Guest post by Sherri Mytopher, MS Walk ambassador
It’s unfortunate that women are at such high risk of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), but I believe we have some very strong women representing the disease. I’m proud to say that I’ve become one of them. It’s my goal to empower people who are living with MS and let them know that they don’t have to suffer in silence – like I once did.
When I was diagnosed, I felt so scared and alone. I didn’t know anything about MS or anyone who even had it. I decided to stay quiet and keep my diagnosis to myself. My husband was with me when I was told the test results, so he was the only one who knew. I remember turning to him and saying, “If you want an out now, you can have it because I have no idea where this disease will take me.” He told me we were in this together and has been incredibly supportive to this day. He’s there for me on the good days and on the bad. I’m very fortunate for that.
I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone else, not even my closest friends or family members. It took me a while because I just couldn’t shake the feelings of shame and embarrassment. I felt like I let them all down. The disease left me exhausted, unable to type or hold a pen without pain, and contributed to the end of my career of over ten years. I couldn’t be around my coworkers. I felt like I let them and my clients down. It took me about a year and a half off work before I started to feel comfortable with my diagnosis. I decided I needed to get out there and that’s when I looked into being a part of the board of directors for the MS Society. I figured, if I can’t do my job, then I need to find something else that I’m passionate about. This is when I moved on from accepting my diagnosis and began embracing it.
For three years, I travelled to Grande Prairie, Alberta because it was the closest city to mine that held an MS Walk. In 2017, I decided it was time that my city of Fort St. John, BC had its own MS Walk. This is what I am most proud of because of the work I did to make it a success and how my community came together to support the event. I was so amazed and proud. The city went as far as claiming May “MS Awareness Month”, raising the MS Society’s flag and lighting up City Hall red for World MS Day. Together, we raised over $17,000. I was so overwhelmed with joy that I cried. Seeing all the people and knowing that I put the event together from scratch made it one of the best experiences my life.
I’ve learned that I can make a big difference for others affected by MS by using my voice. I’m going to continue raising awareness and making our MS Walk bigger and better than the year before. I want people to know that they aren’t alone. The MS community stands united. We are here for you. We can empower each other throughout this fight against MS.
Sherri is our MS Walk ambassador in Fort St. John, BC where she lives with her husband and spends her time making a difference through volunteer work. You can make a difference too by joining her at this year’s MS Walk: www.mswalks.ca