My Story: Angela Stodder

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

I moved to a new town to start a job with a new company. I was just a few weeks shy of my new health insurance beginning when things began to go very badly, very quickly.

It started as having trouble getting up the stairs at work and progressed to crushing fatigue, brain fog, pain and numbness on my entire right side, and unrelenting pain in my chest and ribs. Parts of my job that I knew so well just escaped me, and my demeanor and professionalism became uncontrollable emotions.

The symptoms I was experiencing were awful, and I had to move back home and stop working. I was bed ridden for six months between unproductive doctor appointments and misdiagnosis. It was horrific – physically and emotionally.

Doctors thought I was crazy and I started to believe it. Out of nowhere, I began feeling better and immediately began the process of going back to work, thinking I just had a freak occurrence of some lengthy, mysterious illness.

A few days before my new job began, I was in the ER. It was happening again. I was a physical wreck and now an emotional basket case.

I have seen numerous doctors in the previous 18 months, and I felt like giving up until my new family physician sent me for an MRI of my brain and a spinal tap.

I remember I was walking around the grocery store, heavily leaning on the cart after one of my doctor appointments when I got the call from him. He said "I'm sorry. You have Multiple Sclerosis. The lesions are mostly in the left side of your brain, which explains all of your symptoms on the right side of your body." The rest of the conversation was a blur, but after a year and a half, I had a diagnosis.

In retrospect, I could rewind back at least five years and recall subtle symptoms of MS that were brushed off.

Who has been there for you? How?

I moved back in with my mom after becoming sick. Thank God for moms. She picks my meds up when I can't or drives me when I cannot, but I almost always find a way to do everything for myself by myself, and I try to help my mom as much as I can too.

My daughter and a couple of my friends ask me if I need anything when I'm down, but I try to keep me and my MS out of other people's lives as much as possible.

My grandson is my pride and joy. At times, I think about how much more I could do with or for him if I were healthier. Although, I do the best I can and push my physical limits to play with him, and we still have a wonderful time together. I want him to have those memories, so I don't let him see me when I'm really in bad shape.

I take care of myself by keeping active as much as I can and eating healthier so that I can be healthier for myself and the people I care about most.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I'm most proud that I have been able to stay positive and that I push myself to keep going after so much in my life has changed.

Even though MS is unpredictable and the struggles are a constant battle — I still keep on going on. I appreciate every single good moment and joyful thing in my life so much. I take time for me, and I do volunteer fundraising and awareness for a wonderful childhood cancer organization.

Sometimes, I never feel like I do quite enough anymore, but at the same time, I am pretty content with the balance in my life.

What's your advice to someone else living with Multiple Sclerosis?

I don't think anyone with MS needs advice from me, but if they asked, my only and main advice would be to simplify your life because that's the only thing that works for me.

I have to put my energy into things and the people that bring me peace and joy because my energy and time is so precious now.

What's your advice to someone else living with Multiple Sclerosis?

I don't think anyone with MS needs advice from me, but if they asked, my only and main advice would be to simplify your life because that's the only thing that works for me.

I have to put my energy into things and the people that bring me peace and joy because my energy and time is so precious now.

Today I enjoy the little things in life.

Today I enjoy the little things in life.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

Once I accepted and processed my MS diagnosis, my entire life changed – I had to accept that I had limitations and decided to try and make the best out of my situation.

Big plans for the future were out and instead I enjoyed the little things in life.

My circle of friends became much smaller because I had to prioritize everything and everyone. I no longer had the energy or stamina to maintain some of my friendships.

I have to have a lot of control of my surroundings and keep as much stress out of my life as possible. I notice that stress and temperature changes are my biggest triggers. I push my limits physically, every chance I get, and when the symptoms become too much, I retreat to my room to rest until I feel better again.

Everything changes. Everything physically and mentally is hard. However, I maintain a positive attitude and try to make the best of my life.

Life with a chronic illness is never easy, but I still love my life. I've learned to accept the bad and be more grateful for the good.

About Angela Stodder

My Story: Angela Stodder

I still love and appreciate most of the same things I did before my MS diagnosis. I may not be able to do some of the things as often (or ever), but that makes me appreciate everything that much more.

I am a parent to an amazing and beautiful young woman that I couldn't be more proud of.

Post-MS, I became a grandparent. My grandson calls me "Luh Luh," and he brings more joy to my life than I thought possible. I love all of my family and my friends who have stuck by my side.

I enjoy the outdoors as much as possible and reading, sitting by the fire, working in the yard, fishing, and traveling. I love kids and animals. I'm a childhood cancer advocate and a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan.

Life with a chronic illness is never easy, but I love life, so I've learned to accept the bad and be more grateful for the good.

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