, you are consumed by it. You're overwhelmed by it, and, yet, you know, I have come out the other end and now I feel great and was able to write this book. More importantly, proceeds from the book go to the Ann Romney center for neurologic disease which we started about a year ago, 250 scientists and researchers, not just studying multiple sclerosis -- it is now time for us to unlock the mysteries of the brain and we have the diagnostic tools that we haven't had in the past, and it is an exciting time to be involved in something that we know we will -- we will make huge difference in millions of people's lives.

TED SIMONS: That center, correct me if I'm wrong, that's at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston?

ANN ROMNEY: At Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and it is run by Dr. Dennis Selkoe, one of the leading experts on Alzheimer's and Dr. Howard Weiner, one of the leading experts on multiple sclerosis. They may have found, they have been working together and collaborating for 25, 30 years. They have found that if the study MS and they have this drug, they have found that it maybe applies to ALS or it applies to a brain tumor. There are interdisciplinary things that are happening now that are really going to be exciting.

TED SIMONS: Obviously you know a lot about MS right now. Before the diagnosis, before this hit you in 1998, what did you know about it?

ANN ROMNEY: Nothing.

TED SIMONS: Nothing.

ANN ROMNEY: I had a friend who had it but I didn't understand that much about it. I knew she was fatigued, I knew she was losing her balance, I knew she was weak. But I didn't understand anything at all beyond that, and honestly when I started having these symptoms, it never occurred to me that that would be MS.

TED SIMONS: When they used those two letters, multiple sclerosis, MS, I think in the book you describe it as very dark and very lonely days.

ANN ROMNEY: Yes, it was. And I went into that rabbit hole. Now, I have to say when I first was in the doctor's office, you know, having my first appointment after my MRI, I saw in the waiting room a brochure, and I started reading about some different conditions and one was ALS and one was MS. ALS is Lou Gehrig's, and MS, and I was looking and I'm like I could have either that or that. I knew I had either one or the other just by sitting in the doctor's office and reading the brochure. When I had my diagnosis, in a weird kind of way, it was a little bit of a relief to know that I didn't have ALS. But then I'm like, okay, now, my life is over. And I really believed it was. And I felt that way. And I lived that way for a number of years.

TED SIMONS: So, there -- I know that for a lot of folks, diagnosis of MS, and MS diagnosis, it's kind of a diagnosis of exclusion. They thought it was this, it's not. Thought it was that, it's not and MS almost becomes the last man standing. Is that how it was with you?

ANN ROMNEY: It has gotten better and that's because MRIs now, you can see the sclerosis on the spine or on the brain and once you see those white sort of cloudy areas, you kind of know those are the sclerosis. You can find them and point to them and say, yeah, it is a lot more clear. In the past, it used to be very difficult to diagnose.

TED SIMONS: Indeed.

ANN ROMNEY: It still is. It still is difficult. I shouldn't say it is completely clear-cut.

TED SIMONS: You described the rabbit hole a couple of times here. Could you feel yourself going in the rabbit hole or were you so busy fighting the symptoms. Talk about the complications. You are pretty frank in the book about the complications and such. This is a rough period for you.

ANN ROMNEY: I was pretty commonly -- this is common for a lot of people to have this kind of a diagnosis, whether it is MS, ALS, or some of the other serious things. But I -- I did go into a depression. I thought my life was over. I felt hopeless, I felt helpless. I felt, you know, poor me, all of those things. I can't say it was a very proud time of my life where I really gave in to the disease. But I didn't stay there, which is what I want people to know. It's pretty common to be there, but you can fight your way out of it.

TED SIMONS: How did you fight your way out of it?

