Ann Romney: The Blessing of an Eternal Perspective in the Fight Against Multiple Sclerosis
An uncertain future often accompanies the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Such was the case for Ann Romney. In this week's episode, she shares how the hope of eternal life carried her out of the darkness of depression and discouragement, leading her to fight for her life. She also explains why she now feels a responsibility to offer hope to others and what she is doing about it.
The Savior will fill in all the holes and all the gaps and all of the weaknesses, which become accentuated when you're sick. And it's a reminder that we cannot do this, never, not one of us can get there without the Savior. And it's a very sort of abrupt and sudden reminder that that's very true. We need His love. We need His forgiveness, and we need His mercy.
Ann's book: In This Together
Ann's cookbook: The Romney Family Table
The Romneys' latest book: Simple Truths for an Abundant Life
Learn more about the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Disease.
See Ann's 2017 interview on the TODAY show.
See Ann's 2015 interview on the TODAY show.
3:22- Life Before MS/Diagnosis
6:28- "An Identity Issue"
9:07- The Immediate Impact of MS
11:19- Finding Help
17:12- Fighting Fatigue
18:37- Researching for the Future Generation
22:35- Grateful for MS?
24:06- Rediscovering Herself
27:22- Supporting a Loved One in the Face of Health Challenges
30:39- The Reality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ
38:08- Embracing God's Plan for Us/Fulfilling Our Individual Missions
44:15- How The Gospel Changed Her Life
47:24- What Does It Mean To Be "All In" The Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones: In 2015, Ann Romney told the TODAY show's Hoda and Kathy Lee, that the hardest part of writing her memoir "In This Together," which focuses primarily on her battle with multiple sclerosis, was "going back into the dark scary place that I was, the depression and the overwhelming fatigue and the hopelessness and the feeling that life was over and there was nothing worth living for anymore." Today, over 20 years after her diagnosis, Ann explains why she is grateful for MS and for the faith that carried her through it.
Ann Romney is the two-time best-selling author of The Romney Family Table and In This Together and Global Ambassador for the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Mrs. Romney also sits on the Board of Directors of CharityVision, which focuses on empowering local physicians in the developing world to bring sight to those most in need. In 1998, Mrs. Romney was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She has volunteered much of her time to raise awareness of the disease. By raising the profile of MS, as well as raising funds for advocacy and research, she is determined to make a difference in the lives of people who suffer from the disease. The Romneys celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year. They have five sons, five daughters-in-law, and 24 grandchildren.
This is "All In," an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so honored to be here with Ann Romney today. Ann, thank you.
Ann Romney: Thank you for having me. Well, I have been looking forward to this conversation for a few weeks now. And I've been reading your book which I absolutely love, In This Together, and I have found myself thinking a lot about the unexpected. I've talked to several friends—you, you suffer from multiple sclerosis. And that is something that several of my friends also battle on a daily basis. And I've talked with them about it in preparation for this and just said, you know, "What, what would you like to ask Ann?" And I think regardless of what it is people are going through this conversation will be applicable. But one of the things that they pointed out is that with multiple sclerosis, it's dealing with the unexpected, and also dealing with uncertainty. I think that is, with my first diagnosed, that was clearly how I felt. Now, I've gotten to a place where I just live and I don't think about it anymore. But that was really really troubling for me for a long time, for many years. Not knowing when the next shoe was going to drop. How bad was it going to be? And I've gotten into a rhythm of life now where I know kind of where I have to be careful and what I have to do to take care of myself and I have to be vigilant. But I'm also pretty comfortable with feeling assured that I'm going to be okay no matter what.
MJ: Well, that's one thing I want to kind of discuss today, if that's okay with you is kind of how do you get to that point, but before we get there, I want to kind of start with what was your life like, leading up to your diagnosis?
