Loosen The Fears That Bind You

Well, after five nights and a total of ten hours of sleep, I finally slept peacefully last night, thirteen hours to be exact.

WHOO HOO, Monday night, November 16, my dad called me and told me that my MRI was STABLE and the exact same as my last MRI that I had in May. Not a single new plaque or lesion, not even one. This hasn’t happened since I had my first MRI in August of 2013 which showed nine lesions. After two years, six MRIs, and three medicines, I finally got some good news, great news actually, the best news I could have gotten.

My dad said he got butterflies in his stomach when he opened up that MRI and after checking it multiple times to make sure he was seeing this correctly--no new lesions--he called me and told me the fantastic news. I bursted into tears immediately, all of this stress and anxiety I had was finally gone. I honestly feel like I can breathe better today and I sure did sleep better last night!

When I was lying in that MRI machine yesterday, listening to Ben Howard drown out the beatings of the drums inside that tube:

FEAR

“My my, cold hearted child, tell me how you feel
Just a blade in the grass, spoke unto the wheel
My my, cold hearted child, tell me where it's all gone
All the luster of your bones, those arms that held you strong
I've been worryin' that my time is a little unclear
I've been worryin' that I'm losing the ones I hold dear
I've been worryin' that we all, live our lives, in the confines of fear”

I realized that no matter what I tell myself, or tell anyone else, I am scared of MS and I think it’s ok. I have decided that I don’t want it to hold me back from my life, even though I’m realizing it may be a decision that I have to continually remind myself to make. It’s easy to curl up into a ball and think about how terrible the cards you have been dealt are, the hard thing is waking up every morning and deciding that you aren’t going to let MS defeat you. I hope you decide to do the same. After bad news, after bad news for two years, I think I really needed this good news for my mental health! My friends are pretty pumped too.

IMG_4251.PNG

 


I know that even if the results were negative, I still have so many friends/family that still love me and are ok with me being happy or sad or anywhere in between. Maybe as reassuring as the test results were, the happiness I was able to share with my friends and family, and the knowledge that I will continue to have people to share the highs and lows of this journey with is what keeps me going. Make sure you surround yourself with these people, they are a huge part of your motivation to keep you going.

 

For now, my friends, family, and I will celebrate but I know that the next time I get bad news, they will be here for me no matter what. Well first I'm going to get some sleep.

This life will move you with every step outside,
It's alright, it's alright
My arms are open wide for you
This life will move you as graceful as the tide
It's alright, it's alright
Loosen the fears that fears that bind you.
Loosen the fears that fears that bind you.

--Ben Howard "Cloud Nine"

 

Alone In The Unknown

(This was written Sunday, November, 15, before my MRI the next day)

As I sit at my friend's house watching the Patriots vs Giants football game, everyone is talking about how nervous they are for the outcome of the game, and all I can think about is the outcome of this MRI I have tomorrow morning. I haven't told anyone here yet about the test tomorrow besides Glenn. They probably think I’m just in a quiet mood because it’s Sunday and I’m exhausted. Yet again, I find myself wanting everyone to think I'm ok. I know that my friends are supportive of me and would do anything for me, but my biggest fear is becoming the person who is always sad and trying to bring everyone's mood down by talking about her hardships. The last thing I want is sympathy from people, especially my friends. Even though I've been through so much with these people a part of me is terrified of sharing my struggles, even though I know it's irrational.

I know I won't sleep well tonight because of my anxiety rising about the possibility of getting the same results I've gotten my last MRIs. I actually haven’t gotten more than two hours of sleep at night since Wednesday because of how stressed I am for this test tomorrow. I guess that’s what happens when I tend to keep everything inside. Instead of talking about how anxious I am for these results, I keep it all in, and then don’t sleep for several nights.  

Since August 2013, I’ve never gotten good results from an MRI. I’ve always had additional white spots and I’ve had to switch medicine twice. If I have more plaques on my MRI tomorrow, I will have to switch to my 4th medicine. It’s hard to describe how I’m feeling, it’s scarier than terrifying because the unknown always seems to be greater greater than anything I can fathom. I'm 25 and instead of stressing about a football game and my fantasy teams, I'm stressing about the results of my immune system attacking my nervous system. While the boys are wishing they would’ve chosen a different quarterback, I’m wishing I could’ve chosen a different immune system. I trust my friends with my life, but the last thing I want is to stress them out with my issues. We all have different things going on in our lives, and I care about their problems just as much as they care about mine.

