My Journey

My name is Candice Harris and I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis back in 1976 ( I was 29). It was hard back then for the medical field to diagnose me or anyone of this disease. It all started with a limp, tingling and burning in my right leg and I was extremly exhausted all the time.

One of my first inaccurate diagnoses after numerous tests, including a horrific Myelogram, was a rare disease called Olivopontocerebellar Degeneration, which I was told was a death sentence, one year maximum. I decided to get a second opinion, so I chose to write Southwestern Medical School and received a letter from the Professor of Neurology that he wanted to see me as soon as possible. As I limped into his office he told me he was sure by my gait that this wasn’t what I had, so therefore I was admitted into the hospital and had more tests, and eventually diagnosed with slow progressive M. S., which then they said I had seven years.

I remember leaving the hospital with my husband and thinking well now what! I had two different diagnoses. We had three young children and I was determined now to get yet another doctor’s opinion, so I boarded an airplane and headed for the Mayo Clinic for which I had a two weeks stay with more testing. The diagnosis was MS.

Moving forward now it’s almost 2013. I am almost 66 years old and still going. I am a paraplegic now. My marriage ended after 32 years. Our children are grown and after a brief stay in a nursing home, I am now living in my own apartment with a nurse that comes twice a month and an aide that comes daily to help with cleaning and cooking.

Treatment has not been successful for me. I participated in a pheresis program in the early 1980s – a machine took blood from one artery in my arm, filtered white cells and pumped it back into an artery in my other arm. They processed all my blood three times with each visit. I quit after nine months due to the fact my white cells were produced faster than they could filter them. I was on Betaseron (Interferon) shots every other day for twelve years in the 1990s, and stopped when I decided it wasn’t helping. Due to side effects, I am a little gun shy of drugs. Currently, I only take Warfarin for blood clots, and vitamin D and B12 shots.

MS has effected my health in ways I could not imagine. I lost my bladder and had a urostomy, a colostomy, and due to frequent trips to the hospital over the years, I’ve been exposed to MRSA. I have had a Smart Port put in because my veins are shot. I have had several blood clots, requiring surgery to have a vena cava filter implanted. And countless broken bones, including my back after a careless airline employee transferred me to my seat too roughly.

My complaints today include exhaustion, back pain and occasionally nausea and dizziness. I take pride that I far outlived the seven-year outlook I was originally given. I am blessed. Life with MS is alright if you don’t let it beat you.

Candice J. Harris

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