My Story Goes on

Stunned is hardly the word for how I felt… shocked, devastated… those are the feelings I remember. At age 45, I had finally achieved some professional success, having just been named partner in a large law firm. It had been a struggle because for 20 years I had been experiencing odd physical sensations, fatigue and inability to concentrate.

In my personal life, I had two young children, had recently remarried and welcomed two stepchildren. What had been a happy new life for all of us suddenly became a very confusing, painful time. Full of questions and concerns, and none of us had any answers.

I was trying to do it all. I was juggling my desire to be a present mother and wife with being an attentive and productive attorney. And it wasn’t without its complications.

One day after work, I drove straight home and got a call from my youngest daughter’s preschool. All the other children had gone home except for her. How could I have forgotten her? I constantly felt guilt in my role as a mom to four kids.

Professionally, it wasn’t any easier for me. Fortunately (for my reputation) and unfortunately (for my health), my entire 25-year legal career could be described as a relentless pursuit of perfection.

I probably fit the type-A personality. I think being a woman in a traditionally male field—trying all those years to cope with a chronic illness while “proving” to the world that I could compete—caused my stress to reach crisis levels. I had developed nervous habits and anxiety that concerned my neurologist and my management team.

Ultimately, all this led to my physician-ordered “retirement” at age 58.

I felt way too young and wasn’t emotionally ready to give up the mental and social stimulation of practicing law. I missed my clients, friends and colleagues in the firm and legal community, and spent two years in counseling to adjust to the loss.

But I started to realize that while one chapter may have closed, another could be written.

I started to cope with stress better by meditating, practicing yoga and pilates, working out and thinking of my health holistically.

As a practicing attorney, I enjoyed lunch meetings with clients and professionals. So after retirement, I continued getting dressed up to meet people for lunch and found myself leading my own self-help group for those living with MS who are trying to juggling work or retirement. We meet monthly and discuss our health concerns and help newly diagnosed members cope with their new reality. We agonize about the balance of work and family and discuss our fears and hopes.

Since retiring, I’ve also had the privilege of experiencing my grandchildren as they mature into wonderful and active adolescents. 

Life doesn’t end because you have MS. I’ve had my fair share of struggles and have had to readjust where I’m going in life. I am passionate about helping others with MS realize the importance of being resilient and sharing their struggles. Because despite all my ups and downs, I continue to enjoy friends and family and live my life to the fullest. 
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Laurie

Laurie Neilson Lee

Laurie began having MS symptoms when she was in her early 20s, but has had a relatively mild disease progression and was able to be physically active through her 60s. She and her husband Alan love snorkeling in Hawaii, tending their gardens at home, and traveling to visit children and grandchildren. She is a part-time writer, family historian, and practitioner of yoga and pilates.  
 

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    13 Comments

  • Rachel   Mar 13, 2018 8:02 AM
    As a newly diagnosed 28 year old woman, this blog post gives me hope for the future in my personal and professional life. Thank you for sharing your story. :)
  • Peg   Mar 15, 2018 10:39 AM
    As the spouse of one with MS, it is nice to hear that your life has continued in somewhat of a normal fashion. I am always fearful of the future impairments due to the disease. My husband was diagnosed in 2004 at age 50. We are still traveling and enjoying life with few limitations but I am always waiting for the shoe to drop.
  • Taffy   Mar 15, 2018 10:58 AM
    Laurie, thank you for your blog. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I was recently diagnosed with MS at the age of 54, I am not 55. I lost my eyesight in one eye and was diagnosed with MS. I look back over the years, and the mild symptoms were there, but you just don't think much of it until it is brought to the forefront. I am still very active and plan to continue to be. I look forward to reading more of your blogs.
  • Rob   Mar 15, 2018 11:19 AM
    My faith in Christ helps me through the ups and downs of living life with this disease.
  • Kristi Cumming   Mar 15, 2018 11:22 AM
    Dear Laurie,