ANN ROMNEY: Well, I had a wonderful husband that was, the title of the book is "In This Together." When he was with me during the diagnosis, we cried when we heard it. But then he said to me, Ann, it is not a death sentence and we're in this together. And we can do anything if we're together as long as it is not fatal, we will be okay. And to have him as my companion through this that was really accepting and loving and kind allowed me to be sick for a while and that was kinds of wonderful. The other kind of amazing thing he did, I couldn't do as much. I could hardly do anything anymore. I was so capable and ran the house and did everything and was so active and was a tennis player, competitive tennis -- I couldn't do anything anymore. And that stole my identity. You identify yourself, I'm really good at this, that means I am this. All of the sudden, what is your identity? He was helpful during that period. He would say I don't love you because you make good dinners. I'm like yeah, of course, that is -- that makes sense. But he really meant it. And he was really helpful for when I had to make this huge shift of saying who am I? And what can I do? And what use am I to the world anymore? And it was really a hard time. And it's an interesting thing because you get stripped, not just physical health, but you get stripped emotionally, and your identity and everything about you is thrown out the window.

TED SIMONS: It's interesting you bring up family issues and I wanted to ask more about that, the impact on the family. You mentioned how your husband responded. I'm curious how other family members responded. At one point you write about -- talk about being so exhausted. I know that Christmas is a big time for your family. And you were so exhausted you couldn't take part in Christmas activities and such and just how rough that was for you.

ANN ROMNEY: Yeah, that was my first year.

TED SIMONS: Yeah.

ANN ROMNEY: And that was a whole huge adjustment, again, to my life is over. It's changed. I'm finished. I'll never have a good day. And that's where I was. And it was -- it was a pretty bleak, gray period for me. But the good news for people is, again, I want to give people hope that they don't need to stay there.

TED SIMONS: Yes. You didn't stay there.

ANN ROMNEY: I didn't stay there. But I had to fight my way out, I had to crawl my way out.

TED SIMONS: You say not necessarily proud of that, but certainly this Ann Romney can understand what that Ann Romney was going through.

ANN ROMNEY: Yes, I do. I know that most people -- this is pretty common. And, you know, and, again, there is another piece to this disease which is with a lot of autoimmune diseases, is enormous fatigue and trying to figure out how to get through your day when you are so fatigued, is also very difficult.

TED SIMONS: Did you find yourself -- you know, for most folks who made it in life in one way, shape, or form, a little bit of go-to-it-ness there's an assertiveness.

ANN ROMNEY: Get up and go.

TED SIMONS: Get out of bed, get going, what's the matter with you? Pull yourself up and move. Did you go through --

ANN ROMNEY: Oh, I did and I was frustrated. I'm like -- I would do things, okay, I will get a good night's sleep and tomorrow I will feel better. No, that didn't work. Okay. I will eat well and then tomorrow I will wake up and I will feel nothing I did was making me feeling better. So, it was like a pretty scary thing.

TED SIMONS: So you're doing well now. A treatment must have happened or something must have happened between then and now.

ANN ROMNEY: Right.

TED SIMONS: What did you try? What worked? What didn't work so well?

ANN ROMNEY: You know, what worked for me was I went to a different neurologist and he instantly put me on treatment and I went for about two months deteriorating very rapidly, and then because my first neurologist was like well, there is nothing we can do for you. Go home. I thought -- and he said we will treat you when we're really bad. I thought, when I'm bad? I'm really bad now. I knew I was going to get much worse before I would have treatment. The other neurologist I went to, had a totally different feeling went no, we hit this hard and fast. The earlier we hit it, the harder we hit it, the more effective this is. That is now Dr. Howard Weiner, who is now the co-director of the Ann Romney Center. He took me by my arm instantly after giving me the same diagnosis and put me in an infusion chair down the hall from his office and within 15 minutes of seeing him, I was getting infused with intravenous steroids. Horrible stuff.

TED SIMONS: And the kind of thing that would affect you quite a bit.

ANN ROMNEY: Yeah, it makes you nuts basically. You are giving this huge warning, this may make you psychotic. I'm like great, pump it in. It's horrible. It's bad stuff. It deteriorates bones and does all of these things, but it worked.

TED SIMONS: Did it work quickly or did it take time?

