What it was like?
Hi, my name is Vicky and I was diagnosed with MS on February 7, 2007. A day I will never forget. I had symptoms before this like falling; some numbness and once I had slurred speech that scared me. However, nothing was ever found and I thought it was all in my “head”. Of course, today I know it truly is in my head as MS affects the central nervous system and causes misinformation from my brain to my body. However, back then, I thought I was just clumsy or crazy. If I would trip or fall I would tell myself, “Vicky, pick up your feet”. What else could it be? One time I fell and had numbness and pain in my hand for a 5 hour drive. I had X-Rays taken and nothing showed and in a week the numbness was gone. It came and left quickly. Then on February 7, 2007, when I was praying at Mass, my body from my waist down felt like it had a ton of bricks pressing down on it. I went to rest after this scared that something awful was happening. I got up an hour later and my left leg was moving and I had no control. I could not feel my leg and I watched it swing. I could not walk. I was very scared and felt what is happening. I was taken to the hospital, where my left arm went completely numb. Of course they checked for heart problems, but my heart was fine. The hospital did a MRI and found MS. A doctor told me at 10:00 p.m. and I did not know what to think. I felt like my life had ended. I was in the prime of my life and now I had this crippling disease. I found a very good MS doctor in Michigan and began medication for Relapsing Remitting MS. I did not like the needles and it was a fear that I eventually overcame. I started getting better and with that I began to think; OK it is conquered and done – yeah! About 6 months later I had a cognitive problem where I could not remember simple facts that I had known since childhood. This scared me and I remember feeling so vulnerable. Then I found on hot days, the numbness would come back into my left side and I did not like this. At the end of September of 2007, my vision was affected by MS. I saw the words for food items in the store with several lines through the words. I could not read it and the signs for the aisles were big. Again I was scared and angry at the disease and depressed that I could do nothing about it. To me it truly was a monster disease that had taken my freedom. Other symptoms that have come and gone since 2007 have also included bladder and IBS problems. Again, it comes and goes like the numbness continues to do so.
What is it like now?
Today I live a full and wonderful life. I know I am not alone in living with this disease. My family and community of Sisters have supported me through dark times into acceptance times. They have seen me at my worst. I have since moved from Michigan and have found a wonderful MS doctor in Milwaukee. I attend MS conferences whenever I can. I have learned to love and accept My MS as a gift. I especially appreciate it when I am not having any symptoms. I know I am not super woman like I once felt I could be. My MS slows me down. When I get sick, I am starting to understand it is OK if it takes me longer than the “normal” person to get back on my feet. I am very good at caring for others, but often I forget that I need to be taken care of also. I have found so many wonderful people from my boss and staff at work, my Sisters and my family and friends who are there to help me. Do I always accept the help? Sometimes I do not. Sometimes I still want that control and independence. However, when I let someone help me, there is also a gift. That is the gift of compassion. I do Energy Medicine Exercises to help me with balance and energy. I try to eat right and not overdo it when my energy levels are low.
What is my challenge?
My challenge is to continue, one day at a time, enjoying and finding good in life. My faith is my strength and I trust God to get me through the hard times. The hard times are also my prayer for others. My expectations of myself are high and can cause me stress that I do not need as I live with this chronic disease. Learning to be gentle with myself when symptoms happen is a big for me. I can be gentle with others, but often ignore myself. This causes negativity that can lead to depression and that is one place I would rather not be. I am enjoying life too much to fall into the “woe is me” mode.
Words advice to those newly diagnosed.
Get a MS doctor and start on the MS medication. It helps slow the disease. Do not be afraid of MS. You can live a happy and full active life. Let those who love you, help you. We are all connected and you are loved for who you are and not for your MS. Enjoy each moment for it is so precious and trust in the God of your understanding as you come to see life is more than MS.
What are my dreams and hope?
My current and in the near future dream is to walk a 5K for MS in Milwaukee. I am hoping for cooler weather and no rain on that day. I hope to raise some money for MS research. If others in the past had not given their energy and donations, the drugs I use today may not be around. MS today has more hope than those who had it years ago. There is research. It is my hope that future generations will be MS free.