My Multiple Sclerosis Story
By Melinda McCartney
I was diagnosed at the age of 34 with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. I had come from a life comprised of an over 10-year career of Firefighter/paramedic, HAZMAT and Weapons of Mass Destruction Training via the Department of Homeland Security, to one day going completely blind and walking into a brick wall. Thinking back as far as my mind will allow, I can recall suffering double pneumonia a few months before that. What truly stood out was my issue of suffering severe chronic migraines since the age of 7.
Granted, coming from a Native American/Alaskan Native background you learn to toughen up. Pay truly no attention to symptoms or look into what could really be an underlying effect of why the headaches were happening. I had always kept up with fitness and eating healthy, as both my parent suffered from diabetes due to health issues they had when I was younger. So, there wasn’t a question to being the sole provider of my family. Myself, my two sidekicks and my ex-husband now. Upon being diagnosed, my ex-husband decided it was better for him to go out and find a happier lifestyle of other women and drugs.
It was my time spent at Loma Linda Medical Center and then receiving my initial infusion treatments alone that I knew, I can do this!! I was still very blessed and needed to be grateful for my sidekicks for helping me count steps to be able to meander around the house, go grocery shopping and also balance our budget as I couldn’t see anything during a period of over 8 months. This was one of those #MyInvisibleMS moments, mine was sight.
Thankfully, prior to my introduction to meeting my infamous brick wall I had decided to slow my career down and be closer to home by my two sidekicks, who were 11 and 13. I had been employed at a federal medical facility when all of this went down. Health insurance is expensive and despite my company, federal or not, I still had to pay. Now I am as much of an #MSActivistCA as possible. Did I truly understand the pains of other ill patients that had gone through issues throughout my life and the stress load they carried? No, but I do now. I will support and ROCK awareness with them every day!
Here I stand today, with my vision back. I’m not in a place where I am supposed to be right now according to the medical world and to my form of Multiple Sclerosis. I am still going and wanting to share all I can with what I have. It took me two weeks of sick paid leave and then I was back at work showing all how you do things without vision. I am proud to be where I am today. Driving once again, volunteering at numerous National Multiple Sclerosis Society events when I can. Advocating awareness anywhere and everywhere, not just in my local community where there wasn’t any knowledge or resources, but throughout numerous states and even farther.
I may not remember everything, as that is one of the lasting symptoms. At this time I hold on to as much as I can along with pain, fatigue and whatever else this MS Journey wants to surprise me with every day. I was made #MIGHTYSTRONGMS for a reason, to be there to support and offer strength for others going through this journey with me…Nothing has stolen my fight, or my smile, and nothing will!