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Escondido Woman Takes A Different Path In Her Fight Against Multiple Sclerosis

Evening Edition

Aired 7/23/13 on KPBS News.

Multiple sclerosis can be a crippling disease, but an Escondido woman refuses to submit to it.

— About 350,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis. The degenerative disease can cause muscle weakness, problems with coordination and eventually rob patients of their ability to walk and talk.

However, some patients refuse to let the condition get the better of them.

Aurora Colello loves to show off the medals she’s won from various triathlons.

"Probably the one I’m most proud of is the Orangeman Half Ironman: 1.2 mile swim in the ocean, 56 mile bike, and then a half marathon, 13.1 miles," the short brunette said as she held one of her medals. "I trained for about nine months for this race. I just wanted to get to the finish line, alive and with a smile on my face. And I got fifth place for my age group."

The amazing thing is that Colello, who’s 40, didn’t exercise at all until 2008. That’s when she got a diagnosis that scared her.

Here’s what happened: Colello started having pain and blurry vision in her right eye.

Suddenly one morning, things went totally haywire.

"I had completely lost my vision, I was completely blind in my right eye," Colello recalled. "So, they rushed me for an MRI. And the MRI showed 10 large lesions all over my brain."

The doctor told Colello she had multiple sclerosis. He said she would start to suffer fatigue, and that her body would slowly fall apart.

The doctor advised Colello to start taking some medications right away to manage the disease.

For days, Colello was devastated. She couldn’t stop crying. Then her husband told her something she’ll never forget.

“'You can’t give in, because if you give in, you will end up in a wheelchair, you will end up will all this stuff your doctors are telling you you’re going to get,'" Colello's husband said. "And when he said that to me, it really hit me, ‘cause I wasn’t fighting it. I was just totally depressed and I felt hopeless, and I don’t think there’s anything worse than that.”

Multiple sclerosis can be crippling, but the director of UC San Diego’s MS Center, neurologist Jody Corey-Bloom, said the disease doesn’t always follow the same course.

"I mean, I would say it’s the unpredictability of MS that makes it the most challenging, and I think very difficult for the patients to have to live with it," the neurologist explained.

Corey-Bloom said there are a number of medications, both injectable and in pill form, that work quite well in helping to manage MS symptoms.

"These therapies are actually amazing, in the sense that they can really, in many instances, keep patients where they are," she said. "They can give them their best shot at not progressing, really. The problem is that some people don’t start them until too late."

Colello decided early on she didn’t want to take standard medications at all. That’s because some MS patients she talked to said despite taking the drugs, they kept getting worse. And she was worried about side effects from the treatments.

So Colello chose to battle MS by adopting a rigorous exercise program: 15 hours a week of riding a bike, running and swimming. She went on a strict diet, too, and started taking a lot of supplements. She went to see a neurologist, Klureet Chaudhary, who offers MS patients a different path at her clinic, Wellspring Health.

"The first thing I look at is 'What are you eating that’s contributing to that?' And then the other things we look at are 'What are you doing to help fight that? How’s your stress level? What type of exercise program are you involved in?'" Chaudhary said.

Chaudary is an MD who specializes in ayurvedic medicine, an ancient Indian discipline that attempts to restore health by cleansing the body of substances that can make people sick.

Chaudary believes making lifestyle changes is a crucial part of healing.

"If you can take people who are diabetic and improve their lifestyle, and they’re no longer diabetic, why can’t we do that with MS?” she asked.

Colello said that approach is working for her. In fact, she’s stepping up her training to prepare for a triathlon in Malibu this September.

When she was first diagnosed, Colello woke up every day and wondered if her MS would get worse.

"I don’t wake up and think that anymore," she said. "When I wake up, I think to myself, 'When am I going to get my hour swim in today? When am I going to go on my two-hour bike? Am I taking my kids to the beach to surf today, or are we going to go to the park?' That’s how I live my life."

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Avatar for user 'kolohe'

kolohe | July 24, 2013 at 2:32 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

The unspoken implication here is Triathlon participation will cure MS, Hmmm? The real truth of status of her MS is in the MRI results, where are they? Will you report them? The medical truth please ... not a sensationalist story. Giving false hope to desperate patients and families is irresponsible journalism, at best.

I have had MS for over 30 years and had to abandon training for and competing in open ocean long distance swimming competitions after 12 years, because of my MS. Wish this story was true, however, reads like false hope to me. Given the typical course of the disease for most MS patients this reads like the rise before the fall, that I also experienced. And that is the devastating reality of MS!

