“Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
In May of 2008, I remember sitting in my office working on a spreadsheet and suddenly, the room started spinning. Imagine the feeling you get after getting off of a rollercoaster and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I went home early that day and went to sleep, only to wake up the next morning seeing two of everything. Let me tell you, turning on the television and seeing two Matt Lauer’s staring back at you is crazy weird. But it went away as quickly as it came, and I shrugged it off as something related to my contacts.
I called my mom, because she’s a nurse and told her about my vision that morning. She wanted me to get checked out immediately. I, of course, felt she was being the typical Mother and overreacting, but I made an appointment with my doctor anyway.
My doctor did the exam, and told me that he thought everything was okay, but said I should get an MRI, just to be absolutely sure. I had never been in an MRI machine before, so I was actually looking forward to getting the scan. Oh, how naïve I was back then. (FYI, if you’re claustrophobic, ask for something to relax you….you’re welcome in advance for this unsolicited advice! Lol.)
I got a call the next day from my doctor. “The scan found something,” he tells me. “I want you to see a Neurologist so he can discuss the findings.”
At this point, I’m still oblivious to how serious this is. The absolute look of terror on my mom’s face should have been an indication, but, again, I thought she was reacting like any mother would react when given less than stellar news about their child.
We go in to see the Neurologist, and twenty minutes into the visit he says to me, “Yeah, you have some disease activity…..looks like Multiple Sclerosis. We probably should do a spinal tap.”
Blink. Blink. Long Stare.
I’m sorry……..come again? I must have had something in my ear. I thought I heard you say I had MS. You know, the disease that causes people not to be able to walk or care for themselves….am I on candid camera???
And then I went a little nuts. Because this cannot be happening. I’m 25 years old! I’m young! I’m supposed to have my whole life ahead of me! Is this some type of sick joke?
He tells me “not to worry” and that most likely I won’t be affected until I’m much older. You just may need a wheelchair by the time your forty. That’s at least twenty years from now….want a pill to help you sleep tonight given what I just told you?” (Note to self: Look into giving a course to doctor’s on how to break bad news to patients.)
I remember being so low. So incredibly low that I felt I had no one to turn to. My parents couldn’t take it away. My friends couldn’t take it away. I felt completely alone and scared as hell. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to sleep. I just wanted to cry and scream and cry some more and throw things.
I was pissed off at God. I was pissed off at life. Woe is me, was my new mantra.
I remember that I started listening to Charles Stanley’s (my favorite preacher) sermons on the computer. I started reading my Bible. I decided that if God had done this to get my attention, then boy was he going to get an earful from me. And then during one of my screaming sessions with God, I remember being overcome with a feeling of peace. It was the first time since I got the news that I felt like I was going to be okay. I can’t really explain it, but I can totally relate to the biblical saying “peace that surpasses all understanding.” That is what I felt that day.
I remember going with my parents to get a second opinion. I was able to see the top Neurologist dealing with Multiple Sclerosis in the area. I was prepared for him to tell me that I would be in a wheelchair. I was prepared for him to tell me that my hopes of husband, family, playing with my children and traveling were over.
He told me quite the opposite. He looked me in the eyes and said what I wanted to hear so badly “Yes, there is something going on. Yes your life will be a bit different. But you will be fine.”
He went on to explain that attitude is everything when it comes to how well people handle this horrible disease. He told me that it affected everyone differently and that other than beginning to inject myself every week (joy), that there was nothing else that I needed to do other than get enough rest and take care of myself. “We’ll take each day as it comes,” he told me.
Before this diagnosis, I thought that I had control. I lived in that fantasy world where nothing bad happens to you and everything is butterflies and rainbows. When you are faced with a devastating diagnosis you are forced to grow up fast. Things that once were so important just aren’t anymore. Things that used to make you upset don’t even phase you.
I was really reluctant to share this post today, but God had on my heart for me to do it and I strive to be obedient. I started this blog to uplift and encourage others who go through the same struggles that I go through and to help you know that you are not alone. I have accepted that in order to do that, I will have to be “transparent” in a sense, so that others can see themselves through my experiences. I want to give a voice to those who don’t yet have the strength to speak for themselves.
It’s been 4 ½ years since that initial diagnosis, and by the Grace of God I have been symptom free ever since. I don’t know what tomorrow holds for me, but I know that whatever it has in store, that I am equipped to handle it. I wanted to end this post by sharing with you all what going through this experience has taught me.
– I have learned to be a little kinder to people. To be a little more forgiving. You truly have no idea what someone may be facing personally. Give people the benefit of the doubt as often as you can.
– I have learned that patience is indeed a virtue. Not everything in life comes to you exactly when you want it to. Things take time. Relax. Everything happens exactly when it should happen.
– I have learned to let go of those things that I cannot control. When you are told that tomorrow you could wake up and not be able to see or walk, you gain a new perspective on life. I only focus on what I can control today (things like my happiness, eating right, exercise and getting enough sleep). I let tomorrow worry about itself.
– I have learned to laugh as often and I can, and never to allow life’s issues to “stress me out.” At the end of the day, nothing is worth sacrificing my health and my happiness. It truly isn’t that serious.
– I have learned to go after my dreams today, because you really don’t know if tomorrow is promised. You only have this moment. Make the most of it.
And most importantly, I have learned that God really won’t put more on you than you can bear. That he is who he says he is. And that he is with you through every single storm of your life. He never changes. And every test and trial is an opportunity for him to show his greatness through you.
You can’t have a testimony without a TEST. And this is my life’s test. My goal is to forever share my testimony of living my best life, no matter what obstacles have been placed in my path, and to do it with a smile on my face and hope in my heart.
And to my fellow struggler’s, know that you are NEVER alone. No matter what your cross is to bear, you have God and you have me here rooting for you! You will be victorious!