AR: So I was a mother of five very active boys, and to keep my sanity, I love sports and I was a very active tennis player. And I probably played five days a week and that was my out I would get out of the house. Have my time, me time, physical, energetic. I also was in aerobic classes. I was super fit, really energetic. I was running the show. Mitt was very busy in the Church, he always had..he's been a bishop, he's been a stake president. And our whole married life, he had a sort of a big church calling. And so Sundays I was, you know, did everything, you know, get everything planned. And then also even running the house, like he didn't do any of the bills or anything. I ran everything, which is the way it just worked out. It was great. He was absolutely a hundred percent committed to the family and to the boys. But he also knew that I was really running the ship. At home, yeah, and that's where I was I was just very active and I had a friend that did have multiple sclerosis, and I was 49 years old, and I thought to myself, "Oh, I'm becoming of the age where I'm never going to have to worry about being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis," because for me, that would be the worst thing imaginable because I love anything physical. I love sports. I love moving. I love being active. And wouldn't you know it? I mean, I got hit at 49 just prior to my 50th birthday with multiple sclerosis and it took me probably four months to know what it was. I really didn't have a clue. Like I don't think anyone that is first diagnosed knows really what the symptoms are. And they're unique, obviously to everybody. But for me, it was enormous weakness, fatigue. And then I started having...my right leg was numb and I thought "Well, that's interesting, but I had a lot of back issues I thought it's just a pinched nerve." I didn't think much of it. This went on for several months and then I called my brother who's a doctor, I said something's wrong, but I don't know like what doctor I go to. Like I don't even know where to start.
Well and I think that's a big question always for anyone that gets to the point where they know something's off. What do I do? Who do I go to? I don't even know where to start. And my brother listened. And he told me I had to go see a neurologist. I'm like, "Why would I do that? You know, it's probably my back. Why would I see a neurologist?" Anyway, that's that was the beginning of my self-discovery, dealing with multiple sclerosis.
MJ: Well, I've loved reading in the book, kind of as you went through that process of finding out what it was and immediately dealing with the many questions that face someone who goes through that.
AR: And I think the biggest issue was an identity issue is "Who am I? What worth am I to anybody at this point?" Because I was such...I was so active and I was doing so many things, and you define yourself and who you are by what you're doing, and then I thought, "I can't be doing anything anymore, I'm worthless, I'm worth nothing to anybody, I can hardly take care of myself," well I couldn't hardly take care of myself. And that, you go through, that was my refiner's fire is going through that where the rug is completely pulled out from underneath you and you go from being a giver, complete giver, to someone that maybe can only take and that is a huge shift. And so that was tough. And then you have to say, "What is my worth? What is my value?" And that goes again, to your essence of your faith, and "What's the purpose of life and where am I in this life?" And the rest of my life, I figured was going to be just awful. I never figured I'd have another good day. And I thought "I'm going to be a burden" and, you know that was a really, really tough thing to go through. And I can imagine that anyone that goes through any kind of a crisis, you know, and even if it's not a health crisis, you go through those soul-searching moments where you have to, like, make the playing field all over again, to fit where you are.
MJ: Mm hmm.
AR: And, you know, it comes again, it comes down to faith, and it comes down to an eternal perspective. And, and even then, I resigned myself to the fact, "Well, nothing ever good is going to come in my life again, and I'm never going to feel good again. I'm never going to be happy again. I'm never gonna have another good day. But I'm gonna have to now live with this." And I so looked forward again to like eternal life. And I'm like, "Well, I know eventually there will be relief but not in this life for me." And that was basically where I was for a long time.
MJ: Mm hmm. And multiple sclerosis. I didn't know this until reading your book, but it is very unique in the sense that 1. And you touched on this, it affects people differently. Can you kind of tell listeners how it immediately or initially affected you?
