After the 2012 presidential race, Ann Romney decided to write a book — not about husband Mitt Romney’s campaign, but about her struggle with MS and her support of the new Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Proceeds from the book,
In This Together, published Tuesday by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, benefit the center. In an interview with USA TODAY’s Capital Download, she also describes the miracle she believes saved her son, Josh, and the 2016 race. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Why did you write this book?
Romney: So many people along the campaign trail would come to me, their hearts broken, their bodies broken, and they just gave me a feeling that I needed to put my arms around them and tell them it’s OK. We’ve been in this together. I understand your struggle, and help is on the way. I am strong now, really strong and it’s time now for me to be that person I told them I would be.
Q: You’re strong now, but there was a time when you felt pretty helpless and hopeless.
Romney: The feeling I had was that I was crushed to dust, even the essence of who I thought I was. You define yourself by ‘I can do this and I can do that, and I am strong and I am this.’ All of those definitions were gone and I was left really with nothing, and a feeling of hopelessness and depression and weakness. And it was a frightening place for me. …
I was almost encased in ice and just frozen and just unable to move, to function. And every single day I had to chip myself out of that.
Q: You used Western medicine and some alternative therapies, including horseback riding and reflexology. And you believe an actual miracle rescued your son, Josh, when he became seriously ill.
Romney: He became numb and weak everywhere very rapidly. He was actually diagnosed with Guillain-Barre (syndrome). Guillain-Barre will literally take you to the point where you’re paralyzed, even often on a lung machine to help you breathe, and you generally pull out of it but over a very long period of time and sometimes not pull out of it completely. …
I fasted and prayed about it, as our whole family did. Didn’t eat or drink for 24 hours and was just pouring out my heart out in prayer and supplication that Josh would be well and that he would be taken care of. After the 24-hour period, after I got on my knees and said a prayer to my heavenly father, that Josh would be well and be strong, I had a complete sense of peace and calm come over me that was just beautiful. …
In talking with Josh about a half-hour later, at that very instant, he had this the electricity rush through his body. They were testing on him. He wasn’t even able to cup his hand. And they were about to start treatment on him and he said, ‘Excuse me, something just happened.’ And he got up and walked home. To me, it was a miracle and it was an answer to prayer for me.
Q: You write about your faith, as a Mormon, which became an issue for some in your husband’s presidential campaigns. Now Dr. Ben Carson says he wouldn’t vote for a Muslim for president. Would you?
Romney: In our Constitution, which is the thing that makes the United States so wonderful is: ‘There shall be no litmus test for the presidency with regards to religion.’ So for me you need to look at the other characteristics that would make a good president — if they have compassion, if they are genuine, if they have knowledge of foreign affairs, if they are good. Of course, if all those are met and they are good and they love this country, there should be no litmus test for religion.
I would expect that at some point in the history of the United States that might happen. You need to look at the character of the man or the woman and say do they meet the standards of character that I know would represent the United States well. That should be the litmus test.
Q: Given that litmus test, would you vote for Donald Trump for president?
Romney: You know, this is a long and arduous campaign. There are going to be so many ups and downs. At the end of the day, I believe that we will get to the point where there will be someone who can unify and bring all sides together. At that point, I suspect I would support that nominee.
Q: Did you vote for your husband to jump in the race this year?
Romney: I was very much on the fence this time, and it wasn’t that Mitt was a yes. It wasn’t very deliberate how we approached this. It was sort of like, should we even consider this again? It got ahead of us. After considering it for about two weeks, the answer was no. It shouldn’t be as public as it was, the consideration part. And after considering it, the answer was no.
Q: Two of your sons have considered campaigns — Tagg in Massachusetts and Josh in Utah. Will they run?
Romney: I rather doubt that Tagg will. I think he’s very busy right now with his young family. He is also running a business himself, and I think he’s pretty overwhelmed. And he lives in Massachusetts and he’s a Republican, so that makes it tough. (She laughs.) Josh is also very busy with a young family. It’s not the right time for him either. He’s got his own business as well. (But) I would suspect that some point Josh in the future would.
Q: How does your MS affect your daily life now?
Romney: I am Charlie Brown with a little cloud over my head, waiting for that shoe to drop always, knowing that I’m very vulnerable. I feel like I’m walking a tightrope all the time. I know that I can fall off. … My doctor is always reminding me that ‘We know what works for you. Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. If you fall off the tightrope, I’ll save you.’ I know that, but I never want to go back where I was.
And I don’t know if Id have the strength to fight through, how long it took me,. It took me three years to regain my balance and my strength and my foothold. And it’s taken me longer than that to even get stronger. Even though I’m getting older, I’m getting stronger. It pretty much much knocked the stuffing out of me for a long time.
Q: What’s your role at the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases?
Romney: Well, bring awareness. Bring hope, and also hopefully bring some dollars for the research. We have 250 scientists and researchers. All proceeds from this book will go to research … into Alzheimer’s, ALS, brain tumors and MS.