I’m stressing about if the medicine I’ve been religiously taking twice a day for the past six months, despite the uncomfortable flushing and redness I get all over my body, has slowed down my MS progression at all. I’m scared that the past six months have just been another waste with another medicine that hasn’t been working. It takes six months for a medicine to show its effects, which is why we have to wait that long. All I can hear is the beating in my head of the MRI machine as I lay there and listen to my favorite artist, Ben Howard, trying to listen to his calming words as the radiology techs watch my fate from a computer screen on the other side of the wall.

When I first get into the MRI machine, and they put the headphones on and the football helmet over my head, and slide me into the tube, I always shed a few tears, but quickly blink several times to get them to go away. I can’t have a meltdown in the MRI machine; they would tell me to stop moving. My mind always goes to some pretty dark places while in that tube. I try to be positive, but sometimes this is all just too much for me. One of my biggest rocks during this entire journey has been my roommate from college, Lauck--one of the few people I can actually be honest with. I’m texting her tonight about my anxiety and she reassures me that I don't have to put all of this on my shoulders She assures me that everyone would be more worried if I wasn't nervous, and that everyone is here for me. Here are a few texts between us:

Lauck: “Well let’s go into it being positive and not in the mindset that something’s wrong. I know it’s hard not to worry but stress hurts you more”
Me: “I was just so certain last time that they wouldn’t find anything because I felt so ok”
Lauck: “Well hopefully now it’s the opposite. You’re nervous and everything is ok.”
Me: “I’m not gonna sleep a wink again tonight”
Lauck: “Yeah, I think that’s really understandable because you’ve gotten shitty news each time. I just really hope that it goes well! This shit is scary. You could write a blog post about how you’re feeling right now!” (I then started typing this in a note on my phone)
Me: “I’m sitting at Thomas’ right now with Glenn, Tanner, and Logan trying not to cry. I don’t want them to think I’m scared or a baby”
Lauck: “There is nothing wrong with you breaking down about this. You have every single right to be afraid but you put it all on your shoulders. We are all here for you Meg and won’t look at you differently for being scared. It would be so shocking if you weren’t nervous.”

 

So as you can see, Lauck is the bomb.
 

We will find out soon enough!!!!

 

Balance: Part 1

The definition of balance: an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady; a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

Balance is something I have always struggled with.

 I have always been a social butterfly so figuring out how to keep up with my friends/social life, family, school, and sports was a huge challenge during high school. One thing I did have working for me during this time was during the week, when I got home from school or sports, I would do my homework, talk to my family, text my friends, and go to bed. During college I struggled juggling family, friends, school, and a serious, long distance boyfriend; but I learned to manage it after a few rough semesters.

Do you know what has been even harder than any of this? Balancing friends, family, two/three jobs, health and my MS. In high school and college I was easily able to compartmentalize my life and once I completed everything on my list, I could dedicate all my time to friends, family, and my relationships. I quickly found there is no easy checklist for my health and MS though. It is something that I continue to have to figure out. Even after I get home from work, on the weekends, and during holidays, no matter how much I would like, I’m realizing it's not as easy as drawing a check inside of a nice neat box beside “MS.”

(When I first started writing this particular blog, my plan was to make one long blog about balance. The more I reflect on it, though, I have decided to make it into a little series about the many ups and downs I’ve had throughout my MS journey thus far, trying to find my “perfect” balance. So stay tuned!)

When I first was diagnosed I researched all the diets, vitamins, workout routines and even bee venom (some say it helps reduce inflammation where the myelin is being attacked.) I came across Terry Wahl's TedTalk, "Minding Your Mitochondria." She is a physician:

"I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis in 2000, around the time I began working at the university. By 2003 I had transitioned to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. I underwent chemotherapy in an attempt to slow the disease and began using a tilt-recline wheelchair because of weakness in my back muscles. It was clear: eventually I would become bedridden by my disease."

