My Story: Cindi Hopper

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

I had symptoms of MS that I didn't realize were symptoms for years before being diagnosed. I was “busy,” I was a “mom,” I had a wonderful “career” and “friends.” But, truthfully an illness of any kind just didn't fit into my life plan.

I started dropping things. I remember not being able to hold my coffee with one hand or play the piano without my hands trembling. I excused it to tiredness or nerves, or too much caffeine.

Then problems with my vision started. I needed new glasses I thought. I went to three doctors during a five-year span, each telling me this could be MS, but I thought they were nuts! I did NOT have MS. I would NOT have MS. I had kids to raise. So I did nothing.

The clincher for me was one morning I woke up and couldn't move my neck. I was in excruciating pain, so I went to the ER. They did several tests – one of which was an LP – and they called my neurologist in. I trusted her implicitly so I knew she would get to the bottom of my problems.

It was her and only her that convinced me that what I had was multiple sclerosis, not some pulled muscle or virus-like I was hoping for. Thinking back now, I was having a bad case of denial. I was afraid of the unknown. I knew nothing about this disease that was about to interrupt my busy life. I was furious!

Who has been there for you? How?

I have the most amazing husband who knew what he was signing up for when he married me and did it anyway! He is a wonderful caregiver and my best friend. I could not imagine taking this journey without him.

Since we’ve been married, not only have we had to deal with the MS, but I also have seizures, migraines, and most recently I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease and have five stents in my heart, so yeah, he's a trooper.

I have an amazing church family as well who never leave me wanting for prayer or friendship.

We have three amazing children and their spouses who I absolutely adore and two of the smartest grandsons God ever made.

Both my husband and I are lucky enough to still have parents who are alive that support us, love us, and are always there to encourage us when things get a little rough. I feel so blessed even on the bad days.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

For the first couple of years, I just dealt with a lot of emotions. There are stages when you are given a diagnosis like MS. Mine were denial, shock, anger, sadness, bitterness, acceptance, and finally peace in that order.

I had a successful career that I was unfortunately unable to do any longer after about three years, so I had to quit working. That was a biggie for me! I had worked for 35 years, what on earth was I going to do with myself?

I remember the weeks following me leaving my job, I still got up at the same time, got dressed, and sat in the car until I remembered I had no place to go. That was hard.

Now eight years later, I know God has a reason for everything, and I thank him for loving me through those hard times. His plan for me was so much better than mine!

I have had to learn humility while using a wheelchair, cane, or walker and listening to my body when it says rest! I no longer can take the stairs for exercise but have replaced them with yoga.

I eat better and am working on meditation to keep stress away. I've learned to like myself the way I am, and I never take a single day for granted. If I have one pain-free day out of seven, that's a win, and I am so blessed! I know it could be worse because I've seen it. I stay so busy and try to be active as much as possible. I have no idea how I had time to work!

I have had to learn humility while using a wheelchair, cane, or walker and listening to my body when it says rest!

What accomplishment are you proud of?

As I said earlier, I stay busy doing lots of different things. My husband bought me an embroidery machine one Christmas, so I've enjoyed that.

I also mentioned I played the piano. While I've struggled with that and the tremors, I still try to play almost every day to keep my hands working.

I also have always wanted to learn guitar, so I did. Not sure whats next maybe the violin?

What accomplishment are you proud of?

As I said earlier, I stay busy doing lots of different things. My husband bought me an embroidery machine one Christmas, so I've enjoyed that.

I also mentioned I played the piano. While I've struggled with that and the tremors, I still try to play almost every day to keep my hands working.

I also have always wanted to learn guitar, so I did. Not sure whats next maybe the violin?

I stay busy doing lots of different things.

I stay busy doing lots of different things.

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

My biggest piece of advice would be to accept this diagnosis, but don't let it define you.

I believe your attitude has 100% effect on everything happening in your life. Yes, it stinks. Yes, it's not fair. But being upset and mad or sad isn't going to change your diagnosis. It is what it is. Say that until you believe it. Your stress level will go down, your attitude will change, and life will go on.

Make every single day count. Do things you love with the people you love. Don't dwell on how unfair life is, or how bad a day you might be having that particular day (because you WILL have bad days) but make a plan and do what makes you happy. Live!

My biggest piece of advice would be to accept this diagnosis, but don't let it define you.

Is there anything else we should know?

I’m a true southern girl. We love to cook and we love to eat. I’m a tad OCD and believe everything has its place. MS has really gotten in the way of my OCD tendencies and has made me take a step back. Some days I just cannot color-coordinate the closet. But its all good. Those days I make lists of things I want to do.

I am so many things all rolled up into one package, MS only being a small part. That's the way I see myself, and I hope that's the way others see me too. I never want to be a victim or a reason to feel pity.

Sometimes this disease is a blessing because I get to share my testimony of how God has helped me and how far I have come from hate to acceptance. It was a long road for a long time but I can honestly say now I’m in a good place and I am at peace whatever the outcome may be.

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