AR: I think this is the universal piece of how it affected me is pretty true for almost everyone is this enormous fatigue. And it's not a fatigue that you're used to even like after a long day, you know, you're really beat. It's very different. It's to the bone fatigue. It's, I tried to explain it to people where it was an effort for me to open a piece of mail. It was that took because I knew then if I open that piece of mail, I had to deal with something. I didn't have the energy to deal with anything...and then you think "Well, tomorrow I'll get a good night's sleep and I'll feel okay in the morning" and then you wake up in the morning, you feel the same way. It was awful. And I have to say, I still deal with that fatigue but not to the extent that it was and I had to learn how to break through that and push myself through that fatigue. And, you know, I did that with horses. I did that with getting on a back of a horse and riding and you know, when the horse doesn't know, it's like, and the horse keeps moving. It's like you got to keep moving with it. And so it kind of chipped the ice that was locking my body a little bit and forced me...it forced me through a lot of things and forced me through that initial sort of fog of fatigue, but that's pretty universal. And that's what we all have to watch out for. So I had that, I had the numbness, the weakness, frankly, losing my right leg didn't bother me as much as the fatigue because the fatigue affected everything all day long. And the right leg I could drag. You know, I could go wherever I wanted to go and drag my leg along. But it was that fatigue which didn't allow you really to have anything that you could do as a normal life.
MJ: Right. There are several follow-up questions that I want to ask based on that. First, one thing that that I found interesting is that there's also no...well, they told you initially that there was no treatment for multiple sclerosis, right? You found some different things, and you mentioned riding horses, but you found different things that have helped you. And in particular, I'd love if you could tell listeners a little bit about the man that you found that helped you here in Utah.
AR: Oh yeah, that was a very nontraditional thing. So coming from Boston, so Mitt and I were here, we had raised our boys in Boston, but then Mitt came to run the Salt Lake Olympic Games at the same time I was being diagnosed. And so I came with Mitt knowing nobody, feeling awful, and I left my basically East Coast, very medical-oriented, you know, my way of thinking and structure and fortunately I did find a doctor who maybe we'll talk about later, Dr. Howard Weiner, who we now run the center with, this research center. But he did get me on medication that did stop the progress of my MS. But I also remember it literally was great. I mean, I did IV steroids, but I remember calling him afterwards and it was around Christmas time. And I'd been on steroids I think at that point, maybe two months and I said you know what, the progress of the, you know, the numbness and the weakness you know, the leg weakness has stopped growing but I still am so tired. I mean, what can I do? And honestly, at that point, there wasn't a big answer for that. They have medication now where I've never had to use it so I figured out my own path. But it was sort of shocking to me and it's like, "Wait a minute, are you kidding me? I'm going to have to feel like this the rest of my life." And so at that point, I, I realized it was more up to me to figure out how I was going to live the rest of my life, that Western medicine that helped me as much as it was going to help me. And so I had somebody called me after I was newly diagnosed, and she said some very interesting things to me that were totally foreign...and I wrote it down. So I took notes. And she said, "Be open to alternative therapies, be open to craniosacral, to reflexology, to acupuncture, all these different things can help you with your energy." And so then I remembered that and I looked back at my notes and I thought, "Oh, that's interesting." And then, you know, I somehow got led to Fritz Blietschau who is this like 78-year-old German member of the Church. And, you know, I, I just trusted him. He was a reflexologist. And he knew when he first treated me what I had, I didn't even tell him. He could tell and I was mystified by it. So I went on a whole nother self-discovery of alternative medicine and how we have to treat our whole body. And what he did through reflexology basically was three years three times a week, two-hour sessions, and very painful because the points he would press were very, very inflamed and very painful. But I would feel better afterwards for a few hours. And it was shocking. It was shocking to me. It's like I could physically feel better and feel energy. And so it went on and at the time grew longer and longer where I felt better. Now I was doing that at the same time I was riding horses. And so for me, it was like I was doing the western medicine. I was doing the Eastern medicine and I was doing the therapeutic riding. So it was a combination of all those things that kind of got me out of my funk.
MJ: Yeah. I love that. Because I think so many times, we kind of have an idea of what's going to help us get better, whether it's Eastern or Western medicine. But I think that God has given us so many different tools to help us even the food that eat can help us in being well and being whole. I loved in the book where you talk about this experience with Fritz and how he even trained your son on how to help you when he wasn't available.