Soon after I watched her TedTalk I went to Barnes & Noble and immediately bought her book, The Wahls Protocol and went home and highlighted, folded and made a booklet of notes summarizing and listing what I should and shouldn't be eating. Wahls researched what supplements were recommended to help protect the mitochondria (the part of the cell that takes in nutrients and breaks them down) within brain cells that communicate with parts of the body to function. She then decided to consume those nutrients through solid food instead of taking them as supplements. I put myself on The Wahls Diet, which is VERY similar to the Paleo Diet. The difference between Paleo and Wahls is that Wahls does not allow any grains or eggs. Dr. Wahls is allergic to eggs which is why she didn't include them in her diet, but I love eggs and knew they were allowed in Paleo, so I allowed them in mine.

Here is a very brief outline of The Wahls Diet:

DAILY-

3 cups of raw dark leafy greens (kale)

3 cups raw intensely colored vegetables and fruit (beets, berries, carrots)

3 cups raw organic sulfur-rich vegetables (cabbage, onions, asparagus, mushrooms)

Seaweed

A FEW TIMES PER WEEK-

Omega 3 fatty acid foods (wild fish, such as salmon, sardines, herring)

Grass fed organic meat

Organ meat (brain, liver, tongue)

Regular bone broth

Fermented foods

NOT ALLOWED-

Any processed foods

Legumes (peanuts, beans)

Grains (bread, rice)

Many different types of oil such as vegetable oil (I used coconut mostly)

Chris' lovely artwork he sent me the day we started Paleo/Wahls

Chris' lovely artwork he sent me the day we started Paleo/Wahls

Now some of you might read this and think "come on, that can't be that hard, you still get meat, veggies, and fruit." Well, like I said, I love hanging out with my friends and going to restaurants.  Ordering a piece of steak (which was probably a strike because I doubt they were grass fed) with steamed broccoli (another strike since it wasn’t raw) instead of the delicious garlic whipped mashed potatoes was not fun. The good part was, my boyfriend at the time, Chris (who I’m still very good friends with), is an ultra-marathoner--yes, he runs 100 mile races for fun over mountains.

When I discovered Terry Wahls, Chris was already looking into going Paleo. So we went to the library one night and checked out every MS diet and Paleo book there. We made a grocery list of about 332489 items, went to grocery store, and bought two whole new pantries. We would make the dishes together and pack them for lunch and dinner. A lot of these dishes would be a gigantic bowl of raw kale, cranberries, cucumbers, onions, and whatever else was in our refrigerators, topped with balsamic vinegar (no oil) or grass fed beef stir fried with peppers, onions, and mushrooms. We were both working at restaurants a few blocks away from each other, so we would bring each other meals a lot. This was very helpful because I had someone who was in this with me and we never wanted to be the first person to cheat. We were very serious about it for about three months. Then slowly we fell off the caveman wagon.

Chris explains a meal he dropped off at work for me

Chris explains a meal he dropped off at work for me

We first slipped up with a piece of bread and then noodles. It was just all downhill from there. I am not saying anything bad about the Wahls Protocol OR Paleo, and if you have the willpower to eat this way, more power to you, but it is HARD. If you do try it, I HIGHLY recommend not doing it alone. I don’t think I would’ve gotten half as far without support from Chris and the fact that we were doing it together. It is so important to surround yourself with supportive and positive people. It is not something that Chris or I could incorporate into our lifestyles. The most important thing that I learned from that experience is that diets for a chronic lifetime disease--or an ultra-runner, or anyone in general--need to become part of your lifestyle.

Every time I ate I felt like it was a chore. I found myself skipping meals because it became such an annoyance to go through so much preparation. Like I said, if you can live by those guidelines, I have nothing but respect for you, but we couldn’t. My whole life was becoming centered around this diet. Chris and I were skipping out on hanging out with our friends and having meals with our families because we were dedicated to sticking to this. We were spending almost every minute we weren’t working either making food or researching and making lists of food we could eat or grocery shopping. It was way too much work for us. As someone that has a GREAT appreciation for food, especially being in the restaurant industry, this was hard. Having something I love become another burdensome part of MS just didn’t feel right to me. I feel like a part of learning to balance is not sacrificing the parts of life that give you joy but figuring out how to change them to make them work within your chosen lifestyle.

I was not balancing my family, friends, jobs, health and MS. My whole life had become focused on the MS/Health side of the scale.

