Although I was only diagnosed with MS about 8 years ago, I feel like I spent the majority of my life going through the process of getting diagnosed. I was born with severe complications and was a pretty sick child. The only issue was that they could never quite figure out what was wrong with me. I'd lose my balance and walk into walls, lose feeling in my legs and go home from PE in a wheelchair... and no one could quite figure it out. They tested me for everything under the sun, but MS never came up.
As I started getting older, my symptoms seemed to all but disappear. I'd still have odd aches and pains and fatigue, but other than that I was living a very active and productive life. Then in my mid-twenties, I started getting severe headaches. Finally, after having a migraine that lasted over four months, my doctors decided that they needed to make sure it "wasn't a tumor". And it wasn't. But this started the long process of my diagnosis.
Finally, after numerous MRI's, lumbar puncture, neurological exams, therapy, episodes of numbness in my leg and other areas, cognitive issues and some bladder dysfunction thrown in for good measure... I was officially diagnosed the day before my 30th birthday. I was relieved to know I wasn't crazy and that there really was something wrong with me. Then, scared about how uncertain the future could be.
That's when the overwhelming need for information hit me. I reached out to the MS Society immediately. I reached out to MS Navigators, Peer Connections and the website for resources. I tried to arm myself with as much information as possible because despite knowing that MS can surprise you any day... I wanted to take that power away from my diagnosis. I wanted to be ready for anything so I could go about living my life to the fullest.
Since my diagnosis, my symptoms have come and gone... gotten worse and then better and then worse again. I've gone through being a parent with MS, losing my ex-husband to suicide and through a divorce. Some of these life stresses have caused exacerbations, but I've survived them all. I maintained a very successful career working 80-100 hour weeks until late 2013 when I had to stop working.
Now, I'm volunteering for the MS Society. I'm also looking to find a new career path - one that agrees with me and my MS. I'm actively working with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and they're assisting me with finding part-time work that won't aide in causing MS flares. This is going to start a new chapter in my life - my 'do over' so I can find something fun that I want to do! But I refuse to let MS stop me. I've learned so much about life and what I want to get out of it. What's important and what isn't. I can't say that I have been anxiety-free... but some of that anxiety gives me the drive to want more and to do more.
I am hopeful and excited for my future and very fortunate that I have the love and support of a few key people in my life to help get me through the tough times and encourage me to reach for the stars.