My Divine Fairytale

Getting diagnosed with MS at the age of 17 posed a lot of challenges. Not only was I facing uncertainty when it came to my physical health, but I also wondered what life would be like finding someone who would accept me as I was. Someone who would be willing to take this journey on with me in sickness and in health.
 
If there is anything that I have learned over the last 29 years of life, it’s that there are no coincidences. Things don’t happen by chance, but rather by divine intervention. I believe there is a purpose in both the good and the bad. Instead of letting this disease take me down a dark path of discouragement and defeat, I refused to let it stop me and trusted that there must be some purpose in it all. 
 
In my last semester in college, I decided to volunteer with the Society as a counselor at their Journey Camp - a camp for kids whose parents have MS. I had no idea that it would be at this camp I would experience my own divine fairytale in love.
 
You see, I am 6’2 and had always told myself I would never marry someone shorter than me or in the military. As we were getting all the campers registered, in walks this guy wearing dog tags and of… shorter stature. Automatically, I stuck him in the “friend category” due to the two very firm non-negotiables.
 
His name was Kevin, and he had just returned from Iraq. He decided to join his co-pilot and work as a counselor at Journey Camp. He had no connection to MS, but figured getting some community service hours couldn’t hurt. We ended up as co-counselors and got to know each other over the next few days. When camp came to a close, I was shocked by this “camp crush” that had developed for this guy who was:
A) Shorter than me
B) In the military
C) Stationed five hours away from my home in Little Rock, AR
 
In my mind, our paths would never cross again.
 
At the time, I was a patient advocate for Biogen Idec and was speaking all over the country, educating and encouraging patients with MS. Kevin had mentioned if I ever got a speaking job in Little Rock to let him know. I thought, “like that would ever happen.”
 
I was asked to speak in Little Rock the very next week.
 
Kevin and I would get another opportunity to see each other, but this time, he would experience what MS is all about. Right before I left, I had my first bout of optic neuritis (traveling with optic neuritis probably wasn’t the smartest decision, but sometimes a crush will make you do crazy things). Kevin got a first-hand look at the unfortunate side of this disease.
 
Shortly after this flare up, I had to change my disease modifying therapy. I was about to get my first infusion and this guy I had met only a few month prior drove five hours to join me for my first infusion. This is when I knew this was more than just a crush. A few months later, I graduated college and Kevin had the opportunity to meet my family. It was then my parents told me, “I think we just met our new son-in-law.”
 
Eight short months after meeting, we were married. Sure, this is not what I expected when I decided to volunteer at a camp, but I am beyond thankful for every detail that led up to this monumental moment.
 
Dating and having MS is awkward. When do I tell them? Once I tell them, will they stay? Will they care? So many questions, yet for me, it was all laid out on the table when we met. Sharing my story led to getting to know him. Our stories have the potential to make great impact and connections with those around us. We just have to muster up the courage to share. You never know where life will take you.
 
We have been married for six years now and what a journey it has been. My encouragement to you is: embrace every moment, both the good and the bad. It is just part of a bigger story that is being written.
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Emily

Emily Reilly

Emily was diagnosed with MS at the age of 17 and refused to let it deter her from her passions. Despite her diagnosis, she became an All-American college athlete. She currently lives in Washington D.C with her husband who serves in the United States Air Force. Emily teaches a modified fitness class for the MS community, where she tries to inspire those living with MS to keep moving, no matter their limitations.

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    13 Comments

  • Deanna   Aug 18, 2017 2:06 PM
    Love this story!
  • David Maskalick   Aug 18, 2017 2:12 PM
    Your parents knew it was true love when they said “I think we just met our new son-in-law.” :) My wife and I met in High School, we went to different colleges, then we got married after I started graduate school. I started a great job and my wife went to graduate school and then she got a great job. Then at 27 years old I was diagnosed with progressive MS, and when I was 43 years old my employer asked me to take long term disability leave. This year I will be 60 and my wife and I are still in love, and, we are both still on the right side of the sod. :)
  • Manny   Aug 18, 2017 5:50 PM
    Kevin is the best! Great write up and glad I could help ;-).

