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MS Focus at Sea Notebook, Part 3

Natalie Blake’s Log
Sunday, April 15

Thursday

We arrived on the island of Bonaire at 7 a.m. There are only 18,000 residents on this Island. With our cruise ship in port, the population increased significantly for the day. Bonaire is known for its exotic sea life. Several of our MS Focus cruisers opted to take a glass-bottom boat to view the colorful fish and coral reefs in the areas. 

For those who opted to stay in port, parrot fish in the clear water close to shore greeted us as we made our way into the town of Kralendijk. In town, a local outdoor market with artists selling their creations was a treat, as were the local shops which highlighted the work of other local artisans. We were back on board to sail towards home by 4 p.m. 

It was the first night in three days that we gathered as a full group again for dinner where we shared our experiences while in Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire – with many sporting newly acquired tanned skin. A dance party on the pool deck had several in our group moving to the music. Friday and Saturday we will be settling in for our educational programs.

Friday

We started our day with "Chair Yoga and Guided Meditation” led by Stacie Dooreck. Then, Anneke Bender, a physical therapist with the Shepherd MS Center in Atlanta, discussed the “Physical Wellness with MS and the benefits of Exercise." Her presentation tied into the benefits we received from doing yoga and she talked about the mental sense of well-being that exercise can create as well as how exercise is helpful to those with MS. 

During our afternoon session, neurologist Randy Schapiro shared insight into the relationship between an MS doctor and an individual with MS with a presentation on "How to Talk with Your Doctor." Dr. Schapiro explained that there are many components to a successful relationship to manage MS. He said chemistry between a physician and patient plays a large role, and he said it comes down to trust. Everyone should pick a provider they trust to manage their MS. 

Tonight was formal night and we turned up for dinner in our fancy chic clothes for a lobster dinner featuring a cruise favorite desert – baked Alaska. A show called "Life" in the Equinox's theater was a treat and featured dancing, singing, and acrobatics. Afterward, we had a good time in the solarium watching a silent dance party. Cruisers were given colorful head phones, each color playing a different type of music, it was funny to watch everyone dance to the "beat of his or her own drum" in complete silence with only the sound of voices singing different songs that we couldn't hear.

Saturday

It’s our last full day at sea and coming together as a group before we arrive back in Miami. We started the day again with yoga in chairs then learned about "The Mind-Body connection and Multiple Sclerosis.” The release of cortisol in the body when we are stressed and nervous causes the release of cortisol in the body which can increase swelling and can exacerbate symptoms of MS. We learned exercises to breath and the importance of focusing the mind to invoke the "restorative process." 

Our farewell reception this afternoon was bittersweet. The cruise is coming to an end. Many MS Focus cruisers exchanged phone numbers and emails. They promised to keep in touch and share photos from the cruise. It was a week of awakening the senses for many and learning that MS does not have to keep you at home. There are adaptive ways to enjoy traveling and gaining new experiences.