Be Free

Hey multiple sclerosis family,
My name is Liz Walters, and I’m a little new to this tribe. But honestly, I’m changed for the better because of it. I’m a senior in college at a big southern state school, my major is psychology, I love to paint, and of course I have relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. I grew up in South Carolina, low-country sailing and spending every moment I could on the boat or in the water.

Being only 21, I know I’m relatively young to be diagnosed, but my doctors think I’ve been fighting MS symptoms since I was 16 years old based on my retina problems history.

Other than that small detail, I’m a very normal college girl who just lives with a few more “if” clauses. When I say “if” clauses I mean:
  • Wow, I’m so excited to study abroad in May, but what if I have a massive episode and have to go home or I’m relatively helpless alone on the streets of Italy?
  • Wow I really like this guy but what if his ideal girl isn’t exactly the full package when it comes to health (and before you say that’s ridiculous, I urge you to imagine a 20 something male pushing a wheelchair around a frat party).
  • I want this job so badly, but their health insurance is terrible, and if I’m not off my parents by the time I’m 26, I’ll probably end up dead in a ditch.
Of course, these are all dramatized for effect, and if you’re my parents, I can imagine the eye-rolls you’re giving me. And it’s true there will be more days to go to Italy if the worst does occur, and I’m worthy of being loved by someone (baggage and all), and who knows what health care will look like in 5 years.

But all of these “if” clauses lead to a grandeur aspect of my MS, considering I live very little to no daily symptoms (and hopefully will remain that way for a very long time). That element that is introduced is the idea that one plans for these things. You see, my dear friends, I am what we call NOT a planner. My mother is a planner, and I am “last minute Liz.”

I’m the friend that decides the moment of, and all my life these impromptu adventures have brought me so much joy and so many memories. I am among the amazing single 21-year-old girls that have the blessing of being, for lack of a better term, free.

I think like everything in life, God plans it out so perfectly that we can’t ever truly understand the intricate details of what is at play. Perhaps I have MS because my gypsy nature allows me to let go of these worries that would occupy others’ thoughts pervasively. Perhaps it is so I’ll maybe plan ahead a little more before I end up somewhere without my medicine, and in turn start my papers sooner than the day before.

Or maybe it is so I can write this post, for you, for everyone who knows what it feels like to be young and alive without a care in the world, until you are forced to have a care. Here is what I have learned: never change. MS should never prevent you from living how you want, but in the case that it does someday you’ll need to remember the times you said “yes” to an adventure without a second thought, and it’ll all have been worthwhile.

Editor's note: If you are newly diagnosed with MS, learn more here. Also refer to the Society's 31-page starter guide, Knowledge is Power, which will give you an overview of everything you need to know, right now.
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Elizabeth Walters

Liz is a senior at Clemson University. She grew up on the coast of South Carolina sailing, going on the boat and working on her family's Christmas tree farm. In her free time, she loves to paint and hopes to make a career out of it someday!

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  • Leah   Feb 4, 2020 11:57 AM
    Welcome to the tribe Liz! I was diagnosed at 22 and can relate so much! You are not alone and you will see how much of a fighter you were meant to be. You’ve GOT THIS
  • Russell Hawthorne   Feb 4, 2020 12:44 PM
    Thanks for your story. It'll give me something to think about even though I'm old now.
  • Olivia   Feb 4, 2020 12:46 PM
    Hey, welcome! I was diagnosed at 25 (just 6 months ago) and I definitely feel your pain with the health insurance scare. I was diagnosed 4 months before my dad’s insurance would end. I also very recently took a trip to Mexico and I relapsed 2 days before I left! It was wheelchairs in the airports and high doses of steroids but it didn’t stop me from enjoying my trip! It all will work out and God has a plan!
  • David levasseur   Feb 4, 2020 2:36 PM
    Do not let the disease get you!!!! Don’t think about it just go about your daily life!!!! Get on the best meds and stay on top!!!! I do and have so far just by the above statement I said to you!!!! Best of luck
  • Meghan   Feb 4, 2020 3:14 PM
    Hi Liz I'm Meghan I also found out at a young age I was 13 when my symptoms started and I was diagnosed at 15 with relapsing and remitting MS I went through A LOT because I had encephalitis Prior to finding out I had MS as well as Bell's Palsy. I was a gymnast for my whole life and danced also. My world pretty much stopped but I never let the disease stop me from living my life. I ended up finding my now husband online when I was 17 and he moved 15 hours for me and we have been together for 11 years now and we have a beautiful 2 year daughter and 3 crazy dogs haha. I just stopped by and saw your story and just wanted to let you know that life is amazing and you can still go on and enjoy EVERY minute of it. 😉
  • Phil   Feb 4, 2020 3:42 PM
    Hey Liz. I live in North Carolina and have MS Since 2012. Stay Positive and Dont stop doing what you love to Do. STAY STRONG! YOU GOT THIS!
  • Jess B.   Feb 4, 2020 3:49 PM
    Thank you, Liz, for your kind and uplifting words, and welcome to the community! I was diagnosed right after my 20th birthday and felt so lonely being diagnosed so young -- I totally feel you there. I'm now 27 and I finished college, went to law school, and became a lawyer just like I always wanted, so I can attest to the fact that life does, indeed, go on. I've also traveled all over the world! I have a lot of hard days due to the stressful nature of my chosen path, but I married the love of my life and best friend (and I have every confidence that he'll be there for me if things go bad with this disease). You sound like you've got all of it under control -- so keep doing all that you're doing and never forget to live in the moment!
  • David Feiertag   Feb 4, 2020 3:52 PM
    Hey Ms. Walter,

