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Community member Deanna standing by sunflowers
29 May 2024

World MS Day: Navigating my MS diagnosis, by Deanna

Our inspiring Australian community member, Deanna, has shared her diagnosis story with us to spread awareness this World MS Day. She shares the challenges of living with a recent diagnosis, and how she grew through these challenges to celebrate many huge achievements since then.

Receiving my diagnosis

Eighteen years ago, at 17 years old, things took an unexpected turn when multiple sclerosis entered my life. It began with abrupt eye pain and vision loss, swiftly diagnosed as optic neuritis. Within a month, I was officially diagnosed with MS, which now I am grateful for such a quick diagnosis period.

Initially, disbelief and denial overwhelmed me. The ominous label of the ‘wheelchair disease’ loomed large, leaving me grappling with an uncertain future in the face of this ‘no cause, no cure’ condition. It saddens me to reflect that I was offered no psychological support at the time of my diagnosis, leaving me to navigate the journey alone.

Overcoming challenges post diagnosis

As I struggled with my diagnosis, I noticed subtle shifts in how people interacted with me. Trepidation, pity, and attempts to limit my potential stemmed from my newfound ‘disabled’ status. Despite being strongly advised to defer my final year of high school, I stubbornly persisted, only to graduate with dismal results. My dreams of university were shattered, plunging me into a deep depression for the next two years. Fatigue, pain, balance issues, sight, and speech difficulties, coupled with the painful immunosuppressant self-injections, became my daily unwelcome companions.

During this dark period, I slowly began to discover the power of resilience. I learned to pace myself, conserve energy, and navigate the myriad challenges MS presented. I sought much-needed psychological support and a chance encounter with a doctor who also lived with MS offered me positive representation, that helped me gradually emerge from my depression and reclaim my life. Refusing to let MS define me, I embarked on a journey of education and self-discovery.

Rebuilding my life with resilience

I pursued a Bachelor’s degree. Three years later, I graduated, a testament to my determination and resilience. Against the advice of many, I celebrated this milestone with a month-long solo backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, experiencing a profound sense of personal achievement and a newfound resolve: MS may be a chapter in my story, but resilience will be its enduring theme.

This epiphany propelled me forward. Ignoring the naysayers, I pursued a Master of Science in Medicine at Sydney University, graduating at the top of my class. A six-week backpacking adventure through India followed, a testament to my newfound sense of freedom, possibility, and limitless potential.

Turning my MS journey into something beautiful

In 2022, I completed a Master of Social Work with The University of Melbourne while beginning my Instagram advocacy and MS art project, @CircularBlooms. Circular Blooms has been celebrated by some in the MS community for my ability to turn my MS journey into something beautiful. I hosted a charity art auction, and to celebrate travelled to Europe and embarked on an 8-day, 100km charity walk with Kiss Goodbye to MS – a feat I never would have imagined possible during those dark years post-diagnosis.

Today, I prioritise my wellbeing through gentle exercise, diet, and diligent mental health maintenance. Supported by my partner, friends and devoted allied health professionals, I am committed to living my best life despite the challenges MS presents.

 


 

Thank you to Deanna for sharing her diagnosis story, to help spread awareness this World MS Day.

Are you struggling with a recent MS diagnosis? Are you looking for a community of like-minded people to support you, answer questions and provide much-needed hope and advice? Join our friendly, supportive and welcoming community in the Live Well Hub for free, and make connections that will help you through your diagnosis to living well with MS.