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January 1st, 2012

I awoke on January 1st of the year 2012 with a great anticipation to start the day, as I always do. My mind clicked on, as it always does, as I let out a great sigh of relief. Yes, thankful for another day; another day to make progress in life toward whatever goal(s) I had to accomplish that day. Letting out a great stretch to release the curled up muscles in my body, I anticipated a normal reaction. I naturally turned over to swing my legs off of the bed and effortlessly make my way to the bathroom.

That particular morning was different though. That morning was the first morning I was introduced to a new way of being; a new way of moving. Things would be immensely different from any other day I had ever experienced. It was on that day, that life changed. I had no control; my right hand, cold and motionless. My right leg, ankle and toes, held no feeling. My head stung with an indescribable pain as I attempted to walk to the bathroom. With each step that I took, I struggled, swinging my right leg to emulate a normal walking motion. This was new. But sometimes new is not a pleasant experience.

This was the first time I can vividly remember, when I was introduced to my new found body, which looked exactly the same as it did that day before. There was nothing visually different. It was 2 days before the end of winter break, for us college students, and I had been working with a neurologist to figure out what was going on inside of my body all of that prior fall semester. Visiting my parents for the break, I remember hearing my mother’s voice over the sound of my phone ringing when I exited the bathroom. She expressed to me that the neurologist was calling. We were anticipating this call for a few days, hoping he had answers to cure the peculiar symptoms I had been experiencing for a length of time. My mother and father anxiously gathered around the phone as I answered it on speaker phone, for all of us to hear what he had to say. The following conversation was among the most life changing information I had ever heard. The neurologist explained how after reviewing my MRI, he came to a strong conclusion that I had contracted a chronic disease known as multiple sclerosis (MS for short), medical jargon for “many scars.” Many scars had accumulated and developed on my brain and down the base of my spine. After a brief explanation of the illness, he went on to explain that there was no way to tell how any person with the illness contracted it, and that there was no, known, cure to eliminate this illness. The illness attacks every patient differently. I was to visit him upon returning to school and speak on my options as far as treatment for the disease. My ears fell deaf as my whole reality had come to a halt. My mind refused to believe what I heard coming from the other side of that phone. “No cure.” I remember hearing those words ringing through my head for the entire day. After all, I was still mobile- as mobile as one can be for a person with MS. Happy New Year, huh?

The following days before returning to campus were filled with conversations as to whether or not I should even return to school and continue my studies. Would I take some time off and figure out how my new found body works? No. For me, there was no other choice but to ignore it and return to my life as I knew it. I could still walk (severe limp) and drive (became part of my personal therapy). Plus, college was too liberating and filled with great experiences and learning opportunities. No! Nothing was going to stop me from returning to school. I was turning 20 years old the next month. It was my junior year. It was the prime of life for someone my age. This was the time when a young person is supposed to enjoy life to the fullest and work hard toward their goals, dreams and aspirations. Not worry about health problems. I never thought it would reach that point. Regardless, I decided to give it my best shot. I never thought that I would lose my ability to run, write, walk with a normal gait, or move my toes. I “look normal,” but have not felt normal for years.

The phrase, “You never know what you have until it is gone.” That sentence was proven to me that year, in 2012, and every year after that. For whatever reason(s), my body decided to give up on me. I was left with no choice but to learn to work with it and fight through every day to make it my best day.

I share this small portion of my battle with MS to help the person reading to remember that life is precious. Through this encounter with MS I have battled with strong bouts of swinging depression, substance abuse and finding myself again. And although I still have a ways to go, in terms of education, accruing the proper funds to possibly eliminate the disease form my body and just living life as a whole, there is always a silver lining. There is always a way to make a difference. There is always a bright side if you wake up every day to work through that day. Although it will prove difficult and at times may seem pointless and impossible, you are still here for a greater reason than you know. No matter what happens in your life, as long as you have an opportunity for another day, you have as choice to create, build and grow; no matter how small. This is simply a reminder to keep your head up! Someone is always watching. Keep being the difference.

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