In honor of being off of medication entirely for 5 months today and lesion-free for 20 months now I want to share my story and create awareness on a disease that affects over 1 million Americans. I hope that if you are reading this and you are going through your own battle and adversity that this will give you the strength to KEEP FIGHTING and know that nothing defines you if you don't let it.
Just four months after getting engaged I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It was February 13, 2017. Happy Valentine's Day, right?
I was working out hard at the gym when out of nowhere I had severe double vision. I had chalked it up to that I had just gone to the eye doctor and had a prescription change, and continued that week running my business, Bella Ballet, a dance school that empowers children, and teaching 40 classes a week.
My personality type is one that unless I am losing an arm or a leg, I power through. Welp, after a full week and a full weekend of events at the studio– my right eye was visibly positioned in toward my nose. At that point I realized that something was seriously wrong neurologically and went to the ER, only after seeing five different eye doctors who couldn’t find anything wrong. That fear of the unknown was brutal.
After the initial MRI the neurologist confirmed that there was an active lesion on my brain stem resulting in the double vision and evidence of multiple other older lesions that presented symptoms that I must have looked passed and powered through. I move at a million miles a minute and chalked up symptoms like fatigue to dancing like a maniac and running my business.
Being told I have MS left me in a state of shock and confusion at first. Truthfully, I didn’t really know much about this disease that now somehow crept into my journey. TIP: DO NOT GOOGLE IMAGE MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS. It will lead you to think you will not be able to move as soon as tomorrow and that you should quit on life, yesterday. Thankfully, the future is bright for this illness and while it's no picnic it's not the disease it was 20 years ago.
Though the disease shouldn't lead to physical deformity thanks to modern medicine, the mental and internal setbacks are brutal. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that affects the central nervous system. Doctors say it's the immune system attacking itself. Your central nervous system affects pretty much everything you do from mobility to cognitive ability and more. Praise God, after seven months, the lesion on my brain stem healed and my double vision minimal!
It comes back here and there if I’m really tired but way better than seeing two of everything all the time!
Fast forward 2 1/2 years, this disease is quite the contender and kicks my tush to say the least. They call it the “silent disease” because if you talked to me you would think that nothing was wrong, but you have no idea that battle that is going on inside of me. I have spent a total of almost two months in the hospital off and on during the last 24 months. Because this disease is different for everyone, I have had to learn how this disease affects me and the best ways to combat it. I have undergone multiple plasmapheresis treatments, chemotherapy treatments, steroid treatments, IVIGs, spinal taps, leaks from spinal taps, daily shots, and more.
My secret weapon is that I am also extremely passionate about the foods I eat to help heal my body and mindful of all products that I use. I currently follow the Wahl’s Protocol Diet which is an autoimmune-based diet that halts the progression of this disease. It focuses on consuming tons of leafy greens and organ meats, as well as seaweed and a boat load of supplements. The beautiful, vibrant, whole foods feed my brain incredible nutrients that allow me to keep up with my busy lifestyle of running and continuing to grow my business, teaching dance almost daily, running/lifting three days a week, and being a wife, daughter, and auntie to 10 nieces and nephews!
Eating in this way has allowed me to reach a point where I, knock on wood and praise God, I don't need medicine. I haven't been in the hospital since early February! Diving in to holistic healing and nutrition has really inspired me in the sense that most major illnesses appear to be the direct result of diet and lifestyle.
If I eat healthy and avoid over-stressing my body, my symptoms generally subside to a minor irritability at most. In the next blog post I will detail my regimen as well as the other books and documentaries that made a huge impact on my well being.
Despite MS, I am blessed to have my business be stronger than ever, with an amazing team of 16 staff members. I want my students to see me persevere, show them that I will always give them 150% of myself and teach them that no matter what life throws your way KEEP DANCING AND KEEP DEMANDING THE BEST OUT OF LIFE.
Are there days that are beyond tough? Absolutely. Are there moments that I felt like I haven’t slept in two weeks? You are darn right! Are there times I literally feel like I have to army crawl out of bed to the shower and start my day? Unfortunately, yes. But those days get less and less using food as my medicine. And most importantly, I will not give up and I will never stop dancing and fighting.
I could not be more grateful to my rock and husband, my incredible family, and supportive friends. My husband is behind the scenes always making sure that I have everything possible every single day to succeed. We have a “hospital air mattress” he uses so I am never alone, he comes to every appointment, he makes extremely involved meals to feed my brain what it needs (a single meal often taking 1-2 hours to prepare), and is my cheerleader everyday to be the best I can be. In addition, my family is always there for me and is incredible supportive and my tribe of friends is truly a gift.
I cannot stress how important and impactful the Wahl’s Protocol has been on my life and journey with MS. I wholeheartedly believe it is the reason I have not progressed after developing nine lesions over the first 9 months and then having ZERO! I will be adding a more in-depth blog article on the meals on the Wahl’s Protocol but if you or someone you know has MS I cannot recommend it enough.
Friends, we only get one life. Your cup is either half empty or half full. People often times have no idea the day that I have had. There is no “woe is me” happening around here. Sure, there are days that are hard. We all have them.
YOU CAN DO IT!
Faith, mindset, positivity, nutrition, exercise, and holistic approaches are my daily cocktail. Not to mention meditation and my nightly epsom salt baths (OMGOSH, seriously, epsom salt baths are directly from the Heavens!)
Know that God doesn’t give you what you can’t handle and that your hardships and struggles can be just that thing that could help bring light and hope to someone else. Know that if you are going through anything at all and need a helping hand, do not hesitate to reach out to me. This life is not meant to be endured alone and I would be happy to be there for you and give you some pep in your step!
I have the pleasure of empowering children every day to be the best they can be. I want all women to have a constant reminder that they are worth it and it was during my toughest days in the hospital that I came up with my empowerment apparel line, CONFIDENCE BY HOPE.
Confidence by Hope is a motivational, empowerment line that keeps you happy, inspired, and smiling. Not only will your own day be brightened by simply looking in the mirror, those that see your shirt will smile and be reminded of just how awesome they are, too.
Additionally, you are able to match shirts with your daughter opening the dialogue of positive body image, confidence, and self-love to help empower our daughters.
By leading by example, you are being a role model inspiring your child to be the best they can be. Shirts, hats, bags, you name it available for you and your princess!
Remember, you are never given anything you cannot handle, and any adversity you are given is nothing more than a tool for growth.
You are beautiful. You are radiant. You are loved.
Until next time my confident queens,
Founder, Confidence by Hope