People in wheelchairs used to be almost invisible to me as I passed them on a busy day when all I had to think about was cheer practice, my boyfriend and my grades...until I became one of them in December, 2011.
I had no idea what multiple sclerosis was, and when I felt a little tingling in my hand the first thing I thought of was carpel tunnel from too much texting. The headaches I brushed off as stress because I was preparing for the ACT, applying to colleges, and my boyfriend had just moved across the country to begin his four years at Cornell. It never crossed my mind that there could be something attacking my brain.
When I woke up in the hospital, all I remembered was the clumsiness I had felt 10 days earlier. On December 8, 2011, I had driven to my mom’s work, trying so hard not to crash as I was losing all feeling in my left arm and leg and my sight in my left eye. After I stumbled into my mom’s work, we immediately left and drove to the emergency room. As she helped me out of the car and into a wheelchair, I remember feeling so scared. Then it all went black.
On the 18th, I told my mom I was ready to hear what my diagnosis was. She had been waiting for me to let her know when I was ready. We sat alone in my hospital room. It was the first time I had heard the words “multiple sclerosis.” I began to cry and scream, “Why me? Why is God doing this to me?” I felt like the universe was punishing me somehow. I had been through so much in my life already. A kidnapping, my dad leaving me and my mom for drugs, and now this. The sounds of the hospital surrounded me as I closed my eyes and held my mom, wondering what my life was going to become now. I could barely speak. I was blind in my left eye. Half my body was completely paralyzed. The questions began to start pounding inside my head: Will I ever be normal again? Am I going to continue to get worse until I become completely disabled? Will I ever be able to have children? Will I ever be able to realize my dreams? I opened my eyes and looked at my mom. She touched my face and whispered something we always say to each other in tough times, “We got this.”
I knew I could let MS take over my life and steal my dreams or I could be the one in control over my life – I could be positive, stay strong, and keep focusing on my dreams.
I told my mom that feeling sorry for myself would not heal my lesions. Focusing on my dreams and staying strong would give me the strength I needed to live a normal life again. That is exactly what I did. Something inside of me kicked in. I felt unstoppable the second I chose to beat MS.
I laughed more than I cried. I felt proud of myself more than I pitied myself. I took action instead of acting defeated. I learned to walk again. I learned to talk and write and drive again. I learned to love and accept myself no matter how many hurdles I face each day with my diagnosis. I learned that people in wheelchairs are not invisible and that they all have a story – that they matter, and that they are just like anyone else. They are mothers, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, teachers...human beings.
Going to college has always been my dream. Today I took my last final of my freshman year in college. I relapsed my first semester and had to overcome some pretty big problems this year. But that is life. We all have struggles, choices to make, stuff to work through. How we get through it all is up to us. It’s up to us to choose how we look at it, how we feel about it, and what we choose to focus on. For me it is about focusing on my dreams. It’s about staying positive no matter what. It’s about staying strong through it all, because I am too young to give up. I have a big life ahead of me and MS isn’t going to stop me from living it.
To celebrate World MS Day, explore stories from around the world and share your motto at www.worldmsday.org.