Ann Romney’s Darkest Hour
With a major gift to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Ann Romney is helping scientists get closer to a cure for MS, Alzheimer’s, ALS, Parkinson’s, and brain tumors. Launched in 2014, the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases houses some 250 scientists and researchers “under one roof to unlock the mystery of the brain,” Romney says. We spoke with the philanthropist about her book, her husband’s retirement from politics, and what she’s learned from living with MS.
Was it hard for you to write about such a sensitive topic?
Yes, it was. I had to re-create how I was feeling. I wish I’d taken better notes—you always wish that, I’m sure. I had to go back and relive it, and it was hard because it was a really dark and frightening place to be in.
Did you find it at all helpful to relive the experience?
I wanted it to be helpful for those who were going through it. At my book signings, a lot of people are coming through that have MS, and they say, “Thank you, this is exactly how I felt.”
This is your third book. Did you ever think you’d be an author?
All of this is like, “What? Are you kidding?” I never, never thought this would happen. I was in such a dark place when I was first diagnosed, and at that point, I never thought I was going to have another good day the rest of my life. Now I look back and all these amazing things have happened. Honestly, having this illness has brought me in contact with so many people; it has made me want to be a crusader for finding a cure for neurologic diseases, and that, of course, would never have happened. You can never foresee the things that will happen in your life.
You’ve called MS your greatest teacher.
I call it my cruelest teacher at times, too. I was left pretty humbled and pretty raw. It made me evaluate who I was and what was important in life. I learned to have empathy for others and to feel as though I could make a difference—to try to have an impact on the disease itself, and try to figure out how we could accelerate treatments and cures.
Proceeds from the book will go to the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s. How did the center come to be?
Howard Weiner [one of the center’s codirectors] is my physician. When it looked like Mitt might win, I would think, What would I want to involve myself with? I always thought about bringing more attention to multiple sclerosis and trying to find a cure. About a year after the loss, I was in [Weiner’s] office, and he and I were saying, “What a shame, we could have done it.” And I said, “You know what, let’s just do it anyway. It won’t be as big, but it’s better than nothing.”
Speaking of Mitt, how does it feel to not be a part of the presidential race this year?
Basically, Mitt and I high-five every morning. Couldn’t be more pleased.
In This Together: My Story, by Ann Romney, 272 pages, $28.