Giulia and her team standing in front of a sign at the MS Walk event.

Living life with a smile

Guest post by Giulia Rea, MS Walk ambassador

I was planning to go on a vacation with my family when I woke up and the room was spinning. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought I might have gotten up too quickly and that it would pass, but by the evening, it was still happening. I went to see a doctor, who said I had rapid eye movement and vertigo. That led me to the MRIs, nerve tests, bloodwork, and to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS).

When I was first diagnosed, I thought my life was over. My doctor pointed out a few lesions on my brain and began trying to explain what MS was, but all I could think about were all the “what-ifs” as my mind flooded with fear and anxiety. All I knew was that your legs could go numb and you could lose the ability to walk, so I started envisioning my future with all of the negative possibilities. I was worried that if people knew I had MS, they would start treating me differently.

I chose not to tell anyone, aside from my immediate family, for about a year. Eventually, I had a relapse. The numbness in my legs forced me to walk differently, and that’s when I began opening up to everyone. I’m grateful that my friends and family never treated me any different. While I was physically diagnosed with MS, they were emotionally diagnosed. When I experience pain from this disease, so do they. They are with me at every hospital appointment whether it was a check up or visit to the emergency room. It can get frustrating trying to explain what I am feeling, but they are always there for me and do their best to try to understand.

Giulia and friends smiling at an event.
I realize there are things in life that I have no control over, and having MS is certainly one of those things. MS is a struggle everyday, and there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about it. You never know when your body is going to shut down or throw a relapse at you. In the four years that I have lived with MS, the largest obstacle that I have faced was when I experienced numbness from my stomach to my toes, as well as in my hands. MS relapses are one of the most difficult things to explain.

I remind myself everyday that I have MS, and MS does not have me. Yes, I have a disease that may cause me to slur my words or not feel my legs at times, but my life is not over. I’m still going to go after my goals! Since I was a little girl I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and I always loved kids, so I finished my child development degree and now I’m in my final year completing my teaching degree. I like to help and inspire people, so knowing I can make a difference in people’s lives is a good thing.

One thing that makes a big difference in my own life is MS Walk. I heard about it in 2014, the year that I was diagnosed. I read some very inspirational stories of how participating in the walk has helped young women around my age through their journey of living with MS. Through these stories, I was inspired to create a team – but not just any team. I wanted it to have a unique name that had meaning behind it and together with my family, we decided that the team should be named Miles for Smiles. We wanted something that would bring positivity and encouragement as we fight to find a cure.

Giulia and man standing at MS Walk event.

Last year was our third year in the walk, and we were trying to figure out how we could raise more money than the year before. We thought we would do something small, like a bowling night. This turned into a gala, with 180 people in a hall – definitely not a bowling night! It was a success, so we’re doing it again this year, only we’ve increased it to 500 people. It’s so inspiring to be part of a community that comes together with so much positivity and hope that a cure will be found. I’m motivated and inspired by the individuals who gather together to bring awareness to Canada’s disease. Thanks to my personal fundraising and MS Walk, I feel like I’m not alone in this fight and remain uplifted throughout this journey.

Giulia is our MS Walk ambassador in Nobleton, ON. She plans to achieve one of her lifelong goals by graduating with a teaching degree this year. Join her in fundraising toward a cure for MS at this year’s MS Walk: www.mswalks.ca 

 

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