Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 23, I was terrified and uncertain about my future. I still remember the day as if it were yesterday, the vision burned in my brain forever. In ways, it was the worst day of my life and also the day my life changed for the better.
One day in February of 1994, my left hand felt like it had fallen asleep (tingling and numb). I attributed it to the stress I had been under since my husband was in a bad car accident weeks before. A few days later, my left hand still felt numb and I decided to seek help from my doctor. I was put through dozens of tests, ruling out Lupus and Arthritis. Several months later, I was diagnosed by MRI as having Multiple Sclerosis. I remember the day like it was played in slow motion. I was sitting in a chair across from the Neurologist’s desk when the MRI film was put up on the x-ray machine. The doctor then said, “Do you see all the white spots on your brain? You have Multiple Sclerosis.” I sat there stunned not knowing what type of questions to ask. I saw myself in a wheelchair needing assistance for the rest of my life. In fact, I didn’t even know what Multiple Sclerosis was and associated it with Muscular Dystrophy.
I can honestly say that I went through all the stages of loss; denial, anger, bargaining, letting go, and acceptance. One year after diagnosis I became very sick, losing the ability to walk. I had to quit my job and became severely depressed. I was once a very active person and now struggled with the simple things in life. I began seeing a new Neurologist who refused to give up on me. We tried all the injection therapies that were available without success. I was taking large amounts of steroids in an attempt to control the crippling affects of my MS. I ended up gaining 80 pounds and became more depressed than before and still unable to walk. My Neurologist sent me to a MS Specialist and we decided to try a course of chemotherapy, a radical treatment at the time. One year into chemotherapy, intensive physical therapy, a new injection therapy, and determination, I once again gained the ability to walk.
From the first day after diagnosis I searched for the reason for why I had MS. I found, what I believe, a couple reasons a few years ago. The first reason was the realization that I should never take the simple things in life for granted, playing with my nieces and nephews, taking my dog for a walk, cleaning the house, yard work, etc. The second reason came to light a few years ago when I made a routine call to my insurance company to ask about coverage on a new injection therapy (Copaxone) that I had begun a year earlier. The Rep was unable to answer my questions so she transferred me to someone who was also taking the injection. I now think of her as my guardian angel-Angel Alli. Angel Alli helped me to become a MS Advocate. I am able to help others with their MS by sharing my story and by helping others find resources that will help them to live with this unpredictable disease. I never really gave up hope no matter how bad it got. I continued to attend my college courses no matter how ill I was. Two years after diagnosis, I received my Finance degree and now work full-time as a Finance Editor. I share my MS story with anyone who will listen in an effort to educate people about Multiple Sclerosis and to change the image of the disease. This is my purpose.
How many specialists did you see before finding "The One"?