The lessons that living with MS has taught me are abundant. I have lived with this disease since I was in my very early 20s. Some of the most pivotal years of a young person’s life. I had big dreams of being a sports reporter. I did seven internships throughout my college career at Penn State University. The truth was, I was just downright hungry and would do whatever it took to be able to say, “I made it.”
My last year of college was a pretty exciting time for me. I had just finished an internship with the B1G Ten Network. The show I helped produce won an Emmy Award, and I had just landed a new gig straight out of college for an ABC affiliate in Harrisburg, PA. I was about to take on the biggest news story living in the sports and news world at that moment. Penn State was amidst a horrible scandal that rocked the nation. I was assigned to cover the courtroom news for this story. I spent eight weeks living in a trailer parked in a Walmart parking lot close to the courthouse. I was doing live shots next to CNN, Fox, ABC, and ESPN. I was on top of the world, or so I thought…
My career started to take flight, and I soon found myself working for a bigger market NBC affiliate. It was not long after I accepted that job that my life would come to a screeching halt. I would be diagnosed with MS 6 months to the day of starting this new “dream job.” I was unable to speak, pronounce, or even find words, my walking was disabled, and I could not feel the right side of my body. Needless, to say I thought my career as a whole was over. Luckily, the network I worked for was so kind and let me continue working if I felt I was able to. I started on treatments and thought I was ready to jump back in. It turns out that I was not ready. My brain was certainly not ready, and not able to do all that I was asking it to do. I sadly had to step down from my dream role. It was heartbreaking, to say the least.
I would soon learn that this diagnosis was a stepping-stone to a bigger issue. I would be able to teach people what MS is. I vowed to myself that I would be an open book about this disease, so others could learn and understand more about it. Most importantly, I wanted people who don’t live with a chronic illness to know that it is hard. Not just in our daily lives, but it can destroy dreams, ruin relationships, and change a person’s identity.
As I progressed in my career, I learned not everyone is going to understand, and that’s okay. I have been made fun of, joked about, and called “stupid.” Those kinds of things don’t and never will bother me. Finding peace in your diagnosis takes time. Allow yourself to grieve the person you thought you’d be and embrace the new person this illness will turn you into. I am stronger than I was before my diagnosis and will continue to grow into the kind, understanding, and positive woman I very proudly find myself to be, with, or without MS.
Give yourself a hug and look at how far you’ve come. All the mountains you’ve moved. All of the obstacles you have overcome. JUST. KEEP. GOING.
By the way, on camera, or not, I MADE IT. 😉