    I don't have MS, but my wife does. She was diagnosed back in 2005. First thing I want to tell you is; you're gonna be alright. Everybody's MS journey is different, and it sounds like you, like me Beloved, will have a relapse from time to time. For Carol, it's like having a sick day. She just needs to rest and recompose. Her everyday is pretty darn normal. She does pay attention to not overdoing it, and if you're the same as she is, I'm sure you'll find that balance fairly quickly. You come across as having a good head on your shoulders so I have no doubt you'll take this in stride and have a great life. Don't worry about what happens when you meet someone who you are interested in. It they can't handle the MS, there are plenty of great people out there who can, and will be delighted to have you in their life. You live on the East Coast, and there are a lot of great MS docs out that way. Find one that can help you meet your goals and get on a good medical regimen.

    Finally, and I think this is most important; do not be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to others with MS, their care takers, friends, family, clergy (if you are so inclined). You'll be amazed how people will be willing to help you with big project and the little stuff, too. Asking for help doesn't mean you're weak. It means you're smart.
  • Kate Baudeloque   Feb 4, 2020 4:27 PM
    Welcome Liz! I was 28 when I was diagnosed and have led a very active life. I have participated in several triathlons and have two healthy pregnancies. Shortly after my diagnosis, I decided that every day was NOT going to be dominated by the fact I had MS. I chose to be happy and productive. I chose to identify triggers (poor food choices, stress and exhaustion) and keep them at bay. I chose to live!!! Mind over matter !!!
    I am now 50 and continue to have that same mindset. Have faith and be mindful. Please reach out if you have any questions.
  • JDrummer   Feb 4, 2020 4:52 PM
    Welcome Liz, Keep up that positive attitude, it’s half the Battle! Try to treat MS as you do that pain in the Ass friend that shows up at your Doorstep. We know they’ll be staying for a while, so we learn to live with them ;~} All the best , keep up the fight! JDrummer, 8 yrs diagnosed and still bangin the skins 👊🏻🎶👊🏻🎶🍊🍊🍊🍊
  • Zoey Weappa   Feb 4, 2020 5:06 PM
    Liz I was diagnosed with relapsing MS while I was in college also. My advice is to live your life. Go to college parties (drink a little haha), Travel. Don’t let yourdiagnosis limit you on what you want to do. You may just have to do things different then all of your friends and co workers.
  • Paige   Feb 4, 2020 6:01 PM
    Yes Girl! Continue to be Free! I was diagnosed at 24 so you also and have had MS for 16 years with no real change in my symptoms either so take that Trip, Love Life and Your Positive Outlook will carry you through! It surely has for me! ♥️
  • Pamela Delia   Feb 4, 2020 6:10 PM
    What an inspiration you are! I am 54 just diagnosed a year ago!!! I graduated fromUK I’m a Dental Hygienist also I took corses an became a Personal Trainer and started my own business un 2002. Raised 2 awesome sons now ......
  • Greg Sayers   Feb 4, 2020 6:50 PM
    Liz, you sound like an amazing young woman. I hope you spend many years without much if any symptoms. I am 63 and was diagnosed at 50. I have had symptoms since my early teens and still worked and raised a family. My hopes for you are much the same. If you can't find a young man that will accept you for what you are men have gone totally crazy. Best wishes and the best of luck in whatever life has in store for you. Greg
  • Cosima   Feb 4, 2020 6:50 PM
    Hello, Liz!
    So glad you wrote and I am blessed to get to respond. I've been on life's journey with MS since before I was 21, in 1978. I had optic neuritis twice, going completely blind both times in my right eye. Dx'd in '88, I imagined the worst, too. Well, God is so good! I've had two kids, and now have three grandboyzz. I toured the Mediterranean this past summer, and in March, I'll be headed to Anguilla. I'm 63 with MS and a few other added AI cohorts, but we must keep our eye on the prize - to live life as fully as possible while giving ourselves grace when we need it. Much love!
  • Mike Teske   Feb 4, 2020 6:54 PM
    I don't know how long I had it, before diagnosis 18 years ago, but I live my life and do not allow it to live me. I went out and became an Ironman, swam the Straits of Mackinaw, run marathons and half marathons. There are good days and bad days and you choose what you want them to be and grab life and run with it.
  • Alan   Feb 4, 2020 7:51 PM
    Welcome, glad to have you On board
  • Ken   Feb 4, 2020 11:46 PM
    Thanks for sharing your story with us. I've had MS for 5 years and I try to live my life in the same way you were saying. Keep positive and do what you can while you still can. I've had some major loss of use in my hands. Still doing pretty much the same thing as before my diagnosis.