AR: Right. Yeah, he did. He taught Josh, my son Josh, and Josh was very, he took to it very quickly, and he literally had a feel for it. And, you know, I, if I went away for two weeks and didn't see Fritz I knew, you know, he was my spark plug. I mean, I needed that. And, and so Josh would, you know, help me during those times when I couldn't be around friends. And it was kind of amazing. I mean, to sort of everyone in my family, being from Boston and being so Western medicine oriented, that "Mom is really crazy but this seems to really help her, might not help me." That was the other big jump people had to take, is "Oh, it's just helping you. It won't help anybody else." But indeed, you know, there's so many other modalities that can help us be healthy. And food is another big one. I mean, really, you know, maybe we'll get back to my research center. But now it's what we're finding is the gut is huge in dictating disease and the microbiome that we have in our gut is very, very important and food is a big piece of feeding the healthy bacteria and trying to starve the bad bacteria.
MJ: So interesting. Another thing that came to my mind and this is a little bit more, I guess it's a little bit deeper than what's on the surface. But I think that we talk about with you, you went through this fatigue and I think so many people whether they're dealing with an illness or a disease that's causing them to feel tired, or whether it's just life and trials and things but I feel like so many people today are tired. And so Ann for you, how did you face that fatigue? How did you push through it, you were doing incredible things at that time, you and Mitt had moved here to save the Olympics in Utah. How did you face that feeling of exhaustion?
AR: Well, it was the hardest part of the disease for me. So again, I just had to figure it out. I knew it was up to me, and I had to figure it out. And that's when, you know, I found Fritz and I was doing that and I was riding horses. And that kept me going. However, I still had to be very cautious. And this girl that called me that very initially, she gave me all these guideposts that I literally still remember her voice and do some of those things, "You've moved into a new body now. You can't do the things you used to do. You have to be home in bed, you can't stay out late. You have to be in routine, you have to sleep. You have to take like a rest at three in the afternoon, whatever it is that you've got to get through with this." And I have to tell you going on a presidential campaign was entirely different... it was very difficult. But again, at that point, I was much healthier. I'd gotten the disease under control. I'd literally tamed the disease and I know that not everybody does. I feel very fortunate that I was able to tame this disease and I have it under control and I'm in remission. Not everybody can say that. But because of that, because of my now health, I really feel like I'm in permanent remission now. That it's my turn to have the understanding heart and the desire to give everyone else hope that they can get better too. And that led to my developing this research center.
MJ: Yeah. Let's talk a little bit about your research center. You are doing incredible work. I just saw on Instagram you received an award. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
AR: Well, I do get awards and I don't feel like I deserve any of them. Because the people that are doing the I'm not doing the research but what I think what is unique about how I'm being recognized right now is the fact that we're not just studying multiple sclerosis. And this research center is a concept which studies all neurologic disease. So we study multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's, glioblastoma tumors, which are a little bit more unique. They're the deadly one. And we have over 300 researchers under one roof in Boston at the Brigham and Women's Hospital. It's led by Dr. Howard Weiner and Dr. Dennis Selkoe. They're both leading experts, one in multiple sclerosis, one in Alzheimer's, and we are collaborating. That's the other important thing that we're doing with research centers across the world, not just the United States. We're in Sweden and Russia and Great Britain and we really are at the cutting edge of finding not just treatment but a cure for these devastating neurologic diseases, and it is my absolute belief that we will find a cure for these diseases. And right now Alzheimer's is sort of foremost in the center where people are getting a lot more attention to it right now because it is so devastating. But we are doing some incredible things and we're working on a nasal vaccine, where it literally will, people will be able to take this nasal vaccine and have a vaccination against Alzheimer's. So that's one thing that we're working on right now. We're starting human trials this year. It's taken five years to get all the approvals and to get the drug manufactured and to get the right dosage. And then, for us to get this study set up and then to get the funding and it's been a very long slog, but we're, you know, we're hopeful each little step, each little piece of progress brings us one step closer. And all these diseases, you know, we'll find a treatment and we'll find a drug, for instance, for Parkinson's, and then we somehow find it might apply to multiple sclerosis. So there's a lot of interdisciplinary work that's been done in the labs, where, you know, we're really finding some of the drugs that we're testing are working in other diseases.