ANN ROMNEY: He told me, he said, you know, within a few days or even a week, we will know whether this is working or not, or a few weeks. I think it was within a few weeks, he says it is either going to work or it is not and we will know. Fortunately for me it worked. I was on those IV steroids for about nine months once a month in the hospital. It worked for me. I have not had a serious attack since that day.

TED SIMONS: My goodness.

ANN ROMNEY: So, Howard Weiner is my guardian angel. I love him to death. And, now, this isn't going to always be the case for everyone. I have to say that that's the mystery about MS is, you know, some drugs work for some, not for others, and the next piece of the puzzle that we have to figure out is we're going to be doing gene testing and trying to figure out, all right, you have Gene A. That means this drug, COPAXONE will work for you. Gene B, some other drug TYSABRI will work for you. So, that is the next piece we have to figure out. Fortunately we struck it rich with the first treatment for me.

TED SIMONS: And yet you talk about walking a tight rope because with MS, you never know, do you? You really never know.

ANN ROMNEY: Well, I feel like I'm Charlie Brown with a little cloud. It can strike. And I have to do things to prevent that because I can't overly fatigue. I still tire more easily than I should. I still have limited energy. So, I have to resource that better. And Mitt's funny, he keeps saying it is just because you're getting older. Well, maybe, but I think there is something else going on.

TED SIMONS: You describe MS as a cruel teacher. Explain.

ANN ROMNEY: Yeah, I say MS was my best teacher, it was also a cruel teacher. The lessons that I learned from MS, I am so grateful for. Number one, it humbled me. It brought me to my knees. But it also made me so grateful. It made me so grateful for things that are really, really important in life. It also cracked my heart open to have more compassion for others. It made me realize how precious life is and how fleeting life can be. And now I've come out the other end and I'm like I was weak, now I'm strong. And I want to invite people that are suffering like I was to say lean on me now, and, you know, this center is going to do amazing things and give people hope, and provide a window of opportunity for people to say and look there are people working on this. There are people struggling like I'm struggling and we can do this together. "In This Together" has more meaning than just Mitt and I being there together.

TED SIMONS: I'm interested in how it did change you. As far as how you see others -- you just referred to this, how you see others who are having challenges of their own in a variety of ways.

ANN ROMNEY: Yeah, right.

TED SIMONS: It has to change you.

ANN ROMNEY: It does change you, and I'm grateful for that and that is why I say it was my cruelest teacher and I'm so grateful that, you know, that I have had that and had that opportunity to be in that place and to come out of it and I now see someone oh so many times people come to book signings that are really having serious health issues, and my heart just breaks. And I want to put my arm around them and say I wish I could take your pain away, but I know I can't. And, you know, you may have to go through something really hard as well and it may not end up as well as me, but it's -- the struggle is part of life. It is part of what we go through and hopefully that struggle shapes us and forms us to a place where we will have more compassion for one another and be kinder and be more generous with our time.

TED SIMONS: It's interesting how those kinds of events move you in those directions, isn't it?

ANN ROMNEY: Yeah, it is.

TED SIMONS: Was your faith tested by all of this?

ANN ROMNEY: You know, it never really was. Now, I was like oh, darn, you know, my lot in life is I don't like it, and -- but I was never tested. I always was appreciative and grateful for an eternal perspective that I had knowing that this earth life is temporary. There is eternal life. And I kept thinking well, I pulled the unlucky straw and the rest of my life is going to be awful, but I know I will have peace and comfort later. And so, I -- my faith really wasn't tested. I will say, though, that I went through the crucible and that it, you know, toughened me up or whatever. It changed my heart. Those things happened. I recognized that and I recognize that, again, as a blessing in my life.

TED SIMONS: Obviously you're doing well and have done well from when your husband ran his previous campaign to now. The fact that you are dealing with this on a daily basis, did that affect any decisions, family decisions, your husband's decision to run this time around?

ANN ROMNEY: No, this time it had -- I'm well and, you know, each time that we made the decision to go forward, it was always if Ann's health is good, we will. If it is not, it's over. But that -- my health had no impact on the decision in January when we tipped our toe in for 20 seconds to think about running again. My health -- we wouldn't have even considered it if I wasn't doing well.