My Short Lived Double Life

 A few weeks before I moved to Richmond, I was told that the doctors thought I had MS but I was basically in the waiting stage, also known as “CIS” (Clinically Isolated Syndrome). CIS is used to describe a person’s first symptoms of MS while doctors are determining what the official diagnosis is. People can have CIS and never go on to have another flare up, and therefore never being diagnosed with MS. Six months down the road, I officially got the word but, in the meantime, I wanted to go about my life and hope it would never develop into Multiple Sclerosis.

Me and Emily

Me and Emily

I moved to Richmond to “start my adult life” and signed a year lease with my best friend, Emily in The Fan (where most post grad young adults live in Richmond.) Emily and I were at Ikea one afternoon (I was wearing my eye patch at this time) and I remember being close to an anxiety attack because of how much my eyes were messing up. Ikea is overwhelming for anyone; imagine Ikea in triple. Emily and I made our way through the store when I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to brush this off and go back to the way my life was before. My life was forever changed and it was time to accept that.

My new job in Richmond was an event promotion assistant for a couple different radio stations. This meant lots of late nights and early mornings, driving a big radio car, and long hours. I didn’t want to tell my new employer and coworkers what was going on because I wanted to be “normal.” I would wear my eye patch while driving and take it off whenever I got to my destination and would try to close one eye if I really needed to see something. I was exhausted from working multiple events in a day, sometimes working up to 17 hours in a day. Along with juggling my new job, I was trying to hang out with Emily and our friends in Richmond, keep up with my friends back in Fredericksburg, and drive up to Fredericksburg for doctor’s appointments all the time. I was spending more and more time in Fredericksburg because that’s where I felt most comfortable, it was my home. I needed to feel this comfort and be in a place where I didn’t have to act like nothing was going on. In the back of my mind I knew the best thing for me was to move home and be with my family and work at a place I felt comfortable. I didn’t want to accept that MS was affecting me so much that I needed to move back to Fredericksburg. I also didn’t want to disappoint Emily because we loved our apartment so much and loved living together; something we had dreamed of doing ever since we were little girls. I didn’t want to disappointment my coworkers and quit the radio job and come clean about my diagnosis, and I didn’t want to disappointment my parents in telling them that I really needed to just come home and I wasn’t actually doing “fine” like I kept telling them multiple times every day. They spent a lot of money on brand new furniture for my apartment and I felt terrible that we had to just put it back in a moving truck and place it in our basement. I was embarrassed that I had to move back home because of this disease after trying so hard to just ignore it, I felt like it had defeated me.

Emily of course understood why I needed to move home, but I felt awful about it. Not only was I leaving her in an apartment by herself, but she was going to keep trucking forward with her post grad life and I was going backwards, back to Fredericksburg, back to The Happy Clam (the restaurant I managed,) and back to my parents’ house. Looking back on this time of my life I truly believe making this decision was the best thing for me but I still wonder “what if.” What if I never got diagnosed, what if I somehow managed to stay in Richmond during this crazy time, and what if I never left that apartment with Emily. I can’t explain the roller coaster of emotions I went through during this time, but I know that if I tried to keep working 15 hour days with people that had no clue what was going on and establish a life in a new city, something very bad would have happened. It is so important with MS to get enough sleep and to not let yourself get stressed out, and those were two things that I was struggling with in Richmond. I almost felt like I was living a double life, I tried to act like nothing was going on at work and around my friends, but I really was exhausted, seeing in double/triple, and most of the time just wanted to cry.

Emily, Sarah, Mary, and Me at Haunt

Emily, Sarah, Mary, and Me at Haunt

Emily and I have always been obsessed with roller coasters so we decided to go to Haunt at Kings Dominion with our other two friends, Sarah and Mary. I was determined to not let my MS stop me from doing these spooky Halloween traditions. We arrived at the park in the early evening, the sun was going down. We rode a few roller coasters and I was fine besides my normal double vision but as it got darker and darker outside and the more neon lights lights came out it got tougher and tougher. I remember looking up at a roller coaster and it just being a blur, lights everywhere, and the monsters jumping out everywhere mixed with the screaming was just a bit too much for me. I sat down with the girls and they reassured me that we could leave, but I didn't want to ruin their good time. I didn't want to be the sick girl that had to go home. I walked around with the help of Emily's hand guiding me throughout the park for a bit longer, but then we realized it was time to go, it was too much for me to handle. It's these occasions that I realized I couldn't live in denial of this disease, this was happening whether or not I accepted it.

