Guest post by: Anna Giannakourus
One day I was jogging, and I kept tripping over my feet. I was pregnant at the time, and already had a lot of back pain so I didn’t think too much of it. I waited for the pregnancy to pass and for my body to go back to normal but after my baby was born, I began experiencing weakness in my legs. I couldn’t wear high heels anymore and I kept losing my balance. With everything going on, I didn’t put too much thought into what it could be and figured it would pass.
Months later, I went out for another jog and completely lost the feeling in my legs. I fell to the ground and had to crawl until the feeling came back. I had one other relapse before going to see a doctor and eventually getting an MRI test. Sure enough, I had lesions all over my brain and my spinal cord.
I didn’t want to believe it, so I went to numerous doctors to get different opinions. Yet every doctor told me the same thing, “You most likely have MS.”
After hearing my diagnosis, I was determined to become the healthiest version of myself. I started eating paleo, exercising daily, seeing a therapist, and ensuring that my stress levels were at a minimum.
For 10 years, my MS was invisible. There were many times I was experiencing symptoms, but no one could tell. In 2015, my leg disability worsened and became apparent. I had an MRI done but there were no new lesions found in my brain. I didn’t understand how that was possible because of these worsening symptoms. That’s when an MRI of my spinal cord revealed that it was covered in new lesions.
I stopped working in the IT industry and participated in a stem cell clinical trial that could possibly help prevent progression but unfortunately, my disease ultimately progressed to secondary-progressive MS. It was devastating, and I had to come to terms with the fact that I would not improve passed this point in the progression and getting worse every year.
I’ve since accepted that I will be disabled in the future. It was the most difficult thing to accept, and I do get upset about it at times, but it’s so important to accept the emotion and understand that it’s a normal and valid feeling, and then let it go.
I’m now in this place where I feel at peace and that I’m living my life as best as I could. Aside from living with secondary progressive MS, I am in excellent health. I have a wonderful family, friends and dog. I have my hobbies and so many blessings in my life.
I’m learning to live every day to its full potential, but I do still worry about how far my MS will progress. My biggest fear is that I will be completely dependant on other people one day. It’s a valid fear, but I don’t dwell on it. It’s a thought that I let pass so that I can continue to live a more fulfilling life.
I’ve been humbled living with this disease. I’ve always been a giving person but after being diagnosed with MS, I’ve made it a priority to donate to help other Canadians living with this disease. What’s important in life is that we connect with others, and we support each other. There’s nothing better than helping people that are in need.
When people donate to the MS Society, they’re helping people fight something that is harder to fight on their own. People living with MS across the country need each of our support and love to continue the fight against this disease.
I want people who are newly diagnosed to find meaning in their diagnosis. Just because you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness it does not mean that it’s the end of your life. It’s the beginning of becoming the best version of yourself.
Make your #GivingTuesday gift today, where your donation will make 3x the impact for Canadians, like Anna. Your TRIPLED donation will help diminish the uncertainty people affected by MS face by providing better treatment options, support program options, and educational experience options – options to make their lives brighter.