  • Rick Gehrer   Feb 5, 2020 12:52 AM
    Welcome to the tribe just remember MS doesn't discriminate young old any race male female but what it does give us that strength to overcome and not let it win.
  • Terrie Almsted Raiter   Feb 5, 2020 3:35 AM
    What a wonderful attitude! No matter what happens, life will be good to you. We need you in the group to help out the new members who are diagnosed at such a young age. Your attitude is contagious!
  • Callie   Feb 5, 2020 7:32 AM
    I got diagnosed my senior year in college as well at age 21. I can relate to this oh to well. I am now 26, worked overseas on Carnival Cruise Line ships. Found a boyfriend who has my back 100%. And found a land job with amazing health insurance the DAY 8 was turning 26 falling off my parents insurance. Everything that I thought would never happen, all happened at the same time. Go study abroad, study for your future job, and never let a man stop you from succeeding!
  • Rachel weaver   Feb 5, 2020 8:23 AM
    Hello! I was diagnosed at 18!! I can relate to you so much! I was so worried that my life was going to be hindered by the possibilities that could happen with my MS. But that’s what they were, just possibilities. We can’t let possibilities of MS get in the way of us taking charge of our lives!
  • Ruth C. Simkins   Feb 9, 2020 4:22 PM
    I am now 76 years old and was diagnosed when I was 46. I had symptoms in my 30's. A tingling sensation in my left leg was diagnosed as a pinched nerve. I had several bouts of vertigo that eventually went away. In my left hip I developed bursitis that could not be fixed with cortisone shots and physical therapy. The Orthopedic doctor treated me for two years then finally sent me to a Neurologist. I had a MRI that showed the multiple lesions on my myelin sheath in my brain. Over the years my left leg became weaker. I started using a cane and now have to use a walker. I still get out and go places as I can still drive my car, since all I need is my good right leg! It has been more of a challenge since my husband died two years ago. He did everything he could to help me and make my life easier. I have always been able to take care of my physical needs like taking a shower and dressing myself. I use a rollator in my home and I have a Brinks Home Security with a fall button. I get my strength from God and am basically a happy person (with the exception of losing my husband of 42 years). Each day gets better and my attitude is positive-I am an optimist. One day they will find a cure.
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    haylee_67  Feb 17, 2020 3:27 PM
    Sometimes I feel so alone in this battle, but I am glad to read stories like this and be reassured that none of us are alone! I always feel like a weirdo that I am a 22 year old college student who is constantly worrying about my future health insurance, but it is just one of those concerns that comes along with MS. Your story sounds similar to mine, but you are a bit more optimistic than I! Most days are good, but the what-ifs definitely steal my mind here and there. Thanks for sharing! I hope you stay above it all!
  • Kathleen Calvo-Schulte   Feb 24, 2020 4:07 PM
    I too was diagnosed when I was a senior in college. I took the approach that it will stop me when it stops me. I took up competitive horseback riding because it was a lifetime dream. I took a highly stressful computer programming job. I have had many bumps and put holes in my lifetime, but this is the attitude that you must have to carry on. After 40÷ years I am still walking. My other tip, exercise is extremely important. Be sure to care for your body physically! Kathleen
  • Ryan   Feb 24, 2020 4:11 PM
    I was diagnosed with MS at age 21 after losing vision in one eye with optic neuritis. I’m doing good but constantly exhausted. I work full time and workout regularly. Turning 28 in March. I have fearing everything you have written. Health Insurance concerns, my future. Let’s pray for a cure.
  • Kent Hileman   Feb 24, 2020 4:15 PM
    Hi Liz, I completely understand the what if’s, especially as it relates to dating. I have actually had two different women cut off dating me after I tell them, though I am extremely healthy and fit. But all in all people understand and are supportive. You will be just fine. Just keep eating healthy and exercise along with your meds, I am a high believer in that - all around health and benefits. You got this as everyone else has said!
  • Tyler   Feb 24, 2020 4:25 PM
    I was diagnosed 5 years ago and I was 30. Not as young as you but I do understand. The shock it can bring.
  • Allen   Feb 24, 2020 4:41 PM
    I too was diagnosed at 21. Well a couple months before my 21st birthday that is. I found my wife who’s type one so it works out. But the insurance thing is a real deal. I am actually going without insurance now while I transition to a job with a hospital that’ll provide me with the insurance I need. I hope for the best for you!