At 25, I worked as a neurosurgical intensive care nurse and was a year into graduate school. In my spare time, I played the piano to ease stress and re-center myself. I seemed like a typical young, healthy, ambitious person. But I had been having -- and ignoring -- strange symptoms for quite some time.
As a nurse, I saw neurological diseases every day, so I’m sure there was a part of me that recognized my symptoms. But after witnessing how devastating those diseases can be, I could not bring myself to consider that I might have one. I was determined to see myself as young and invincible.
But one day, I was unable to see straight, use my dominant hand, or feel three-quarters of my body -- and I finally had to admit that something was very, very wrong. I was admitted to the same hospital that I worked in, and after a week of tests, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
After my diagnosis, I tried to continue living my life the way I had been. But the more I tried, the clearer it became that things weren’t going to go back to the way they once were.
This was especially clear when I sat at my piano. I used to be great, but now my right hand was weak and numb, and it had completely forgotten notes that used to come so easily. Still, I kept pushing myself to be the musician I once was, play like I used to play, be who I was before. Maybe I was just trying to regain control over a completely out-of-control situation, but I was beating myself up every time I couldn’t hit a chord perfectly.
Finally, I got to a point when I knew I had to make a change, so I decided to stop obsessing over what my right hand could or could not do. I sat down at my piano, and with determination, I took everything that I had been pushing down and just let it pour out onto the keys. Then something remarkable happened -- life started following suit.
When I stopped trying to force things to be the same, like they were before MS, I became better. Instead of striving for perfection, I focused on finding purpose in the challenges I was facing. And most importantly, instead of waiting for someone else to go and create a brighter future for me, I decided to take charge.
I started working as a nurse in the same MS center where I was a patient, and soon I realized that I could use my unique perspective as a patient and a provider to have an impact on the MS community. I became involved in government advocacy through the MS society, wrote for several websites and publications, finished my master’s degree, and now work as a nurse practitioner specializing in the care of others living with MS.
Before I had MS, neurology was my specialty. However, living with MS every day has taught me way more than any textbook ever could. I now work tirelessly to create a brighter future for myself and for my patients. I’ve decided to assign a purpose to the challenges that I have faced, and that purpose is to help work toward a day when there will be a cure for MS.
The more people living with MS that I meet, the more I realize that my story is not unique. I believe that one of the keys to living with MS is to find purpose in the challenges we face. MS has made me a better nurse, a better person, and given my life more purpose than ever before. And though it may sound a little different than before, I can still make beautiful music at my piano.