I couldn't let March come to a close without mentioning that it is MS Awareness Month. I talk all the time about how the my MS inspired what I do but not a lot about how I got here. This is my story.
I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 21, on Halloween no less. It certainly felt more like a trick rather than a treat. I had been experiencing symptoms for a few years, hospitalized a handful of times, saw more specialists than I could count, and was put through more medical testing than I care to remember. I thought it would be a relief to be diagnosed, to finally know what was wrong with me, but I was so young that I never really thought about what came next.
MS is an auto-immune disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves. The resulting nerve damage disrupts the signals to the brain and spinal cord causing problems with vision, balance and muscle control. There is no cure for MS, but there are treatments to help slow down the progression of the disease. I have what is called Relapsing- Remitting MS, this is the type most people have. Which usually shows signs in your 20s and 30s. There are 3 other types of MS: Secondary Progressive, Primary Progressive, and Progressive Relapsing, which is the least common.
After, I got my diagnosed I wanted to believe I that my life wouldn't change much. That all I needed to do was rest more and take medication. This was not the case. The more I tried to pretend I was a normal 20 something, the more my body decided to rebel. It took a few years for me to accept that I needed to make changes to my lifestyle from how I ate and exercised to how I socialized.
One of the big things that no one can prepare you for after you are diagnosed is that you may lose friends because they don't understand. I couldn't go to the bar or stay out late because I got tired. I spent the first few years trying to explain to my family what was wrong with me. People treated me differently; they either thought I was mentally and physically disabled or they thought that I was a perfectly healthy person whose disease was a minor inconvenience. Let me assure you, my disease is more than a little inconvenience. When you are having a flare up or dealing with an active lesion it is quite unpleasant and very debilitating.
I spent the majority of my 20s really sick trying different disease modifying therapies. Eventually one of the DMT's worked and I started to stabilize more in my late 20s. By the time I was 30, I felt almost like a normal contributing member of society again. That is the year I opened Bella Foodie. I can't say I will ever be happy that I am living with MS, but I can say it helped me find my passion for sharing healthy food and wellness practices. I am not sure at 21 I could have imaged that I'd become a business owner and have a life that I am so grateful for, but here I am! I know I will have bad days and good days with my disease, but I am grateful for everything I have learned along the way.