After 22 rewarding years on camera, Anqunette Jamison Sarfoh announced in November 2016 that she’d be leaving her morning television news anchor chair at Fox 2 in Detroit, a position she’d held for eight years. She had been on medical leave since the previous March.
Sarfoh, 46, made the decision to retire because the effects of her multiple sclerosis (MS), diagnosed in 2013, were making it impossible to continue in a job she loved.
She was experiencing short-term memory loss, fatigue, and migraine headaches that struck every day around 10:30 a.m., right before she was to anchor the 11 a.m. newscast.
Her departure from Fox 2 was bittersweet for Sarfoh, who admits she doesn’t miss rising at 3 a.m. five days a week.
“As much as I loved my job, I am also thankful to be away from it,” says the popular media personality, who is also known simply as “Q.”
Right before her MS diagnosis, Sarfoh says her memory got much worse. “I couldn’t recall plot lines of books or details of a short news story.”
She consulted her general practitioner, then a psychiatrist, who initially diagnosed her with attention deficit disorder, or ADD, and prescribed Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine), a stimulant.
“It gave me great energy, masked my fatigue, helped me focus, and helped me cognitively — for a while,” she says.
Then she noticed her hands and feet falling asleep, even during exercise. “One day I carried groceries into the house and face-planted on the floor,” she recalls. “My legs didn’t get signals from my brain — they stopped working and I collapsed.”
Sarfoh decided to take an online quiz about MS, and scored 8 points out of 10. Next she saw a neurologist and had an MRI, which revealed characteristic MS lesions. She also had to undergo two spinal taps, which she says were excruciating.
Initially Sarfoh took the disease-modifying medication Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) to prevent MS relapses and slow the progression of the disease, but both the side effects and the need for injections bothered her. She also took a variety of medications for MS symptoms — including muscle relaxants, sleep aids, and drugs to reduce her nausea — but when she saw she was taking eight different drugs, she felt that was too many.
Then she learned about cannabis, or marijuana, for MS symptoms, and found that it relieved her symptoms with no ill effects. Medical marijuana is legal in Michigan, where Sarfoh lives.
Her experience, and the conversations she had with others about using cannabis to control MS symptoms, led to her becoming a marijuana advocate.
She is now active in Michigan’s campaign to legalize adult use of marijuana, called MI Legalize 2018. “We hope to have a ballot initiative in November 2018,” she says.
She uses her Facebook page as a platform to discuss and answer questions about cannabis with interested parties.
And she’s building a company, called BotaniQ, to grow cannabis plants and process them for legal sale in a medical dispensary. She’ll also be launching a companion cannabis edibles line.
“I’m taking a culinary class to become a better retail baker,” she says enthusiastically. “I need this basic information before I start my business. It’s challenging, and I chug along in this class with a lot of youngsters.”
Sarfoh loves the learning, but because MS continues to affect her memory, she has to focus extra hard. “The chef will be saying the end of a sentence, and I will have already forgotten the first part. It’s good for me, though, to get out of the house and not sit on my duff.”
When she moved on from television, Sarfoh says she wasn’t prepared for “the incredible, overwhelming amount of support I received. I’ve been blown away. I was walking through Kohl’s the other day and a woman stopped me and said, ‘I did the MS bike ride for you.’ I was on Amtrak this week and another lady said, ‘Hey, Q. How are you? We miss you.'”
After many years of playing a visible and active role in her Detroit community, she’s now assumed a different kind of role — as someone others with MS seek out for support.
According to Sarfoh, people now ask her, “‘I’ve just been diagnosed, so what can you tell me?’ It gives other people courage and comfort when you have the same condition and can talk about it. I’m grateful to have this opportunity.”
Reflecting on her former career, Sarfoh is also grateful for her years as a television reporter and anchor. “I told stories that needed to be told, represented voices and opinions that may not have been represented. I look back with an incredible sense of gratitude.”
Now is a “crazy” time for news, she says. “It’s different not to be in the thick of things anymore, to not talk to Fox News anchor Chris Wallace every Friday. How many people would have had that opportunity in the first place? I passed the baton on and found a new passion, a new way I can help and get other people’s stories out there.”
Sarfoh used to run marathons and teach spin class, but she has had to leave those activities behind, settling instead for walking her dog, Zayka, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, and dancing to a favorite hip-hop routine. She relishes spending time with her husband, Richard Sarfoh, whom she met on Match.com.
“I don’t beat myself up so much about it,” she says. “I make sure to try to protect myself from further disease progression.”
Sarfoh has switched to more of a plant-based and raw fruit and vegetable diet. “I notice I just feel better, and I’m slowly working my way toward a complete vegan diet,” she says. “Plus, I try to drink more water.”
Q says she’s always seeking new and better ways to manage her MS, and inspire others to do the same.