TED SIMONS: Those 20 seconds, how big was the toe and how deep was the toe in the water?

ANN ROMNEY: The toe got dipped in for 20 seconds and pulled right back out.

TED SIMONS: And was it a family, was it --

ANN ROMNEY: It was really just Mitt and I this time. It was really Mitt and I. The boys before had been participating in it, but we kind of knew that they would support us no matter what. And Mitt and I had to -- this was going to be our journey and if we did it again, we weren't going to draw them into it like we had before, kind of let them have their own lives and it was just going to be the two of us out there. We really didn't consult the boys this time. I have to say when we pulled right back, did we hear from them very quickly. Oh, yes, are we glad you made that decision.

TED SIMONS: Got the message without getting the message. I asked if your faith was tested by the fight with the disease. Was your faith at all tested in what you saw, experienced during the campaign? I don't mean necessarily you raging against God or anything, but was it -- you saw a lot.

ANN ROMNEY: Yeah. We did.

TED SIMONS: A lot not so good and --

ANN ROMNEY: A lot of good and so well put, a lot not so good. And, you know, people are people. And when -- when you are the front person or leading a charge, and, you know, a billion dollars is going to be spent on you to destroy you, I mean, it is like, whoa. This is a really good person who is brilliant, has unbelievable experience, has extraordinary judgment, is an amazingly successful person in every aspect of his life, in business, with his family, with his marriage, and then it is like you're made out to be like, you know, Attila the Hun, and it is hard for a wife to see that and go through that. However, I have to say you know what the game is before you get into it.

TED SIMONS: I was just going to say. Was this, what you experienced, does that make you look at Michelle Obama and say I know what she is going through. Hillary Clinton, I know what she is going through.

ANN ROMNEY: I have sympathy for all families whether they are democratic or republican. You are putting yourself on a line. As a result of that, your family is put on the line. A lot of unfairness happens, a lot of scrutiny happens that is unfair. It is the political process and it's such a tortuous political process. They do it in great Britain a lot quicker than we do it here. In and out, six weeks, done.

TED SIMONS: You call an election, there you go.

ANN ROMNEY: Yeah. Interesting thing there, they participate in government afterwards. It's like they don't disappear. It is a very different system. There is -- we have a great system, clearly we could be doing better.

TED SIMONS: We only have a couple of minutes left. So much more I would like to talk to you about. When the election results came in, and America, those that voted made their choice and they chose not your husband. How did that feel?

ANN ROMNEY: It was a rough night. It was a really, really rough night. I wasn't so sure beforehand about it. I mean, it was close. We knew it was going to be close. We knew how many states we had to win and when the results started to come in from some of the states that we knew we had to win, it was really tough. And, so, you know, I have to say, though, you look at that whole experience, good and bad, and I still mostly remember the good. And, you know, again, from that night, we have moved on. Life is wonderful. You know, I'm involved in very extraordinary things that I'm excited about. And, you know, you turn another page and you move on.

TED SIMONS: We want to mention you have a book signing coming up tonight or tomorrow night?

ANN ROMNEY: It is tomorrow at 5:30 at --

TED SIMONS: All right. With like 30 seconds left. Someone who is watching, either suffering from MS, they have a family member or a friend who is going through what you went through what is your message?

ANN ROMNEY: I would say please buy the book because you will learn a lot. It is important that family members understand as well what it means for someone that is suffering. You will have a greater understanding by reading my book as to how you can help and what it is really like for the person that is suffering. You'll have a great understanding my reading my book how it can help for someone who is suffering.

TED SIMONS: Could you have used your book back in 1998?

ANN ROMNEY: I would have loved to have had it when I was diagnosed.

TED SIMONS: Ann Romney, pleasure to have you here. Thank you for joining us and continued good health.

ANN ROMNEY: Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," former Arizona republic columnist John Talton will talk about his new book "A Brief History of Phoenix." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening. Captioning Performed by LNS Captioning www.lnscaptioning.com

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ann Romney:The wife of former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

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