My name is Annie. In 2016 at only 23 years, I was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting MS.
My first relapse came on quite suddenly and was quite a shock. I had just started a pre-health course with the goal of becoming a nurse.
I began to experience numbness at first. Then I developed pins and needles in my left hand and leg. I thought that I had just slept the wrong way, so didn’t think more about it. But, when I began my course the next day my symptoms had worsened. All of a sudden I had difficulty in stringing a sentence together and began to slur my words.
I remember feeling very uneasy. Deep down I knew something wasn’t right. Suddenly my future looked uncertain. A part of me just wanted to ignore it.
I texted my mum to meet me at the bus stop. By then, the numbness had quickly spread down my left side and it began to affect my mobility. At this stage, I knew I had to be proactive. Seeing the fear in my mums’ eyes confirmed to me that I needed urgent medical help.
By the time I arrived at hospital, I could barely walk. At first the A&E doctors thought I was having a stroke as my symptoms were similar. After undergoing multiple scans, MRI’s and a lumbar puncher, it was confirmed. To this day, I will never forget those words “Annie, you have multiple sclerosis”.
But my journey had only just begun. The paralysis had spread to my entire left side.
I was transferred to the Brain Injury Unit at Burwood Hospital, in Christchurch, to begin extensive rehabilitation. For two months, I literally had to learn to walk again and to regain the use of my left arm.
I would be lying if I said that it was an easy journey. To be perfectly honest it was anything but easy. But I surrounded myself with as much support as I could. I called on all my inner strength and determination to win this fight. There were many tears of frustration, but, three years on, I am physically standing here today. And I can tell you, words cannot begin to describe how damn proud I am of myself!
I learned to adapt my lifestyle around my limitations with MS.
My memory gets foggy, I wobble on my feet and I stumble at times. My words and sentences get mixed up and sometimes I’m plagued with debilitating fatigue. Other times, I have difficulty processing information. My body tingles with pins and needles and general weakness. My hand and leg muscles spasm up. I have gotten used to sensations like lightning bolts shocking my entire body.
It is a roller coaster of emotions and a constant state of anxiety for me. But even though it’s scary facing MS, especially how unpredictable this disease is, I choose to focus on the positive.
I am not saying that MS is a blessing, but since my diagnosis I’ve become a stronger and braver woman, that I am now deeply proud of. MS has changed my outlook on life in so many ways. It has made me realise that having a positive mindset is the most powerful thing you can possess. And I’ve learned that it’s okay to put myself and wellbeing first.
I constantly reflect and focus on the positive and the amazing opportunities that have unfolded for me.
Since my diagnosis, there have been so many positive aspects that have come out from it. I regularly volunteer at my local MS society (The Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Society of Canterbury). I have been given the most wonderful opportunity to raise awareness on MS – to change the stigma around invisible illnesses.
Some of my closest friends are in the chronic illness community!
I have become far more knowledgeable about my general health and nutrition. In fact, I went on to lose a total 57kgs, which is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself!
I repeat daily;
“I will get through this, I will continue to fight with everything I have.
MS doesn’t have me, I have MS.
I’m not going to let this stop me from living my best life.” 💞
To read more stories see My Story. My Strength. My MS.