MJ: Yeah. Ann, do you think that you, and I think I know the answer to this question, but I'm curious about your thoughts. I don't feel like you would have ever done these incredible things that you're doing if you hadn't been through it. And I think that that's something that's been on my mind a lot lately is that we go through difficult things like you said, because then we have an understanding heart and we want to help others who are going through those same things. Why has that meant so much to you?
AR: You know, I am so grateful. This is hard for me to even believe I would ever say this. I'm so grateful for multiple sclerosis and what it's done in my life. It took me to my knees, it completely ground me to dust. And then I had to remake myself from a core and a solid belief in our eternal connectedness, and in our eternal brotherhood and sisterhood, in the eternal goodness of our Father in Heaven, and is an obligation that we all have to sustain each other and to help each other and it did give me a broken heart and a love for other people that are suffering and understanding, for what that means and how hard it is because I've been there. And so I'm grateful for that. I'm really, really grateful. I say Multiple Sclerosis was my best teacher. It was an unwelcome teacher. But as I look back in my life now, I would never have believed I would have done what I've done or been where I've been. And been the sympathetic voice that I have been, and have been the hope for so many now, especially, not even with multiple sclerosis sufferers, but for anyone that is suffering from some of these terrible neurologic diseases is that I have been able to have the power and influence to draw together a huge group of researchers of huge group of donors, and that sort of I've paved the way for them to follow, and find a way to make a difference.
MJ: Yeah. Well, first, thank you for all that you're doing. I would like to know, you've touched on this a little bit, but this idea of identity, and how you were in a place where it felt like you had been stripped of your identity, everything that you had been was no longer. And how did you kind of rediscover your identity? And how do you feel that your faith helped you or aided you in doing that?
AR: Yeah, I think, again, we define ourselves on this earth by what we do, not by who we are, and what I did was taken away from me. And so all I was left with was "Who am I?" And it was a huge support to have my husband with me at that point where he said, "I don't care if you're in a wheelchair, as long as we're in this together," and that's (where) the title of the book came from was when he said that, "we're in this together. And I don't care how sick you get, you know, I'll be here with you, I still love you just as much." And that was a real sort of a time to just take a deep breath and relax because it was like, "Okay, I now have to just resigned myself to this, I have to just give it up." And then at that point, it was like, "Alright, what do I have left? I have, what do I have left is hope. I have left is trust and faith in eternal life. And in resurrection." I'm gonna tell you how much more that resurrection to me at that point. And, and it's like, "Okay, I'm okay." And it was knowing that I was okay, having that faith, of knowing that this is just what happens in life. And, you know, this is the deck of cards I gotta deal with. Okay? Now, this is what I have to deal with and just accepting it. And once you accept it, it was like "Now I have to figure out how to make the best of it." And it was great to have my family. My sons were amazing. My husband was amazing. But my faith is really what got me through it, is the understanding, the eternal perspective.
MJ: Yeah, thank you. I think that there are likely people listening to this episode who have loved ones who are dealing with something very hard, whether it be multiple sclerosis, or another disease or really any trial. And I wonder for you what would be your advice for families you mentioned that your sons and Mitt were a huge support, but what would be your advice to families who want to support want to be there, and maybe they're watching their loved one in that early stage where it feels like this is it?
