Guest post by Melanie Bennett
I didn’t always believe this, but now I really do believe that everything happens for a reason. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 30, and 10 years later, it felt like someone poured gasoline on my MS! I went from having some weakness in one leg to walking with a cane and then, getting a walker to drag both legs around. I had to leave my job as a youth care worker and taught myself how to have patience with my disease. That was tough, given that I’d had to leave work, abandon my hobbies, and rely on others for physical and emotional support. I tried several disease-modifying therapies, but my relapses kept coming and became more fierce. I asked about embarking on stem cell transplantation trials in Ottawa, but surprisingly, my MS wasn’t aggressive enough. Always up for a challenge, my fighting spirit wouldn’t let me give in.
Through all of this, my husband Jim and I planned and hosted a fundraising event each year in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, inviting local scrapbookers (the hobby I love so much) to get together to raise money for research and programs for people living with MS. This past year, the event garnered over $10,000 to help end MS.
With great support from family and friends, and extra special care from the MS Clinic, I started a new treatment two years ago. Lemtrada was fairly new on the market, but I was eager to try it in an effort to stop the increasingly worsening relapses. After my second round of treatment, I finally started to feel better. I was able to take small walks and move around more. I could stand and cook a meal. I then started on a journey to lose weight to feel better. My short walks to the corner turned into longer walks to the store. Then, I started to jog, and then I joined a “Learn to Run” group. Two years later, 105 pounds lighter, and 100% healthier in every way, I ditched my walker and cane, laced up my sneakers, and ran a 15 km road race in the 2018 Bluenose Marathon. It was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life and I didn’t do it alone. I had support from fellow Weight Watchers members, runner friends, the nurses and doctors at the clinic, and of course, from my family and friends!
My dad recently passed away and he always used to tell me that everything happens for a reason, but until recently, I didn’t quite get it. Why did I get MS? Well, why not me?
Now, I accept my diagnosis with patience and humility. My path is to inspire others. That’s the ‘reason’ this happened. We can’t control everything in our lives. Some of us are diagnosed with MS, some of us are diagnosed with cancer. There are things that we can control like how we choose to move forward and what we decide to do with our diagnosis or whatever challenge comes our way. I’ve had messages from people I’ve never met saying that I’ve given them a reason to fight.
I’ve never felt better in my life and I want others to know that every success you have, whether it’s getting up out of bed today, losing the extra weight over time, taking those extra steps to the corner, making yourself a healthy meal, hugging your loved ones, smiling through the pain, or accepting the new chapter in your life…it’s important to acknowledge that you have MS but it’s not who you are. You’re a person first – you just happen to live with MS, and you are never alone in your journey. If I can inspire just one person to do something – however big or small – to improve their quality of life, then I know my dad was right. Everything does happen for a reason.