Caroline Craven was traveling in Guatemala for a month with some friends in 2001. She says she had a backpack and no agenda. But during the trip she started losing her vision and balance.
"By the time I came home on the plane, I looked like I had a three-martini breakfast," Craven says. "I went to a neurologist and was confirmed Multiple Sclerosis in three tests. I was forced into an early retirement, moved back in with my parents, and my life changed forever."
Now Craven, 47, is trying to help improve the lives of others battling MS.
In addition to working as a marketing and operations consultant for local businesses in the Los Angeles area, Craven is a wellness coach through her website Girl with MS. She can connect with others because she understands what it takes to live with MS.
"I could barely think straight," Craven says. "My short-term memory was gone. One night I fed my dog five times in five minutes while my family was amused. My memory has returned as well as my ability to walk and see. But all of these can disappear in a day if the MS deems it so."
But family and friends have kept Craven motivated to fight this disease.
"When I was diagnosed there was one question only that I cared about since I knew nothing about MS: 'Will it take my life?'" she says. "When the doctor said no, a wave of relief and comfort came over me. Bring it on. I can do this."
Among the items on her bucket list is kayaking in Iceland. She recently checked off fly fishing and horseback riding.
"I've fished pretty much my whole life," Craven says. "But fly fishing is newer to me. After taking about 15 years off from fishing, I recently started up again. I am a member of the Pasadena casting club and often fish the Los Angeles river."
Craven says she follows her own protocol for nutrition as a certified nutrition educator and wellness coach. She has come to understand what works for her and what doesn't.
"I've used essential oils with great success for helping with pain and living a more holistic life, she says. "I use dōTERRA oils and either diffuse, apply or ingest as needed. ... I've recently added Kangan purified water to my routine. I'm looking for a better bounce-back rate after activities.
"Activity for folks with MS can be quite random," she explains. "Each morning I wake up, I scan my body. How does it feel? What's working what's not? Then I look at my options of activities and choose what I can do that day.
"In a former life I was quite active: Horse trainer, river guide, white water kayaker, mountain biker, back country skier, rock climber, overall adventurer. Today I have limits and boundaries. I can't risk putting other peoples lives, let alone my own, in danger."