What My MS Diagnosis Taught Me

By: Stacie Prada

My multiple sclerosis diagnosis was sudden and unexpected. Unlike others who undergo years of testing, monitoring, and uncertainty, my diagnosis occurred within two months after a major MS exacerbation. While it was a turbulent and scary experience, at least it was relatively quick.

Because my diagnosis was swift and not anticipated, I learned serious illness can be invisible. Being healthy and having a chronic illness can both be true in the same body. Things are not what they appear. Ultimately, I learned my normal wasn’t normal.

My diagnosis taught me there would likely be drastic physical and irreversible consequences if I continued to live my life as I had been. Because I had so many lesions in my spinal cord and hadn’t recognized my MS symptoms for what they were, I realized MS had damaged my body for years before my diagnosis. This made it clear to me that regularly working long hours, pushing myself to exhaustion, and putting other people’s needs before my own would lead to further disease progression and disability. I understood there would be things I couldn’t control, and in the best of circumstances I may not be able to change the course of my disease, but I was determined to give it my best shot to change the trajectory of my health.

It’s been a long, methodical process changing my life to align with my body’s needs, and I’m fortunate it’s made a difference. It’s been scary, and I learned I can gather the courage I need to get through the scariness. It’s been exhausting, and I learned I can and must build rest into my schedule. It’s been heartbreaking, and I learned the right relationships will accept and adapt to change. I learned I can live with people’s disappointment, and I learned people who truly care for me won’t be disappointed when relationships, plans, and expectations need to change for my well-being.

I learned I could still have ambition, but I needed to have realistic and compassionate expectations for myself. I realized I was the one putting a lot of pressure on myself, and I learned I can live with disappointment when I can’t do everything I want. I wanted to be a superwoman, and I learned I needed to rethink my goals. I learned I can still have purpose, fulfillment, and tremendous joy by accommodating my body’s needs.

In more than 15 years since my surprise MS diagnosis, I’ve changed my partner, my home, and my career path. It’s been a wild ride dealing with challenges, improving my self-awareness, and adapting continuously. I didn’t choose this life, but I’ve chosen how to live it.

I’ve matured, evolved, and become more myself than I ever would have allowed without this initial diagnosis and subsequent journey. My relationships, career, and experiences have far exceeded those I imagined before my MS diagnosis.

To anyone experiencing a new MS diagnosis, I wish you all you need to navigate an extremely challenging life event. I hope you have or find people to support you in your journey, and I hope you find contentment and fulfillment within the limits of things beyond your control. I promise it’s possible.

*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 just shy of 38 years old.  Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope, and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/

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About MSAA

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit www.mymsaa.org or call (800) 532-7667.

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