We were a young active family. We had two young children. We operated our own small business. I made sure the kids got to school, kept the house clean, did the laundry, did all of the yard-work and any other family related requirements while my husband worked two jobs. I also worked with my husband at our dental laboratory doing some of the work, packaging / billing / pick up and delivery and site maintenance. Needless to say I was very very busy. My stress level was over the top.
I remember being totally exhausted. I began having problems which I tried to ignore. My overall stamina was lessening. I found it more and more difficult to get through the day. My weakness worsened. It was all I could do to function. I finally went to a physical therapist. He contacted the doctor while we were in the office. My Dr. stayed after hours to see me that day. After doing some minor tests in his office, he hospitalized me that night. The next day they did an MRI of my spine because I was having major back pain. When that showed no problem, they ordered an MRI of my brain.
I was called by the neurologist who wanted to schedule an appointment to discuss the results. We met on October 15th. He told me that there was very evident plaque on my brain. After answering many questions about how I function, he determined that I have Chronic/Progressive MS. Little did I know that my life would never be the same.
Not only have I survived 22+ years dealing with an untreatable illness but I have also done something that I never thought I would do. Three years ago I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I had a mastectomy. I have completed chemotherapy. I decided to do something positive with my illnesses. So… I wrote a book which has been published.
This is particularly mind blowing because of my background. I taught preschool/kindergarten. I have always liked to write. I wrote anything from poetry to song lyrics. Never in 1 million years did I think I would ever write a book. Not only did I write one but I wrote it in three weeks. From start to completion and submission to my publisher it took six weeks. It's still mind boggling to know that I even wrote one. It's the most amazing thing I've ever done. My husband was once again supportive. He acted as my editor.
In spite of our limitations due to my illnesses our children are well adjusted, contributing, happy adults. We have a happy marriage. I have touched lives that I wouldn’t have if my circumstances had been different.
Thankfully I have a very strong support group. My husband of 34 years has been there for me through all the ups and downs. No matter what time it is he is always there. He holds me when I cry. He laughs with me. He researches problems and solutions on the Internet. He helps me with physical therapy. He deals with not so pleasant tasks required for my care. He has gone from being a loving husband, best friend and awesome father to being a gentle caregiver as well.
I have other supporters as well. Our church family has been there for us unfailingly. Friends have also been there. One in particular. I have found over my 22 year struggle with MS that disabilities change lives. They change how people look at you. They change how you are approached or even if you're approached. You may be avoided because you make people uncomfortable. Some people can't handle the awkwardness of my situation.
My family, church and loyal friends make my situation tolerable. My faith in God gets me through all the rough times. He brings the right people and resources into my life at the perfect time. He is my strength. He is always there for me and never fails me.
My approach is very simple. Count your blessings. Take things as they come. Don't look at things negatively. Determine to look at things positively. Conquer one thing at a time. Don't get overwhelmed by looking at things as one huge mountain you have to climb. Sometimes you have to break your day down. Take it minute by minute. Conquer it and move on. Celebrate small victories.
I had to change my way of thinking. I had to stop thinking of myself as a victim.
I have touched lives that I wouldn’t have if my circumstances had been different.
I'm just like everybody else. I get overwhelmed. I get frightened. I have my “meltdowns". I have learned through my faith to depend on God to get me through the day. I don't give up. I constantly look for positive ways to approach things. I guess I'm stubborn. I WILL overcome. I realize that everything has it’s purpose. Experiences prepare us for what lies ahead. For example, MS prepared me for dealing with cancer. I have a totally different outlook because I know what's ahead of me. I can live a peaceful life.
My life was nothing out of the ordinary I suppose. I lived in a small middle class family. I married the man of my dreams, Ron, in 1980. We were blessed with two children. I enjoy writing, singing, music and teaching. Although I am unable to teach anymore, I am able to stay connected to the teaching profession because my husband teaches middle school / high school in a small private faith-based school.
My faith plays a big part in making me who I am today. I was privileged during my teenage years to have the opportunity to travel with a group from my church to Mexico, Canada and various parts of the US. It was during that time that I went from being a shy wallflower to having real confidence. The leader of the group stretched me beyond what I thought were my limits. Those experiences have played a huge part in making me who I am today. I can never thank him enough.
I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason. Although we may not think it at the time and sometimes it takes years to make the connection. I've learned to be patient. I can accept my shortcomings most of the time. I'm not perfect. I allow myself to make mistakes. It's okay to have bad days. It's okay to be frightened. It's okay to feel isolated. It's okay to feel overwhelmed by my illnesses. I fight one battle at a time. I know that having MS prepared me for dealing with and surviving breast cancer.
I know my time will come eventually. It does for everyone. I'm okay with that because I know that I have a bright future no matter what happens. My life may not be what I planned or hoped for and that's okay. Above all, I've learned to stay strong in my faith.
Find LeeAnne's full story in her book Just Along For The Ride - Triumphing Over Multiple Sclerosis and Breast Cancer