This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
When Ann Romney heard the devastating news that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she felt more alone than she had ever been. Her husband donned a brave face, even as Romney knew he was frightened as well.
"We'll be OK," Mitt Romney told her. "As long as it isn't fatal we're fine. If you have to be in a wheelchair, I'll be right there to push it."
But, she thought, "I'll be the one in the wheelchair."
In a new book opening up about facing MS, Romney tells of bouts of depression, of searching out new forms of treatment including alternative medicines, of how horse riding boosted her health and how her Mormon faith helped sustain her in challenging times.
"In This Together," released Tuesday by Thomas Dunn Books, details in her own words her fight to ward off the symptoms of the life-changing disease through the 2002 Winter Olympics, the presidential campaign trail and beyond.
Ann Romney will speak about her book at Brigham Young University on Thursday at 6 p.m. The event, to be held on the terrace of the Wilkinson Student Center, is free and open to the public.
As the book title denotes, she writes of her marriage to Mitt and their love. Even as she knew she would never be the same after the MS diagnosis, she writes, she knew she was still lucky.
"Unlike many other people who are suddenly faced with a significant challenge, Mitt and I had the resources to do whatever was necessary," she writes. "But more than that, I had a husband who loved me unconditionally, who always put my needs before his own."
Mitt Romney considered his wife's views and asked her permission before taking on the Salt Lake City Olympics and his two presidential runs. In fact, she writes that her time during the games spent learning to ride horses again was the best therapy available.
"Horses seem to have an intuitive sense how to work with people with disabilities," she writes.
In a postscript, Romney said that she wrote the book to raise awareness of neurological diseases, and all of Mrs. Romney's proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
She is at times blunt about the impact MS had on her, from numbness in her legs, difficulty walking or holding objects to incontinence issues. She tried swimming, she says, but stopped when she couldn't fix her hair after and felt lousy.
"I was trying desperately to hold onto every little bit of normal life as long as I could," she writes.
Romney also discloses that doctors at one point thought that her son Josh, also a Utahn, had the effects of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare disorder that force's a body's immune system to attack its nerves.
She fasted for 24 hours and then prayed.
"I cannot face having Josh be sick," she said she told God. "He needs to be well. Mitt and I both really need him."
Their middle son, about to undergo treatment, suddenly felt better, Romney writes, and while it took months to fully regain his strength, he wasn't diagnosed with the syndrome.
Faith plays a large part in Romney's story.
"It was my faith that allowed me to be at peace and have confidence I would get better," she writes. "While I was worried about the future, I was never angry and I never, ever gave up hope. I prayed. Mostly in my prayers I gave thanks for all the blessings I had been given and asked for the strength to deal with my challenges."
She notes that she played no deliberate role in drafting the health-insurance law that then-Gov. Mitt Romney championed in Massachusetts a plan often referred to as RomneyCare, a label Ann Romney uses as well. But she wonders in the book whether her illness played a part.
"Perhaps my MS experience had a small but real influence," she writes.
Romney praised her doctors for helping to stem the symptoms of MS, but she also notes that she turned to an alternative form of treatment while in Utah for the Olympic Games. A friend had told her of a new approach called "reflexology," in which a practitioner applies pressure to the bottom of a patient's feet to alleviate pain elsewhere.
When she first visited Fritz Blietschau in Salt Lake City, she wasn't sure it would pan out.
"Well, I'm already here, I thought. I might as well give this a shot," Ann writes. "At least I'll get a nice foot massage."
But it did help, she says, and eventually Josh Romney learned to administer the treatment so he could help her. Mitt Romney even gave it a shot, she writes, when he faced serious back pain.
Romney also dishes in the book about the start of her relationship with Mitt, noting that she was curious about his faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked endless questions.
"To be honest," she writes, "when Mitt and I were dating, religion was not the first thing on his mind. It probably wasn't the second or third, either."
They fell in love deeply and Ann Romney eventually converted to the faith but she notes their parents didn't know during their courtship that they would sometimes secretly sneak off late at night.
When they'd go out, she writes, she would come home at the appointed hour, kiss her parents goodnight, "shut my bedroom door, turn out the lights and crawl out my first-floor window to meet Mitt, who was waiting around the corner."
Fast-forwarding many years, Romney writes that she knows that with MS, there is always the possibility of a relapse, something she says she always worries about.
"It's still there in the corner of my mind," she says. "I know I can be right back at that dark place instantly and, honestly, I don't know if I have the energy to fight it like I did before."