From suicidal to ‘thriving’: Montel Williams details his emotional journey with MS

At the age of 43, author, actor, TV host, and entrepreneur Montel Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). “I was on an airplane flying from New York to Utah to shoot an episode of the show Touched by an Angel. I got on this plane in the morning and my feet caught on fire,” Williams tells Yahoo Lifestyle, holding back tears. “The pain was so extreme, and when I focus in on it I can sense it, I can remember it. It was so bad that I literally couldn’t stand up at the end of the flight.”

When Williams was diagnosed with MS shortly thereafter, he says the doctor who diagnosed him gave him a “death sentence” and a litany of opioid prescriptions to dull the pain. “I was walking around in this pseudo-suicidal state,” Williams says. “After my second attempt at taking my own life, I recognized that I was going to not just live with this, I was going to figure out — in some way, shape, or form — how to turn this into something I could thrive at.”
Photo: Courtesy of Montel Williams

Williams took control of his care and now, nearly 20 years after his diagnosis, lives a lifestyle tailor-made to managing his symptoms. “I just hate this whole idea of spending all my time getting ready to die from MS,” he says. “I’d rather live.”

MS, a chronic, often debilitating disease of the central nervous system, affects 2.3 million people around the world — Williams being one of them. People of all different ancestry and genetic backgrounds have it, and as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society says, “The myth that black people do not get MS is just that — a myth.”

“Everything from my vitamin regimen to my eating regimen to my exercise regimen — these things have all combined together to where I am now thriving with MS,” Williams says.

Since Williams came to terms with his diagnosis, he has been hard at work doing all he can to help the MS community at large. He has helped fund MS research all across the country and even founded a company, Helius Medical Technologies, that is putting forth something called a PoNS device which he thinks has the potential to drastically reduce the amount of pain people with MS endure.

“I have MS,” Williams says of the disease. “MS will never have me.”

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