If you’re newly diagnosed with MS or with any disease, it is so important to be honest with yourself, with your friends, and with your family. It is SO okay, to not be okay all the time. This is something that I have learned in the past two years, something that took a while for me to accept. We just got diagnosed with a lifelong incurable disease; obviously we aren’t going to be okay! It is going to take a while to accept and face this, but it is so much easier if you have people behind you. You can’t do this on your own, you really can’t. It is totally acceptable to call up a family member and ask for them to drive you somewhere or tell your friends you can’t make that party you are just way too exhausted, I promise they will be more understanding than you think.

 

 

The Trio Wear Eyepatches

When my dad and doctor sat me down and told me I had MS I was speechless, as most of you probably were. They explained to me what this meant and it sounds terrifying. I remember listening to the words "MS happens when your immune system attacks your myelin, which wraps around your nerve fibers to protect them. Without this outer shell, your nerves become damaged and scar tissue may form. The damage means your brain can’t send signals through your body correctly. Your nerves also don’t work as they should to help you move and feel." That is a lot to process for anyone, but especially to a 23 year old young adult who just moved to Richmond and started a new job.

I went home (to my parents house) and cried in my bedroom. I had no idea what was going to happen. The next few days I had to decide if I was going to live in a bubble, only eat organic veggies and fruit, never drink alcohol again, and basically revolve my life around my MS. I decided that I would make a few lifestyle changes (not party and drink as much but still have fun, work out more, eat healthier) but I wasn't going to stop living the life I wanted, because then I would be letting MS define me. Once I decided that I was going to put MS on my back and carry it up the mountain instead of just stopping the climb, it was time to tell my friends.

I first started by telling my best friends that it was officially MS. Obviously I had been keeping them updated during the six months of the diagnosis, but we were all in denial. We honestly were hoping that there was a mistake and I wouldn't have another flare up, and the official diagnosis would never come. At the beginning of this whole thing I had a close friend tell me "Meghan, you're more likely to have AIDS than MS" which then started a huge argument between him and a few of my best friends who were sticking up for me. Let's just say, that guy and I aren't as close as we once were, and this is something that you have to be prepared for. I have talked to a few young adults who lost a few friends over this process too, you will quickly find out who your true friends are. When you start telling people, be prepared for all kinds of reactions. A lot of people have no clue what MS is so they will say "oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, you look so good though" and I would have to explain that MS is something that goes on inside my body, you can't visually see it. Some people will treat you like you're on your deathbed and you just have to not let that get to you, because you aren't.

People you are close to might be angry at first (as shown above with the AIDS comment) and some might be sad. My two best guy friends, Nick and Glenn, who I spend most of my time with, were absolutely perfect through the whole thing. The three of us call ourselves "The Trio" (real original, I know.) I remember sitting in Nick's basement around his table and looking up MS and trying to figure out what it all meant. We all shed a few tears and laughed about how the next time I mess up in a beer pong game, and Glenn yells at me, I can blame it on my MS (I have never had good coordination.) During this time I was wearing an eye patch to correct my double vision, and the boys decided they would wear one too so I didn't feel so out of place. People wouldn't ask as many questions if three of us were wearing an eye patch. We were all working at the seafood restaurant at this time, and I was embarrassed to wear the eye patch to work, but luckily my fellow pirates made me feel more comfortable. Once I had these two behind me, I was ready to start telling more people. I think it's important to slowly start telling your friends and family, doing it all at once or even over a few days, would be too emotionally draining. I told Nick and Glenn, and Nick's younger brother who is in the photo on the right, and we all had a few days to talk about it, and then I slowly began telling others. Allow your friends time to process this information, it is hard for them too! I saw how much this affected Nick and Glenn and how truly worried they were about me, and their pure interest in learning about the disease, and I realized this was going to be a hard journey for all of us.