AR: Well, you know, I think early on to you don't I didn't want to share, like, I didn't want to say how desperate I felt or how sick I felt like every day. You know, you don't want to, again, you don't want to be a burden. And so I think for family members to really just listen and sit and quietly try to understand where they're coming from but to also try to understand that life has to shift a little bit, that expectations for whatever that person was doing, maybe they can't do anymore or to understand that they still can't perform or I had a hard time because I was on so many boards in Boston and I looked the same and I could put on lipstick and you know, mascara and go out and look the same. And I could put a smile on my face, but nobody knew like how it was like such an effort for me even to just get dressed. And so I think people still expected me to just still be on their boards and still be coming to meetings and doing all these things. And in a way, when Mitt left to go to the Olympics, it was the greatest relief for me to just pull the plug on everything. I just left. Like, you can't call me because I'm not there. And that was huge. It was really big that I could come, get away, and just heal. And so I think, you know, for people that are early diagnosed or are suffering, it's really, really hard to unplug from the rest of what you're doing with life and some can't, I mean, they have small children and different things. It's like impossible, but for the most part, you need to unplug and I think family members need to understand that.
MJ: Yeah. I think that it is so interesting to think about this struggle of and I think that this is true of many forms of depression and anxiety where it's unseen. Like you said, you look the same. And you can, you can get ready and get dressed. And everybody thinks that everything's fine, but that there's often burdens that people are carrying underneath the surface. And that's why it's so important for us to be kind and to be patient. And to try to understand that sometimes it's like Jane Clayson Johnson says, you know, you wouldn't wear a cast on your head, but you'd wear a cast if your arm was broken. And I think that that's so true of so many things.
AR: And I think so many of us need, I think the pressures of life are so great, but so many of us need to just take a very, very deep breath and feel and be quiet and find a really quiet place where you can listen. And when you do, you really can feel the love of our Heavenly Father. You can really feel the blessings of Atonement. And I know one of the blessings I was given was that I would have a deeper understanding of the atonement and I certainly did. But I had to take time to be really quiet and to be really still. And in a way that disease forced me to be there. And so, you know, we do need to know that no matter how hard it is, we can find stillness and peace with the gospel. And it is hard because the world is so noisy.
MJ: Ann, what has the atonement come to mean to you?
AR: Well, again, if you're broken in so many pieces like I felt I was, there is a physical piece of it, of feeling like there's the resurrection piece of it. But there's also the other piece of it, which is the Savior will fill in all the holes and all the gaps and all of the weaknesses, which become accentuated when you're sick. And it's a reminder that we cannot do this. Never, not one of us can get there without the Savior. And it's a very sort of abrupt and sudden reminder that that's very true. We need His love. We need His forgiveness, and we need His mercy. And that's the only way we're going to be whole is through the Atonement.
MJ: I was just watching something the other day where someone was saying that we hear the phrase, "God will never give us anything we can't handle." And they talked about how that's true but that often we forget the second part of that which is God will never give us anything we can't handle without the help of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. God will absolutely give us things that we can't handle on our own but he won't give us things that we can't handle without that enabling power of the Atonement and I thought that was so good because I think that's the piece that so often gets lost.
AR: Yeah I totally get that. That's where I was. It's like "You've got to be kidding me. I got this? This thing that I really didn't want to get, I got this?"
MJ: Yeah and I think it's interesting that you said you had a friend that had had it so you had watched it. I think so often, my mom and I just had a conversation about this the other day about how she heard Rex Lee's wife speak once and his wife said that she and her sister had had a conversation. And in the conversation she said, You know what would be the hardest thing for you to go through? And her sister had said what it would be for her. And then she said the hardest thing would be to lose Rex, her husband, and then that's what happened to her. And her sister, whatever she said was the hardest thing. That's what happened to her.
AR: So you don't want to say it!
MJ: Exactly. And my mom was saying, you know, that's the interesting thing about life is that so often the thing that scares us the most, or the thing that we think there's no way I would be able to make it through that. That's often the thing that we go through. But then we make it through it.
