On a regular Sunday afternoon I was buying myself a very nice red sports car I’d been wanting for a long time. This car symbolized a new beginning. My kids weren’t babies anymore, so I traded in my “soccer mom” van. I was ready for a change!
Then I noticed I couldn’t sign my name on the paperwork. I had to literally draw my name by making big circular movements with my arm. But I managed to sign and off I drove. I was so happy!
Over the course of the week I noticed I was tripping over my own foot. I also had an acute pain on my lower back and I couldn’t wiggle my toes. At the end of the week on Friday night, after a long day out and about, I drove myself to the hospital. They thought I was having a stroke and I was admitted.
Two days later, and after many tests, it was clear to the doctors that I had multiple sclerosis (MS). By then, the entire right side of my body was paralyzed and I was bedridden. That was Dec. 13, 2015 -- the day that changed my life forever.
With many months of therapy I recovered my mobility but was left with severe weakness in my right leg and arm. I currently struggle with severe foot drop.
MS pulled the rug from under my feet when I was living my best life. I had my job. I was 38 years young. I was fit and strong -- very active and full of energy. I used to work out all the time. Uhh -- I miss the old me!
Now, not all has been negative during my MS journey. I’ve met some wonderful people and built great relationships along the way. Many projects have come my way like writing, live streaming on social media, MS awareness campaigns, interviews, and more. I feel like being diagnosed with MS has been the biggest setback of my life, but also the one thing that opened all doors for me. I certainly don’t like living with MS but I love the course my life has taken due to it.
As I look back in time -- and now that I know what the symptoms are -- I think I’ve probably had MS all my life. Luckily, it didn’t affect any of my functions during my younger years and I was able to have my three boys before MS showed up like a wrecking ball.
I’ve learned not to dwell on my diagnosis. After all, I can’t change it. So why worry about it? It doesn’t mean I’m taking leaps of joy because I have multiple sclerosis, but that I don’t acknowledge it too much. I try not to give it power.
Even though my body has changed, my memory is compromised, and I depend on walking aids to move around, my essence remains the same. I have good days and bad days like all MSers do. And sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m a living miracle. It’s not an easy task! But I’m the same person inside, if not better. I can still be creative and productive. I can still go on adventures with my kids. I can be a good friend and -- not for nothing -- also a great cook!
I remember when the doctor on call in the ER told me that I had MS and how serious it was. “Do you have any questions?” she asked. “Can I use the bathroom?” I replied.
Her eyes opened really wide and she said: “It’s like I told her that she has the flu.”
And that was my attitude toward my diagnosis from day 1.
Having MS is not a death sentence. It’s more like reorganizing your life. You can still fulfill your dreams and even set higher goals for yourself if you want to. Making adjustments and modifying how you do things are key to success.
I chose to live life to the fullest from the beginning when I still didn’t know all the “not so funny” pranks MS would play on me. It’s been a bumpy ride -- no doubt -- but giving up is simply not an option.
Jordan Siemens via Getty Images