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MS and Choices

By Donna

My life has been full of choices, as well as challenges. A lot of these are self-inflicted, as I never seem to learn the easy way — and I'm very stubborn.

I've made choices that resulted in making life more difficult for myself, but isn't that just part of the process?

I chose to leave home at 18. I chose to smoke cigarettes (and eventually chose to quit). I chose to accept jobs that were too stressful. I chose eat unhealthy food which, inevitably, led to obesity and disease. All of these were my choices, and I take full responsibility for them.

But being diagnosed with MS in 1996, well, that wasn't my choice.

It was two weeks after my 28th birthday, and I had a slight bout of optic neuritis for the third time. I was referred for an MRI and told I had "early MS" of the Relapsing-Remitting variety, and that I would most likely not have many problems as my symptoms were faint and the episodes years apart.

So I went about my life and didn't consider MS a significant part of it. There was nothing to "manage." I was fine.

However, MS is unpredictable, and that all soon changed. In late 1998, I started experiencing numbness and tingling in my right hand. My right foot dragged when I walked for any length of time (I was getting out for "power walks" almost every day and stumbling home with blurred vision).

I refused to listen to my body.

I ignored the symptoms and kept doing what I was doing, figuring they would go away. Early in 1999 I started a new job which was — true to form — very stressful. Within two weeks I went totally blind in my right eye. My body continued its downward spiral and in March I hit my breaking point. I couldn't use the right side of my body, could barely walk, and I was still blind in one eye.

Doctor's orders: Stop working and go to bed!

I didn't know what I was going to do. I had no savings, no disability insurance and no inheritance on its way...I live alone and had always been a very strong and independent person, so this really threw me for a loop.

I could wallow in self-pity, become a victim and watch myself digress, or I could make the best of my situation. I could give MS a run for its money, or I could let it run me. I decided to rise to the challenge!

Now, I did not reach the place of empowerment I am in today overnight — and I did not do it alone.

The next couple of years were a struggle as I tried to manage my MS as well as make a living so I could stay independent. Self-employment was the best option; I could control my hours and work environment. No more Monday to Friday, 8 to 5 for me.

After a gruelling application process, I was accepted into a government-sponsored self-employment program that helped me start my business of bookkeeping services and business plan writing.

I had times where I felt my MS might be improving, but overall I was really deteriorating.

The injection drug I was prescribed was not working for me and the side effects were horrible. The pain was unbearable most days and the injections left behind huge bruises and bumps. After a particularly terrible MS attack in 2000, I decided to take myself off the drug and find my own route to managing this disease.

That was the real start of an amazing journey!

The years since have been incredible for me — personally, professionally, emotionally and MS-wise. I am in better health than I have been in years (although with the MS some would beg to differ; they see me with a cane, walker, wheelchair or scooter).

I know how I feel though, and I am much stronger and happier than I was in 2000 (and 40 pounds lighter!)

It has taken me all this time to find a program that suits me for managing my MS. I am still working towards "perfection" and 100 percent commitment, and I'm sure I always will until I am symptom free!!

However, diet modifications, supplements, LDN (Low Dose Naltrexone), exercise, lots of water and a positive attitude and outlook seem to be working for me.

My proactive approach led me to the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre, Sylvia Brown, and I eventually went on to form the MS With Attitude Association of Alberta, here in my hometown.

I think it's very important to have a support team — if it wasn't for my parents I don't know what I would do. I also have a brilliant group of people behind me in my quest. A great personal life skills coach, my family, wonderful friends, (in person and all over the world via the internet) and business clients round out my team.

MS is the gift that was given to me so I could learn and experience all I have the past few years.

I truly believe everything happens for a reason, and as my life is falling into place more so now than ever, I am living proof of that. Sometimes the "why" takes time to figure out, but it’s there if you're open to receiving it.

I can honestly say I am grateful for having MS, that it gave me the kick in the butt I needed and the outlook on life I have today. I wouldn't change a thing, and if I could go back and live the past 10 years over again without MS, I honestly would not do it.

So that brings us back to choices... no, I did not choose to have MS show up in my life. But I do choose every day how I feel about it, manage it and live with it.

As my friend Sylvie likes to say, "I can regard MS as my worst nightmare, or my greatest blessing. That is my choice.”

I know what my choice is!

Story used with the permission of Donna DeLorme, President of the MS With Attitude Association of Alberta, and edited for space/length. Please log onto Donna’s website site at http://donna.innereyes.com/ to read her personal blog and the full version of this story.

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