For as long as I can remember, I’ve had perfect eyesight. In fact, one of my closest friends gave me the nick name “eagle eyes” during high school due to the fact that I could read street signs from what seemed to be miles away. People would always tell me how lucky I was to be able to see so perfectly well—something I took for granted.
I can’t pin point the exact moment of time when my vision began to decline. All I can remember is that one day, at my new job at a high school, I wasn’t able to read the math formula the teacher had written on the white board. This didn’t alarm me, of course, as I was sure that the marker used on the board must have been running out of ink! Weeks passed and I was still struggling to read any text written on that white board (no matter how many different markers were used). I quickly began to notice that I was having difficulty seeing mundane things such as street signs and power point slides presented in my classes at the time. This is when I began to suspect that I may need glasses. This was during the fall of 2014 and the start of Master’s program.
By the beginning of 2016, I had been seen by 2 Optometrist (which gave me unhelpful prescription glasses) and 1 Ophthalmologist who told me my eyeballs were at 100% with no explanation for my declining vision. He even went as far as to ask me if I did my own makeup—as he was surprised at how straight my top eyeliner ran accross my eyelid, given that I couldn’t read past the top 2nd line of the eye chart that was posted across the room. He gave me the contact information of some universities in Southern California which have some research labs that may help me look at my eyesight in more depth and sent me on my way. I was frustrated that I had yet to find what was wrong with my eyesight.
It was now March 2016, and I was hanging out at my best friend’s house one night. We were sitting at the table with her mother and I was venting about my frustration with my experiences at the Ophthalmologist. Her mother, who is a Neurologist, seemed very intrigued by my story and began asking me what I though were normal questions about the length of my symptoms. She even asked if I had been experiencing any other “odd” sensations in areas other than my eyesight. After some thought, I mentioned that I had been experiencing a tingling feeling in my right leg. This was the kind of feeling you get when your leg is falling asleep, however, my tingling persisted for what seemed to be hours or even days! I did recall that the very first time I felt this tingling sensation was during my first year of college in 2009. It would come and go from time to time, but it had been years since I had felt such tingling. Surely this had nothing to do with the issue with my eyesight!
Little did I know that my best friend’s mother had begun suspect that I may have MS. It was right there in her kitchen that, unbeknownst to me, I had my first preliminary tests for MS.
It wasn’t long until my best friend told me that her mother strongly suggested I get an MRI of my brain. She didn’t want me to be alarmed, but she believed that the MRI may help me further understand the cause of my declining vision. Without hesitation or fear, I scheduled the MRI.
I soon received my MRI results and made an appointment with my primary doctor. I had read the results multiple times but it all sounded like medical jargon to me. During my appointment, the PA mentioned how she was surprised that they’re trying to now rule out Multiple Sclerosis as a diagnosis. I was in shock. Multiple Sclerosis? Where is she even getting the idea that’s what’s happening to me?! Seeing the surprised look on my face, the PA referred back to my MRI lab results (you know, the one I had read about 100 times!) There it was, written at the bottom of the lab work in all caps: EXTENSIVE WHITE MATTER SIGNAL ABNORMALITIES CONSISTENT WITH MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS. TWO OF THE WHITE MATTER PLAQUES ENHANCE SUGGESTING ACTIVE DISEASE.
It’s amazing how our mind works to protect us from things we deem as harmful or threatening. Although I had read those words nearly 100 times, my mind did what it could to protect me from the harsh reality that these words were about me..
In a matter of days I found myself checked in at the hospital where they ran all sorts of tests during a 3-day period. MRIs, spinal taps, blood tests: all to confirm (or deny) the MS diagnosis. April 3, 2016 was the day that my diagnosis was indeed confirmed. Suddenly at the age of 26, I was faced with the harsh reality that I would have to face life with MS.
It has been almost 3 years since I got diagnosed. I am only now beginning to accept it. For some time, any reference to MS would tear me up. Hearing other’s experiences with MS would only bring anxiety, fear, and extreme sadness. But today, something moved me to create an account and find help. I’m ready to begin healing from the inside out. So here it goes. Am I afraid? Yes. But we must overcome our fear to reach healing.