We all want inner peace. We want to be happy, successful, and for the most part, in control of our ability to live our best lives. But, what happens when life happens? What happens when something comes and disturbs your ability to obtain the things that we all want?
For most of my life, I’ve been the definition of, “if you work for it, you can get it.” But in June of 2011, I began to want something that no amount of hard work could produce: I simply wanted to be healthy.
It was June 8, 2011, and I’ll never forget the date because it was on this day that I was pre-approved for my first home. It was also the day that I was set to interview Ms. Roberta Shields, President of the The Ludacris Foundation (and mom to rapper, actor, and philanthropist, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), for a story. But just as the interview ended, I started to feel weak and faint. I said to Ms. Roberta, who I would soon begin to refer to as my guardian angel, “I don’t feel well.” Seconds later, I passed out.
I woke up at Emory Midtown Hospital in Atlanta, and although we had just met for the first time, Ms. Roberta was right by my side.
At the time, the doctors said that it wasn’t anything other than dehydration. After several bags of saline flowed through my veins, I was still “dehydrated,” so they kept me. I remember waking up the next morning not being able to use my hands at all. I reached for my cell phone to call my family and I could not pick it up. My hands were numb, shaking, and had a tingling sensation. Immediately, I began to think the worst. The doctors ran tests, and all of the results came back saying that I was healthy. I was only 26 years old, and all of a sudden, I lost the use of my hands, and then a few days later, I couldn’t walk and then not too long after that, I lost my vision.
From the dozens of doctor’s office and hospital visits to the spinal taps and high dosage of steroid treatments, the doctors could not seem to figure anything out. I went from being a young vibrant and compulsively ambitious 26-year-old to being lost, sad and simply confused.
In the midst of all that was going on, subconsciously I was still that “if you work for it, you can get it” girl. So, even though I could barely walk or use my hands, about one month into all of this, I said to my grandmother, who traveled down from my hometown of Baltimore to take care of me, “I still want to buy my house now.” Everyone thought that I should focus on my health and nothing else, but I did not agree. My consistent response was, “as long as I’m alive, I’m going to live.”
When life happens, and it will, decide that no matter how difficult it is, you will do your best to push through. Pushing through does not mean that you won’t want to give up. It just means, despite it all, you chose to live until your very last breath.
I didn’t realize it then, but I had decided very early that my peace, my dreams, my passions, my future—my life—was worth fighting for. And then on September 7, 2011, after a lot of disappointment, hard work and support from those who didn’t necessarily agree with my decision to push forward with this, I closed on my first home.
During this time, the doctors still had not figured out what was wrong with me, I hadn’t been back to work and I was sick 24/7. I was beginning to lose hope that I would ever get better. While the steroids made me gain over fifty pounds, they helped a little and allowed me to return to work in September. Not completely better, but I needed to get back to a sense of normalcy, so I pushed myself. On November 4, 2011, while at work, I was rushed to the hospital. This was the visit that I prayed for, but ironically, it was also the visit that made me angry with God.
It was late afternoon on November 5, and the doctor walked into my hospital room and said to me, “Well, we’ve figured out what’s wrong with you. You have multiple sclerosis.”
From the very beginning, I did not allow what was going on with me to have any power or control over my life. Yes, living with this disease is stressful, challenging, and at times, forces me into a space where I question everything. I’ve had to learn how to walk again, suffered with temporary speech problems, my memory is shot, and there was a time that I could not even bathe myself.
Today, I am a 33-year-old woman who lives every single day with purpose. While I lost much, what I never lost through the tears, frustration, and confusion was my drive, passion, and never-wavering will to live.
If anything, my desire to live my best life only heightened when I thought that it was in jeopardy.