Glenn strikes a pose his eye patch, me and Nick (with my beautiful eye patch), Travis (Nick's brother, another good friend of mine)

Glenn strikes a pose his eye patch, me and Nick (with my beautiful eye patch), Travis (Nick's brother, another good friend of mine)

Trying To Understand Your New Diagnosis

Being diagnosed with MS is not only one of the scariest things someone may ever go through but the process is extremely annoying. My neurologist told me to think of the process as court, innocent until proven guilty. We had to rule every other possible diagnoses out before it is officially diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis. At this time, there are no symptoms, laboratory tests, or physical findings, that can by themselves determine if someone has MS. In order for a doctor to make an MS diagnosis, they must meet this criteria:

  • Find evidence of damage in at least two separate areas of the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves (can be seen on MRI)
  • Patient must have at least 2 attacks lasting at least 24 hours and separated by at least a month
  • Rule out all other possible diagnoses

I remember thinking "so you people think I have MS but you can't diagnose me with it because I only saw double for 6 weeks once? Now I have to just wait until something else happens?" I had another flare up shortly after my first which affected my eyes again so my doctors were able to officially diagnosis me with MS in February 2014, even though my symptoms first started August of 2013. 

Some diagnoses that will be ruled out are:

  • Lupus
  • Lyme Disease
  • Stroke
  • Fibromyalgia

After getting told that you don't have any of the other diagnoses, and you've seen the plaques on your MRI, and you've had two attacks (or more,) your doctor can say those dreaded words "you have officially been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis." For me it was kind of a sigh of relief "finally we can say what we all have thought for months" but then all of these questions pop into your head:

  1. How did I get MS?
    • Anyone can, it is usually diagnosed in your 20s and 30s, it is more common in women, more common in temperate climates (United States, Canada, Europe)
  2. How is MS treated?
    • No cure but there are therapies and medicines that can slow progression and help control symptoms
  3. Will my MS ever go away?
    • No, it is a lifelong disease
  4. What are the common symptoms of MS?
    • Tingling, Numbness, Loss of Balance, Weakness, Blurred or Double Vision, Fatigue, etc.

Everyone's MS is different, it isn't a textbook disease where we all have the same symptoms and outcomes. So far the only symptoms I've really experienced are fatigue, dizziness/vertigo, and double vision. I have a good friend with MS and her first symptoms were numbness and sharp pains in her legs. A piece of very important advice I have for you is to NOT get online and start looking at videos of MS bedridden patients. I had a few friends find a video of a lady with MS who was in a wheelchair and had to have a monkey take care of her (feed her, help her drink, help her take her medicine, etc.) This was just a few short weeks after my diagnosis and I was certain I was going to need a monkey by the end of the year. But hey, look! I really am fine and am without monkey. Our symptoms and bodies are all so different that you can't look at someone's MS journey and think yours is going to be the exact same.

 

 

Blessing in Disguise?

I can't remember the first time my parents told me I was adopted, it's one of those things I always knew. I remember them reading me books when I was little about how they prayed and wished for me and how my other mom and dad couldn't take care of me, so they were blessed with me. It was always an open conversation in my house, they never got awkward when I asked them what color hair my birth mom had or how tall my birth father was. Now, don't get me wrong, I had my issues with understanding my adoption. Let's just say I was convinced for a while that my birth mother was a famous surfer in Hawaii.  It was awkward sitting in 7th grade science class watching everyone fill out their Punnet Squares to find out the probabilities and possible outcomes of their eye colors. I remember sitting there trying to figure out how I could have green be some sort of probability so I didn't have to tell the whole class that I had no clue what color eyes my birth parents had. Like I said, my adoption was always a very open topic in my house but I had (and still do have) a tendency to keep things inside and not talk about them. Whenever I did get the courage to ask or talk about my birth parents, I was always pleasantly surprised with how comfortable my parents were with talking about it. I suppose this is why when I told my parents in the summer of 2012 that I wanted to reach out to my birth mom they were 100% behind me and okay with it.

