Don’t let MS beat you, beat MS. this is the story of brave women that stands tall even after getting hit so much. She knows how to keep her self up when MS is trying to bring her down. Don’t stop believing and always keep faith.
No doubt you’ve seen the advertisement — two women, sitting on an old wooden balcony, casually sipping tea. The elder is holding the younger woman’s hand, a single tear falls from her eye as she manages a caring smile. The voice over is discussing the debilitating effects of Multiple Sclerosis. The audience assumes that the cane, hung precariously on the edge of the table, belongs to the older woman, but then the younger one stands up.
She is visually impaired. She is crippled. She is twenty-something and she has Multiple Sclerosis.
That image shocked a lot of people — it shocked me. Nevertheless, being my normal blasé self, I, like thousands of other people, felt a moment of compassion, then was swept away by the next uplifting commercial.
I was about to embark on a fresh year and my mind was preoccupied with the details of tackling it. I was completely unprepared for the tumultuous events that were about to unfold.
When I arrived in Melbourne, I figuratively painted the town red — party all night and sleep all day, that’s how the saying goes, right? My career, that should have been important, was merely the backdrop for my partying existence, providing fuel to my fire.
Men came and went. I sang on stage and won singing competitions. I was even shouted a glass of red wine by Keanu Reeves — not that I realised it as I was too absorbed in relaying stories about the wild time I’d had the previous night! I was invincible, indestructible, and untouchable.
Then it struck me. I was singing away in the shower one morning when I noticed I couldn’t feel the usual pattering of water on the right side of my head. I stopped, shook my head, and waited for the feeling to return. It didn’t. Like most of the bad things that had ever happened to me, I laughed it off and dismissed it as nothing. I quietly continued working and partying, trying desperately not to connect it to other strange events, like the time I was semi-paralysed in my legs, or the strange burning sensation I sometimes felt just by touching my skin. I just moved right on.
One year later, I was in my first steady relationship since moving to Melbourne. My boyfriend and I were on a holiday discovering the wineries in the Barossa Valley on mountain bikes. I was carefree and happy. As we descended a large hill, he was fast gaining speed ahead of me. Suddenly my laughter stopped and I gulped in horror. I was travelling at over 30 kilometres per hour on a mountain bike with an approaching intersection, and I could barely see.
I was oblivious to the pain from the fall; instead, I picked myself up, brushed down my pants and waited for my vision to return. Again, I tried to dismiss the incident, and blamed it on too much alcohol and my allergic reactions to the grape harvest.
Deep down, I knew something wasn’t right. I didn’t dare tell my boyfriend. Instead, I popped copious amounts of Ibuprofen to numb the excruciating pain in my right eye. I endured the remainder of my holiday with a forced smile through clenched teeth. After all, I was invincible remember?
I hadn’t told my boyfriend I was waiting on results for some major tests I’d undertaken before our holiday. When we returned, I was so nervous about hearing the results, I deliberately missed my appointment. One week later, while sitting at my desk at work, I called my neurosurgeon and convinced him to breach his patient/doctor code of ethics by telling me the results over the phone.
Everything shrank into the background. No sound, no feeling, no image — except for that daunting television advertisement from two years prior. The image of Miss Invincible, Miss I-can-do-anything-be-anyone-say-anything, had just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age twenty-four.
I went through all the typical reactions to bad news. ‘Why me?’, ‘It’s not fair’, ‘I’m too young’, ‘There is so much I want to do with my life’.
In my life now as a writer, I can escape reality every now and then. But, regardless of the distractions life has to offer, five years on, I still find it hard to come to terms with this news. I am starting to think I probably never will.
Though hearing the diagnosis was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever encountered, in retrospect, I realise I’ve changed as a person since that day. Not because I was damned or a victim or sentenced to a life less fortunate, as many may view it, but because I learnt how ignorant my vision on life had been. A friend of the family had once told me to “slow down or life will pass you by too quickly”. He even gave me a wooden carving and a poem of the tortoise and the hare to remind me. He was absolutely right.
It doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is or what you choose to do with your life. What does matter is the way you choose to live it. And for me? I still choose to live a rich and fulfilling life. The only difference now is I am a lot more cognisant of my limits. I am no different to anybody else. I can’t change what happened and I am certainly not invincible.
Sure, there are days when I am so fatigued I can’t get out of bed, or can’t type because I’ve lost sensation in my hands. There are even days when I’ve lost my vision through over-exertion, but even though I just want to scream in frustration, I know that a bit of rest will see me right. It’s like anything else in life — if it all gets too much, you need to learn how to chill out, relax and enjoy the environment you are in, no matter how bleak it may seem at the time.
After all, you only have one shot at life, so go out and live it — don’t fear it.