AR: Yeah, I know. I mean, that honestly, is my next fear too, is I don't want to be separated from Mitt. And Ann Madsen is a dear friend and you know, she lost Truman, I think five, more maybe seven. I don't know how many years ago Truman died. And, you know, I talked to Ann, and I always ask her I'm like, "How are you doing? And I'm like, how lonely are you?" I want to ask her like literally how lonely are you? Because she'll be saying she's fine, which she is. But she's lonely. You know, it's hard to lose a spouse. And I think for now the next phase of my life, you know, I look around and I'm 70 years old now. And I'm like, oh, shoot, I know what's coming next. You know, it's illness, death, all these things that are going to be happening to my friends and people I love and that's your next big hurdle is like the loneliness and the fear of losing a spouse or, you know, and I think for all of us, the hardest thing is death and losing a loved one, especially if you're a parent losing a child, it's out of order. And that heartache is like just what you carry the rest of your life. It's not like you get over it, you get through it, but you don't ever get over it.
MJ: You touch on an interesting point. And first of all, if I look like you look at 70, I will be thrilled. But I think this idea of aging and facing, again, it's that idea of uncertainty and what's coming in the future. But you've touched on that idea of eternal perspective, and of the importance of having an eternal perspective. For you, in this phase of life. How important is that?
AR: Well, you know, it's, it's getting to the point where you do start thinking about what's next. And you do want to make the next years where you're still really vital and feel good and are still healthy. You want to like I want to move faster. I'm like, I'm in a race now. I can see the finish line. Uh oh, I know what's coming. And so I'm in this huge rush. And you know, when I get frustrated with things like at our Research Center, I'm like, move it, just move it faster. Come on, I call them and it's like, "It's coming Ann, it's coming." And I just feel this impatience with, I know what I still want to accomplish. And I just, you know, I just I find myself really like, just moving faster, a sense of urgency very much so and yet at the same time, I know what I'm supposed to be doing is slowing down and listening. So, yeah, it's an interesting phase of life where, you know, I mean, clearly when you're in your 70s, it's not going to go on forever. And when you're younger, you don't ever think about it, you never think about it. And now as we age, we're like, "Oh, how much more time do I have left? How many more good years do I have left?" And of course, we can look at the prophet and go "A lot."
MJ: Yeah, if we could all keep up with him.
AR: It's his 95th birthday and look what he's doing. I mean, it's remarkable. It's very, very rare. He's one in a million.
AR: We're so grateful for him.
MJ: Definitely very, very fortunate to be alive at this time. And to have that example of living life to its fullest. I think that it's interesting Ann to hear that perspective. And as I have been preparing for this interview, one thing that kept coming to my mind is here is someone who you were side by side with Mitt through two presidential campaigns. And it looked like at some points, you were going to be the first lady. And instead, your life has taken this kind of different turn. And you have this center for neurological disease, which is doing remarkable work. And I think it's such a good example of living, and then taking the adjustments or course corrections as they come. And then embracing whatever opportunity is next. And so for you, as you've had to kind of make these adjustments, what have you learned about embracing the plan that God has for us?
Well, you never know what the plan is, because you can share take u-turns really fast. So you can't ever count, you think, "Oh, this is going to happen, this is going to happen," and no, that doesn't happen. And so for me, it was an enormous desire, even after Mitt lost to still feel a way to serve, and to still be a light. And, you know, this opportunity presented itself and just talking with the doctors, when we were doing the concept of this whole Research Center. I said, "Well, I won't have as big of an impact now that I'm not First Lady, but I will still have an impact if we do this research, and do this collaboration with all these different diseases." And so for me, it was like, I wanted to still just keep going forward, I just wanted to still keep pushing. I didn't want to quit. And so I still have this enormous desire to serve and to be a light and to give hope. Because you know, you do feel as though I did, I felt like my life had been touched by God's hand, and I needed, I just needed to give back.
MJ: I think that's so inspiring. Because as a first lady, you would have a platform, and something that you devote all of that time toward, but you don't have to be the first lady, anyone listening, you can have a passion, and something that drives you and makes you gives you purpose and fulfills a life's mission. That's something that I really believe in is that God has a mission for all of us to fulfill. And that yes, there may be moments where we're having to kind of figure out okay, what does this mission look like now, but it's still ours to fulfill.
