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Meet - Leisa Wallace

Utah, USA

When were you diagnosed with MS? April 2019

What type of MS do you have? Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS)

#1: Can you tell us a little about your journey with MS. How did you feel about your initial diagnosis and how it has affected your life?

It started with tingling in my toes. By the time I walked into the ER a few hours later, the numbness had moved up my legs, arms, hands, face and I was having a hard time swallowing. By the time the MRI was done, I couldn't move my legs.

As the doctor explained that I had lesions all over my brain and down my spine, all I could focus on were the words..."Aggressive onset Multiple Sclerosis". He assured me they would stop the attack, but MS had no cure.

The next few months were a blur. With the help of physical therapy, I relearned how to walk, but the numbness never went away completely. The realization that my life had taken an unexpected turn was a lot. But I was determined to face it with courage and resilience, clinging to the hope that healing and solutions would be found.

#2: What MS symptoms do you have and how do you manage them on a daily basis?

Four years later, my body wavers between numbness, cramping, intense pins and needles, migraines, and extreme fatigue. But there is hope. I try and navigate my symptoms by thinking ahead of what might go wrong, and having a plan in place if it does. I keep a symptom and trigger tracker with solutions for each. So even though MS is unpredictable, I am as prepared as I can be.

#3: Who/What has been your most important support system?

I feel extremely lucky to have my support system. In the small town where I live, the rural hospital pharmacist, Dave has had MS for over 20 years. From day one, he visited me in my hospital bed and educated me about what MS was and how it affected him. I'll never forget his smile when he stood at the foot of my bed and told me, "I can't feel my feet but, life is good." It was from him that I knew I could navigate MS with hope and happiness. He was my friend with MS that I could ask ALL of my questions too.

#4: Do you use any accessories like canes, walkers, or wheelchairs to manage daily activities?

I work really hard at being able to keep my mobility. But I still take a cane with me just in case I need extra support.

#5: How do you stay positive and motivated in your daily life? What do you do for self-care?

Over the years, I've learned so much about positivity and motivation. Mostly, that I don't have to be positive all the time. Mental therapy has taught me to feel all the emotions, and that if I push them away, they will come out in other ways. As for staying motivated, when I was first diagnosed, all my goals revolved around managing my symptoms. It was all about MS and I forgot all about the goals that filled me with light and happiness. My self-care has nothing to do with MS. It's writing, painting, gardening, and creating. If I can do those things, it's easier to want to manage MS. Those are the things that make my life worth living.

#6: Your story and experiences with MS are incredibly valuable and can provide encouragement and motivation to others in the community. What words of advice or encouragement would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed with MS or going through a challenging time right now?

I have lots of advice, all of the time. But these are my top 5:

1-Learn to trust your intuition;

2-Set goals that fill you with excitement;

3-Create if/then action plans. So when the unexpected happens (and it will) there is a plan in place;

4-Express gratitude and love to God;

5-Reach out to others. Not just to those with MS, but to anyone needing a pick-me-up. If you want to feel hope, give hope!

#7: Have you started a business or mission related to MS? Can you tell us about it and what inspired you to take this step?

During my second relapse, I was sent to the city hospital hours away from my home, family, and rural hospital pharmacist who had given me so much hope. It was here that I felt the despair of having MS. From my hospital bed, I began searching online for MS groups for support and found myself falling deeper into uncertainty. People begging for hope, but no one actually offering it. That's when I realized everyone needed a Dave or a BFF with MS who could show you "I can't feel my feet but life is good." As an author, I thought I could write a book showing that there was hope. I began interviewing people with MS asking "How did you find hope"? I compiled their stories into a book, I named "Project MS Blessed." I loved the hope shown as I read each story, BUT it didn't feel complete. So I started researching HOPE and began writing a second book. This time a self-help book that caters to MS and the science and actions around hope. It will be published in the fall of 2023. From there I started my Instagram account @Your_ bff_with_MS and website specifically designed with tips, tricks, and strategies on navigating MS with HOPE and JOY.

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