I was 25-years-old when I was diagnosed with MS and I was terrified to say the least. I had grown up hearing stories of how my grandmother spent her childhood caring for her father with MS. He could no longer walk or use his right hand. When the doctor explained that I was the most progressive case he had treated, I was worried about the longterm care of my family.
I went on permanent disability two years after my diagnosis.
Despite my initial fears, I found that being around my family and actually watching my son grow up has made all the difference. After living with MS for four years and with medication not effectively slowing the progression something changed within me. I started seeing the world differently. I no longer wanted to sit and watch life pass me by. If MS was going to chip away at the things I can do, I figured I'd better get out there and do everything I could while I still could.
I finally understood that even without MS, nobody is guaranteed tomorrow and this realization inspired me to do something. This is when I started telling my story to anyone who would listen. I wanted people to see that the time you do have is worth doing all the things you love. I wanted to share my journey with others who might be struggling through the same things. My purpose was to educate others who didn'tt understand what they were going through. Most of all I wanted to connect.
This was the beginning of Wheels & Red, a blog where I document and share our life battling MS. As a family, we love to be out adventuring in the world, meeting new awesome people and making priceless connections. So often when MS comes up, people know someone with MS but not all of the details of their experience. I enjoy telling people about our life and showing them that people with disabilities can prosper and live fulfilling lives.
I have made so many new awesome friends in the time since making an effort to connect with people. One of the most notable actions I took was to reach out directly to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I wasn't sure who I should contact, so I shot an email to the executive Vice President of Marketing. I figured if anything she would know who to connect me with and luckily I was right. The next week I was offered a featured spot on the MS Connections blog and was interviewed for a potential video project they were working on. The timing was amazingly perfect.
I started emailing all the people that I shared a digital connection with and to my surprise they were just as stoked to meet me. One of my favorites was Liz Jackson, writer of the amazing blog The Girl With The Purple Cane. I could not believe how excited she was to get to know me and we emailed each other everyday for a month. While the connections were all different, they were also all genuine.
All I had to do was reach out and say "Hey! You are awesome. Let's be friends!". Doing this has taught me that just because people don't know you doesn't mean they are not amazed to meet you. In the last six months I have made friends from LA to London. We are so lucky to live in a time of such connectivity. It really does bring people closer together and this is something I cherish daily.
I continue to talk to people and not only those with MS or other disabilties. I try to reach people to let them know they are not alone and that it would benefit them to seek out others for support. The truth is that we are not built to go through this journey alone. Each person you meet has so much to give, even you.
You never know who you are going to meet or where it could lead. Throughout my rich experiences, I have found that friendship is the best medicine I know.