Multiple Sclerosis was not an uncommon word in my household. My grandmother was diagnosed in 1970 when my mother was 17 and her sister was 2. In the 70’s there was very little information and no disease modifying drugs. When my grandmother was diagnosed they sent her home with an array of prescription pain pills and told her (in not so many words) to make it work. In 1982, my grandmother passed away from complications. I remember always asking my mother about her. I had seen so many pictures but it wasn’t until I was in my teens that my mother explained what happened to my grandmother. In 9th grade, my aunt was diagnosed and I remember my mom coming into my brother’s room (calling my sister, brother and I in) and telling us that our aunt had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. We all cried, asked a lot of questions and hoped for the best. When I was 16 I experienced my first “something isn’t right” symptom. I was sitting in my tenth grade history class and my legs went numb from the waist down. That day my mother took me to my general doctor who referred me to a neurologist. Several MRI’s and other tests later the doctor told me I had “complicated migraines“. I accepted the diagnosis for what it was and went about my daily life. I eventually graduated high school, went on to college and graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2009. All through this time I was experience the numbing, tingling, balance problems, and blurred vision.
In March of 2010 I had my first child, Adalynn. Other than the usual morning sickness and grumpy for being “fat” I felt amazing. The tingling and numbness had “gone away”. A couple months after my daughter was born my husband accepted a job in Maryland and we packed our stuff and moved 8 hours away from friends and family. Everything was going well for a few months down here and then I noticed the same old symptoms coming back, but this time I had severe fatigue. I figured that since I was a new mom and was up all hours of the night with a newborn that the fatigue was normal. On the advice of family I made an appointment with a neurologist in Maryland. My very first appointment we went over my family history and I had begun to tell him about the symptoms that I was experiencing and how my neurologist in my old town told me that it was complicated migraines. Over the next year I had several MRI’s, blood tests and then finally a spinal tap. My doctor called me a week later and said “I’ve got your results. You have Multiple Sclerosis”. I remember hanging up the phone and calling my mom at work, bawling. For several years everyone had a sneaking suspicion that the symptoms I was feeling was due to Multiple Sclerosis but I hadn’t had a diagnosis…until then.
I met with my doctor the next day and immediately started Rebif. Three weeks later I lost the vision in my right eye and my mother (who is the strongest, bravest person I know) left her job for a month and a half to come take care of me and my daughter so that my husband could work. She was the glue that held everything together during that time. I can’t thank her enough for everything that she has done. It’s been almost a year and a half now since I’ve been diagnosed and I’ve learned to take the good with the bad. There are some days that I want to throw my hands up in the air, scream at the top of my lungs and throw in the towel but then I look at my now three year old and realize that she needs me and I need to be a role model for her. Some days are a struggle, but I’ve got an amazing support system and every day that I wake up and have decent vision, or can walk without looking like I’m drunk… I take advantage of it.
If there is anything that Multiple Sclerosis has taught me it’s to appreciate life. To not get caught up with all the busyness in life and to stop and enjoy it. To spend more time with loved ones. To get outside and enjoy the sunshine. To laugh more. To spend a couple minutes crying because I’ve had a relapse, or because I’m too tired to enjoy a Friday night out with friends… but only allow myself to feel bad for a few minutes and then pick myself up, dust myself off and get on with life. I may have MS but MS does not have me! 🙂