When were you diagnosed with MS? September 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?
On September 4, 2019, almost three weeks before my 36th birthday, I was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. It all started after being at a happy hour with a co-worker/friend celebrating our first week back at work. I was working at a high school as a Dean of Students at the time and I fainted out of nowhere. I just remember one moment I was at the bar and the next I was waking up on the sidewalk. In the days following, I lost feeling on the left side of my body. I sought out medical advice from my PCP amongst other doctors and after about a month of different tests being run bloodwork, MRIs, etc., I received my diagnosis. Initially, my diagnosis felt like a death sentence. I immediately had a panic attack and I slipped into depression. I felt so alone and being 700 miles away from home didn't help one bit.
#2: What MS symptoms do you have and how do you manage them on a daily basis?
My MS symptoms are pretty mild, but they include numbness, tingling, weakness, neuropathy, muscle spasms, drop foot, vertigo, incontinence, fatigue, and depression. I manage them with prescription medications and a DMT called Tysabri. I am also intentional about eating properly and getting adequate rest.
#3: Who/What has been your most important support system?
Almost immediately following my diagnosis, I shut down. I was emotionally and spiritually broken. I sought some help because, I was fresh out of coping mechanisms and was soon diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I chose to go to therapy and it was the best decision that I could have made for myself. My only regret is not starting therapy sooner. Also having an amazing support team and my faith in God has helped me cope with my diagnosis.
#4: Do you use any accessories like canes, walkers, or wheelchairs to manage daily activities?
No, I don't use any accessories or aides to help manage my daily activities.
#5: How do you stay positive and motivated in your daily life? What do you do for self-care?
Despite the many obstacles that I face when it comes to having MS, I continue to remain determined to live my life to the fullest and be an example of strength for others facing similar challenges. For self-care, I have been intentional about scheduling joy every chance I get. I have created a "Calendar of Joy" where I have things scheduled with the people, places, and things that I love. This conscious effort causes me to leave the comfort of my home at least once or twice a month.
#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?
If you are facing a health challenge with MS, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Surround yourself with family and friends who can provide emotional and physical support, as well as connect you with resources such as physical therapists or other medical professionals. Additionally, take time for self-care. Make sure that you get enough rest and nutrition, both of which will help you manage your symptoms more effectively. Finally, stay positive. Remind yourself of the things that bring you joy in life and don't be afraid to ask for help when needed. These strategies will help empower you to take charge of your health and live a fulfilling life despite any challenges that may arise.
#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?
As a Multiple Sclerosis Warrior who felt alone when first diagnosed, I identified the need for a space where one could be educated, encouraged & empowered as they navigate the world while living with a chronic illness, disease, or condition. I created HERillestlife, Inc. A safe space created for black female chronic illness warriors who reimagines what it means to be ill. HERillestlife educates on different health topics, shares resources to help others navigate the healthcare system, encourages women to be advocates for themselves, and empowers women living with chronic illnesses to have a voice in order to live their illest lives. As someone who personally battles several health conditions every day, which include but are not limited to Multiple Sclerosis, I felt that if I am able to help at least one other woman who is in search of someone that looks like them, I have fulfilled my mission.
Recently, I became an MS Ambassador and MS Support Group Leader for the National MS Society! I will be leading my own self-help group for black women living with Multiple Sclerosis. The group is called “The Soulful Sunday Sesh: MS Gets On My Nerves, But I Keep Smyelin”. It will meet every 3rd Sunday of the month at 3:33 PM (eastern standard time). It is a hybrid model support group and in-person sessions will be held in a predetermined location within the metro Atlanta area. Please follow HERillestlife’s Facebook page for updates!
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