    My disease progression has been relatively mild like yours. My MRIs tell a much different story. I was diagnosed at 27 yrs of age in 1984. I am 61 now, and continue to work full-time. I have never used disease modifying drugs. Only very occasional oral prednisone, and one steroid infusion 6 yrs ago. I continue to stay positive, take care of myself w/ good food, vitamin supplements, walking, and yoga is my savior. Thanks for your story!! Keep up your good work!!!
  • Catheryn Erickson   Mar 15, 2018 11:39 AM
    I was diagnosed in 2014 , but MS started in 2000. My story very similar to yours. I just started Ocrevus infusions on Monday. People are having amazing results, See NBC Nightly News transcript from 3/28/17. I don't work for NBC or a Pharm co. I live in Kingman, AZ and am 71 and retired, too. Good Luck to us all.
  • Monroe Dugdale   Mar 15, 2018 2:19 PM
    Very informative article. Thank you Laurie for sharing. Our stories are so similar. May God continue to bless you.
  • Rhiannon Brusco   Mar 15, 2018 3:46 PM
    Laurie,
    Thank you for contributing to this blog. I too am an attorney and formerly an associate probate court judge. I have been diagnosed since August 2010. While I have not had apparent physical disabilities, MS has greatly effected my cognitive capabilities. I “retired” 2 years ago at the age of 39. For me, it has also been a journey to rediscover myself and my identity sans my legal profession. I spend most of my time now helping my community and exercising as much as I can. I am also a mother to a very bright 5 year old daughter who keeps me busy. I never would have imagined myself as a stay at home mother/community helper/volunteer, but I must say that it has been worth it all.
    Take care!
  • Su   Mar 15, 2018 7:02 PM
    Thank you fo sharing your story. It’s very encouraging.
  • Becki Hauser   Mar 16, 2018 7:46 AM
    My son was diagnosed in July of last year, just three years into his marriage. They've struggled coming to terms with his diagnosis and what that means for their future. Your story does give me hope that they can carry on and have a good life. I hope they can find the kind of support that they need in their community
  • Becki Hauser   Mar 16, 2018 7:47 AM
    My son was diagnosed in July of last year, just three years into his marriage. They've struggled coming to terms with his diagnosis and what that means for their future. Your story does give me hope that they can carry on and have a good life. I hope they can find the kind of support that they need in their community
  • Fran Burke   Mar 16, 2018 11:49 AM
    So happy to hear your story, and that you’re finding joy in new ways. I too am a prior professional who had to/got to “retire” at 58 and am working to reorder my life and expectations. Thank you for sharing
  • Karen Nelson   May 25, 2018 1:43 AM
    I could relate to you in many ways. While I wasn't a lawyer or professional worker I was a worker at a grocery store in the Deli for 8 years then the Meat/Seafood Dept for a few years. I was diagnosed at 62 after being very ill with fatigue and body pain. for about 4 years I lost my job due to it and the inability to remember details. Soon after I lost my home and became homeless. It was two years after that I found out I had MS. I was floored. The doctor told me I had a mild form that progressed slowly. But after my mother had passed away it started progressing faster hence which is why I ended up losing my job.I was angry that doctors never put all the weird symptoms together, I felt vindicated as far as there was something going on that I had no control over but more than anything I was very confused. I was always so active mentally and physically. What was going to happen with me now? What did the future hold? I couldn't work. I was using a walker now. My fatigue was so bad that anytime I had an active day I was in bed for days following it. I was able to finally get apt because I now qualified for disability, but I am still trying to figure out what to do now. I am a widow. I don't even know if I will be able to date let alone be in a relationship. I am spending more time with my son letting him help me which is a big thing for me. I NEVER ask for help. I know I am lucky because my MS is progressing slowly but in a sense, it seems I feel more disabled now that I know what is wrong. Hopefully, I can find a hobby that I can do. My old ones aren't that easy for me anymore.