Some other previously proposed cures for MS, all of which have been scientifically disproven: Having amalgam dental fillings removed, Plasma periphrasis aka - blood cleansing, CCSVI aka - surgically placing stents in the neck veins, Hyperbaric oxygen, Intravenous mega doses of vitamin B, Bee Stings and many more. All have been debunked as fallacious for symptomatic relief or cures for MS. In the quest for a cure desperate people will go to desperate measures, as this list shows.

No problem with what ever she does in her personal/private life. She could eat raw worms and hot sauce with warm sea water and claim it cures her MS, I would not care. However, when the media picks it up and deliberately perpetuates this known misinformation they do an unbelievable disservice to the over 400,000 Americans, and their families, living with MS. It is an ultimate challenge in life to have a progressively degenerative neurological disease that has no known cause or cure.

This story does not help MS patients, it hurts them and the public's perception of people with MS! The harm is in publicly and deliberately choosing to perpetuate a known fraud, by a media we are supposed to trust ... and they outright lie! That is where I see the harm. How about you, do you see any harm in false reporting? Maybe credibility and integrity are not a problem or concern for you going forward...

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Avatar for user 'kolohe'

kolohe | July 25, 2013 at 7:52 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Wishing Ms Colello the best in all her up coming challenges. Mentally and physically MS patients are some of the toughest people you will meet and she sounds up to the tasks she faces.

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Avatar for user 'caraconnelly'

caraconnelly | July 29, 2013 at 4:37 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

to kolohe- I wish her the best too- i agree that it is nearly irresponsible reporting to not get a complete picture of this disease. she is a complete exception to this disease and the debilitating effects it has on the lives of most MS patients. i was diagnosed 10 years ago and have been on different meds- currently on tysabri for over 4 1/2 years. JC virus antibody positive. i run and work out. i do very well and often feel guilty about how well i do. i run a lot of 5K and 10K races, duathlon events and just yesterday did 2 legs of a triathlon event. i would never boast that to another MS patient in the news and subscribe to the no medication thing. this reporter and paper should have been more balanced. good luck to you.

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Avatar for user 'kolohe'

kolohe | July 30, 2013 at 8:48 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

to caraconnelly- Sounds like you are doing well - Keep on Trucking! MS people are tough. My running/swimming days are done, however, with the help of a knee brace I do a real mean 50 yard mosey, John Wayne would be proud. MS is not a disease for light weights, Stay strong!

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Avatar for user 'AuroraC'

AuroraC | August 11, 2013 at 12:13 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

This is Aurora, the woman from this interview. I was just looking for a link to my interview to send to a friend, when I saw that there were some comments and I wanted to address them.
KOLOHE, in no way was the interview saying to do triathlons and it would cure MS. Did you not watch the whole thing? The whole point was summed up by my Ayurvedic Neurologist at the end, if a diabetic can make lifestyle changes and no longer be diabetic , it someone with coronary artery disease can make lifestyle changes and no longer have coronary artery disease, why not MS? I am proof that lifestyle changes can stop the progression of this disease. I am not the only one. Here is a Dr. who was in a wheelchair with MS and did the same thing:
Her website:
Her Youtube video:
I do have ALL of my MRI's and have spoken to groups of neurologist in the past and showed them all . I have them as proof, KPBS never requested them nor did they air the entire interview because obliviously they have to edit some parts, these were the specifics of what I do, how I eat and what supplements I take that have helped me stay as healthy as I have been for the past 5 years. I am sorry that you feel that my story does not help MS patients but hurts them. I have actually found quite the opposite to be true. I have met with many MS patients over the years that have listened to what I have done and have done the exact same thing and are in the same place as I am . There was NO false reporting int his piece, I am real life person, with MS, who is healthy , no symptoms and am a triathlete. I have stopped doing what I do to keep healthy and BAM ! Was hit with some nasty MS symptoms like trigmenial neuralgia and numbness in my arm. I never want to experience that again so I keep doing what I know works. I am sorry you are so cynical. Part of getting better is being open to another way, to alternative things that can help you and to being open to listening to those who have the same disease that you do and are in a better place than you are with their health. I am not saying go do a triathlon, although I love the sport, I am just encouraging fitness, (I encourage you to look up the MS Fitness Challenge which I have just partnered with) , diet, lifestyle changes, etc. I wish you the best. ~Aurora~

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