AR: Yeah, now I really felt compelled to do this, and really joyful about the whole thing. And you really do get sucked into the enthusiasm of the research and getting down to the bare knuckles and looking at the four different brain cell types and what they're doing and what they're discovering, and, you know, the work that they're doing, and I do again, I want to give people hope. It's like those of us that are suffering right now, maybe not, you know what I mean. But I met the most interesting person on my book tour. It was on the "In This Together" book tour that I did. And I was in La Jolla, California, and I was at a bookstore, and people were coming through and I was doing a book signing. And this one gentleman came in and he had ALS, which is one of the diseases we study, which is Lou Gehrig's, which is one of the most horribly horrible diseases because literally, there is no treatment for it. However, at our research center, we're finding a drug that we think might really help. It works in the laboratory, and we're hoping it will translate. Anyway, he knew all about this, and he came. And you could see, I mean, you could see the disease who was really devastating and ravaging his body. He physically got there, but it was very difficult for him. And he had a lot of friends helping him in. And he came to me and oh my gosh, you know, again, you see physically, "This is who I'm going to be helping." And he knew, he said, "I am so grateful for what you are doing. He goes, I know, it's not going to help me," because they have a death sentence really was just such a short amount of time. And he said, "But I'm just so grateful and I had to come. And thank you." And I thought, wow, that summarized it all. There are all those people out there that are suffering that know this research that we're doing is not going to really help them. But it will help those in the next generation of disease that is coming along. And I just keep hoping that that day is closer and closer. And I do believe it's getting there. We are going to be making breakthroughs.
MJ: As you were sharing that story, I couldn't help but think of all the different people, as we've been reading the New Testament this year, all the different people that came to Christ longing to be healed, and how Christ was able to heal them. And that by trying to do this research, in a way, you are following the example of Jesus Christ, and I just I think that's so beautiful.
AR: Oh, that's touching. I had never thought of it that way. That makes me touched. Yes, thank you.
MJ: Ann, as we wrap up, I have two last questions for you. One, you are a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what has your faith and your belief in the Gospel meant to you in your life?
AR: Well, it completely my conversion completely changed the course of my life. It opened windows and light and goodness and everything that my soul and spirit wanted to gravitate towards. And so it has been a pattern of living and a guideline for my entire life. Because I joined when I was about 17/18 years old, and I was a mother to five boys who all went on missions, all got married in the temple. I have 24 grandchildren who are all active. I have one returned missionary granddaughter that's married, I have one grandson that just went to the Rome, Italy mission. I have another granddaughter that's just been called to Chile. And I keep thinking this is...I want them, I want them to stay close to the gospel, stay close to the gospel principles because I know it again will be a guidepost for them in their life. And it's the one way to find happiness. It's the one way to find purpose. And it's, it's the one way, it's the one really, the only way to really know what we're to do in life and how we can be safe in a safe haven, because I think the world in the next generation and the next several generations, is going to be more and more difficult. And I think if you don't have the ability to hold on to that rod, I think life is going to be especially difficult for people.
MJ: Yeah. In conclusion Ann, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
AR: Well, I feel like for her, my husband and myself, we were all in and I think people saw that when they saw the presidential campaigns unfold and how we stayed true to the faith, true to our principles. And I mean, I'm true blue through and through, and never an excuse, never equivocation of any kind. And you know, it is the core of our life. It is the core foundation that's guided our lives. And you know, we just will never abandon it.
MJ: Thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure to be here with you, you and I appreciate so much all that you're doing and for sharing your testimony with us. So thank you.
AR: Thank you.
MJ: We are so appreciative to Ann Romney for joining us on this week's episode. You can find Ann's book "In This Together," as well as her cookbook, "The Romney Family Table" at Deseret Book. If you haven't already, please do us a huge favor and leave us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts. I promise everyone counts. Thank you to Derek Campbell from Mix At 6 Studios for making these episodes sound so clear and so beautiful. And thank you for listening. We'll have another great episode for you next week. So stay tuned.