    Kev's Copilot
  • Leslie   Aug 18, 2017 6:02 PM
    Emily, we are so glad that we could be first hand witnesses of this great love! I will never forget calling you over to look at some of Kevin's deployment photos while Manny and I snuck off and watched the sparks fly from afar! We love you both and are so proud of all of your accomplishments and courage!
  • Mark Selbert   Aug 18, 2017 7:39 PM
    Does anybody out there know much about a drug called Gabapentin(to help with nerve pain) Looks like it helps people but also a lot of bad reviews too. Has Gabapentin been recommended for MS if you have nerve pain which I think I might have. I think it is muscle pain but based on having MS- could my pain be nerve pain. I will say taking Advil & Tylenol each and every day seems to help me. The mornings are worst for me-lower back and knees.THX
  • Karen Flick   Aug 19, 2017 8:33 AM
    Thank you for sharing your personal story. It touches my heart greatly. I have been through, now a 21 month journey. Long story short the Neurologist was leaning towards a MS diagnosis for me. It took 15 months to find her and we are blessed God lead us to her. It was not MS, but Amyotrophic Neurology.....I use the wheelchair for long distance, a walker in the grass and help down stairs, This is an improvement this May let me tell you. I had all the emotions of searching for an answer. All said, I have a heart for MS that I would NOT have if not for this experience. My hub and I were late bloomers and went into nursing in our 40's, now in our late 60's we are retired; so our nursing has certainly helped us along too. God bless you!!....you will RUN into the arms of Jesus and so will I. Meet you at the throne, Emily. Karen
  • spencer   Aug 19, 2017 10:12 PM
    great writing and I love the blog! I'm going to link to you over on my MS-related blog (http://metaspencer.blogspot.com), if you don't mind. all best!
  • elizabeth winzig   Aug 22, 2017 2:23 PM
    I enjoyed your story because mine was similar but not portrayed as elegantly as yours!!! When you find that prince he is actually a "keeper." Follow your heart because in many ways it tends to have more reason than usually believed!!

    Enjoy your journey and share with others about your travels!!!
  • ROGER WISDOM   Aug 23, 2017 1:18 AM
    I know ms is a serious disease, when I was diagnosed at age 34 I did not take it well. It broke me down, the stress and anxiety turned into depression. I was determined to not let it beat me, GOD helped me realize all I could do was let him handle the pain that had consumed me. I am going on 14 years with this disease. I have made back to where I can take care of myself again. I have been dealing with ms, me and my best friend GOD only, all this time. I have got well enough that I decided to go back to school.
  • NL   Aug 26, 2017 6:01 PM
    Great story of positivity. I loved it and almost wanted to cry! I know MS is different for us all. Mine unfortunately has blessed me with migraines that have made it difficult. However, Emily story on finding love, working, still being active since age 17, kind of stirred something in me. Maybe I'm not as ill as they say. Maybe I've contributed to it without knowing, I did. In other words it's time to step it up, more. Or at least give it a shot or I may not be as happy as Emily with my end results. Just thinking out loud, I guess. Finally, just want to say way to go Emily, thank you, you did inspire me. Probably in more ways than one and I wish you continued success on your path.
  • Vjeko   Aug 27, 2017 4:43 AM
    Great story, congrats on everything! I have MS and my girlfriend also, we also found love in such a hard time for both of us but thats the beauty of it :)
  • Sara Olmos   Aug 31, 2017 6:59 AM
    To Dr Su Matcafe : I would like to be part of the 2020 clínical trial.
  • MARLENA BARGINERE   Sep 22, 2017 7:02 AM
    Yes I can totally relate to your story. I was diagnosed with MS in my 7th year of marriage. My ex-husband came back after our separation when I got diagnosed. However, one year later he left for good. I didn't think I would ever get over him leaving me and our 5 year old son. Who would want a woman who had MS? At first when I started dating I would not tell people. Then I had this revelation that I should tell them immediately. Two years ago I met this man who has been there every step of the way for me. He understands me, my limitations, and my desire to do as much as I can. What I know is that love happens after MS.