My adoption was closed which means there could be no contact between me and my birth parents until I was 18. My birth mother told my mom that she wasn't going to reach out to me when I turned 18, but she hoped that one day I would contact her. My mom gave me a picture of me and my birth mom on the day I was born, the day I said I was ready to contact her. It took me a few days to compose the letter I sent her but with the help of my best friend Emily, I would have to say (without tooting my own horn too much) was pretty much perfect. It explained how I respected her decision to give me up for adoption and I had never felt anything but love towards her. I told her that every essay I had to write in school about "my hero" was always my birth mom for giving me the chance to be brought up in a family she never could have given me. I told her that I had a picture of her and was excited to finally see where I got my blonde curly locks from! I told her I understood that me contacting her was a lot to grasp, and to take her time writing back to me. I didn't tell her that at the age of 22 I would wait in my house until the mail came and sprint to the mailbox every day for about three months. When she didn't write back after a few months I started to think that maybe she didn't get the letter. My mom and her wrote a few letters back and forth over the years and they would always send them certified. When something is sent certified you have to sign a little green postcard in order to get the mail, and then the green postcard is sent back to the sender to ensure that they got it. I didn't send my letter certified because I didn't want her to feel pressured. My mom sent her a certified note after a few months went by just making sure she got my letter. A few days later we got the green post card in the mail with the same signature she had written for all those years "<3, S." This meant that she did indeed get my letter and for some reason has never responded.

This is when I decided that I wanted to find my birth father. I am an excellent "Facebook Stalker" so it didn't take me long to find him once I was given his name, town, and his family members names (which my parents had in a packet for me.) When I found his page I had my doubts that it was the right person, until I saw a tattoo on his arm that said "Meghan." I was looking through his statuses the night I found him (I hadn't reached out to him yet) and I saw a one that talked about his IV infusion of Tysabri. I had no clue what Tysabri was so I googled it and found out it was a therapy for MS. I sprinted downstairs to tell my mom and dad that Gary has MS and they reassured me that there is only a 1-3% chance that you develop MS if you have a parent with MS.

That was 2 weeks before our vacation at Lake Lure where my first signs of MS began.

Maybe my birth mother never writing back was a blessing in disguise since it led me to contacting Gary which gave us the vital information that he has MS, something we would have never known if I hadn't of found him.

Defining Normal

I have always been the type of person who is really bad at sharing their feelings. I bottle it all up and wait until it's shaken (like a Polaroid picture) A LOT, and then find myself not being able to sleep for nights in a row, or tears just come streaming down my face when the coffee attendant at WAWA tells me they are out of my favorite coffee. I like everyone to think that I am okay all of the time. I would rather help others with their problems than talk about mine, which leads me to this blog. This gives me the opportunity to sit down and think about the craziness of my past 2 years, face some problems, and hopefully help others going through the same thing.

When I was diagnosed with MS, I had a bit of an advantage since my dad is a neurologist but I was also overwhelmed with information (a lot that I didn't undestand) and I was hearing these medical terms and stats all the time about different therapies, symptoms, and tests, at home and at my doctor's office. I would then turn to my friends (who were absolutely amazing during this process) but many of them had no idea what it was, they would think I was dying, or I would get the question "oh, so do you have to wear a back brace now?" NO! Multiple Sclerosis and Scoliosis are not the same thing. All I wanted was to read a blog or talk to someone who was close to my age and understood what was going on! So, I have taken it upon myself to hopefully be that person for you.

My attractive bruises

My attractive bruises

I had all the medical and health information and advice I needed when I was diagnosed thanks to blogs and my doctors and my dad, but I wanted to know how other people my age told their best friends that they were just diagnosed with a lifelong, incurable, neurological disease. I had just moved into the perfect apartment in The Fan (Richmond, VA) with my best friend and began a new job but I had to wear an eye patch the whole time or deal with seeing double (or even triple sometimes) of everything. Should I tell my new employer that I was just diagnosed with this autoimmune disease? Should I just wear the eye patch and try to play it off as a joke? Should I tell the boy that I had just been dating a few weeks that my immune system was attacking my central nervous system for an unknown reason and there was no way to tell how fast it would progress? I HAD NO CLUE! I wish I had someone to talk to about how they went about this. I can ask my dad what therapy to use, and be trained by a nurse to give myself injections weekly, and read blogs about remedies for the flu like symptoms and immobilizing migraines that came with those injections. But how do I tell my friends I can't go to happy hour because I have to go home and inject myself with a medicine that will leave me with chills, an awful headache, nausea, and excruciating body aches for the next 24-48 hours. And how do I explain the baseball sized bruises on my thighs from my injections to my nephew asking what my "ouchie" was from. That's what I have created this blog for.

It took some time, and I'm still adapting and learning new things every day about how to cope with my MS, but I've accepted that it's time to define my own normal.