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MS at 23

In just a few weeks it will be my 24th birthday. I can’t help but think about how it has been almost a year since I started experiencing MS symptoms after having viral meningitis a few months prior. I have to say it’s been both the most challenging, but also most eye-opening, year of my life.

It was almost a relief to be diagnosed after my primary care doctor telling me that nothing was wrong, and that I was completely fine. I played softball from first grade through college, and even through injuries had never felt this way before. As an athlete, you learn to know your own body and its limits. I knew for a fact that something was very, very wrong. It was so beyond frustrating and terrifying to not know what was happening to me. It was hard to explain to my family and friends how I just didn’t feel right, how I still felt exhausted after all the sleep and coffee in the world. I was afraid my friends would stop asking to hang out after I had told them no so many times, or explaining that I was so swollen and enraged after a steroid infusion that I would be no fun anyway.

After the formal diagnosis, my family, friends and coworkers were extremely supportive. But there seems to be a fine line from people being concerned about you and pitying you. All I wanted was to be as independent and active as I always had been.

On one hand, I had friends and family inundating me with information on what I should be eating, what drugs I should or shouldn’t be prescribed, and how I should be spending my time (based on their research). On the other hand, I had friends who had no idea what MS was. Some said I would beat it, not realizing there is no cure. While I know they all had the best intentions, this made me feel more stressed and overwhelmed than I had ever been.

Running provided me some solace and room to clear my head. I guess it could be my form of meditation. I ran my first half marathon in June, six months after my diagnosis. I’ve signed up for another race in November. I also play volleyball once a week, and I’ve tried to be more conscious about the foods I eat.

It seems when people see that you’re so able-bodied and active, they forget about your bad days. My coworkers don’t understand that sometimes I can’t feel my feet under my desk, or that my left foot drags when I get stressed out. My boss asks, “wow, late night?” when I can barely keep my eyes open, even though I got over eight hours of sleep the night before and probably had more coffee than anyone should. I often feel annoying if I vent about it, but I want people to understand that I’m not always at 100%. I’m still trying to figure out how to voice the way I feel without people feeling sorry for me.

I think it’s finally hitting me that I’ll have to navigate this fine line for a while, especially when meeting new people. Doing more research on my own and connecting with others impacted by MS has truly opened my eyes. The attitude of those I have recently met in this community is largely positive, and I hope to remember that even on the worst days.

I’ve come to see that MS will change your life, but it’s not the end of it. You learn who you are, who should be in your life, and what really matters. I’m just now joining and am really looking forward to meeting inspiring people and learning how to make the most of life with MS. Here’s to smoother sailing at 24!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Julie
    2 years ago

    I’ve had my diagnosis since 2001 but my neuro told me she was sure I had it for at least 10 or 15 years. I was no spring chicken but I wasn’t an old lady either (I am now lol) I was 41 at the time of diagnosis so I had my kids mostly raised and established in a job.

    I’m not saying I can’t identify with you because, for the most part, we are walking the same walk. Finding a group of people like this that you can feel comfortable with is a big step. People like us can sympathize with what is going on or even talk you through it. Nothing helps like people of a like mind.

    In the mean time, your positive attitude will get you far. Yes, you will always have friends, family, and co-workers that will bring their medical license out and tell you what you should or should not be doing, do what your doctor tells you and just thank them for their interest.
    Good health to all, Julie

  • svtennis212
    2 years ago

    Hi Megan,
    I hope you don’t mind me commenting on this post.. I do not have Multiple Sclerosis and I found your post to be incredibly insightful, not only to the physical aspects of the condition that you are dealing with but also the emotions that you have experienced through working to understand the condition yourself and especially as it pertains to interactions with others and how their various reactions effect you.
    I think your outlook and how well you are able to convey your experience and the difficulties you have had are very commendable, especially for someone your age. It is for that reason that I was wondering if I may be able to talk to you further about your experience.. The reason that I was looking into multiple sclerosis is actually for school, I am a student at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology working toward my Bachelor’s. This semester I am taking a Neurobiology class, where our final project is to write an informative paper on a neurological condition of our choosing. So ultimately I’m hoping to conduct an informal interview with you, by email would be fine it you are comfortable with that. Even initially I’d love to get some of your ideas on areas where treatment may be lacking or as you mentioned in your post, how the lack of knowledge and awareness of MS has affected you so I can get some ideas of areas to focus on for my paper.
    I would like to add that I think that I see you as an inspirational individual, and I would love to be able to include some of your insights into my final paper. I’ll leave my full name and email below, feel free to check me out on facebook or let me know if you’d like any other information.

    Thank you so much for your time and openness in your post!
    Stephanie Tennis

  • meganjsalcido author
    2 years ago

    Wow, thanks so much! My email is if you have any questions

  • Matt Allen G
    2 years ago

    I was diagnosed at the age of 20, I am 27 now and though I have been really active in the MS community, I haven’t really met someone else so close to me in age who is also involved (writing) in the MS community. So I am glad to see that you are engaged and hope to read more from you soon,

  • meganjsalcido author
    2 years ago

    I’m definitely in the same boat as you. I haven’t met many others with MS who are in their 20s, so I’m glad there are people in our age group on this site. I’m still pretty new on here and haven’t explored it much, but I’m looking forward to reading what you’ve written!

  • littledeer
    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your journey so honestly & eloquently.
    The honesty in your words spoke to me. I believe it helps, when we can see we are not alone, our thoughts/experiences are unique but shared.
    Big props to you for running! I’m wondering if you can share any tips? I have always needed runs as a way to ground myself, but haven’t figured out how to now.
    We are a (few

  • meganjsalcido author
    2 years ago

    Of course! In all honesty I was having a terrible day at work and decided to use this as my diary (which was terrifying, but I’m so glad I put this up here). I think the last part of your message got cut off…not sure if there is a character count 🙁 But when i run I make sure to get a good walk in first, otherwise my legs get really jelly. I don’t necessarily run very fast either, just try to get to a comfortable pace. Some days you just have to rest if you aren’t feeling well. So if I am feeling well I try to really push myself, and once I get in a routine and run regularly I feel like a lot of my symptoms actually quiet down. I know everyone is different, so I hope this helps!

  • Meagan Heidelberg moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Megan! Welcome to!! We are so glad that you’ve shared your journey with us and our community. It sounds like you have a great mixture of being active, followed by the dreaded MS symptoms. Please know you’re never alone here, and we always want to warmly welcome you to share your stories with us.

    Happy early birthday!!

    Meagan, Team Member

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