Shock, fear, anger, denial, disbelief – sometimes even relief. Everyone’s reaction to being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) is different. But for people in their 20s and 30s, this diagnosis can be especially daunting. They are in the prime stage of their life – in school, building careers, navigating relationships and starting families – and learning how to balance it all.
Over the next 10 to 15 years, most people newly diagnosed with MS will be in their 20s and 30s. While people this age are often focused on prioritizing “living their best lives,” those newly diagnosed with MS may not realize the decisions they make early on have the potential to impact their future health. For example, even if they aren’t experiencing noticeable MS symptoms or relapses, their condition may still be progressing. This is why it is especially important for younger people living with MS to be proactive in their care and speak with their doctor about treatment options that may delay disability progression.
We spoke to three women, who, like many others faced with an MS diagnosis, were surprised and overwhelmed when they first learned they had MS. But with support from their friends, family and MS community, they have found ways to continue to do what they love. They actively share their journeys and encourage others with MS to advocate for what matters most to them, including talking with their doctor about the right treatment option for them.
Learn more about Angie, Eliz and Victoria – how they felt at the time of their diagnosis, how they feel today as they pursue their passions and what they hope for in the future.
Three months after her wedding, when she was 29 years old, Angie started experiencing symptoms including vision loss and numbness. After multiple doctor visits, she continued to push for answers and was ultimately diagnosed with MS. She took action immediately, researching neurologists and treatment plans. Having a family was very important to Angie and her husband. Together, Angie and her doctor navigated how she could begin family planning, while proactively managing her health through regular workouts and healthy eating habits. Today, as a mother of two, Angie continues to find balance managing her health, family and blog focused on living an active life with MS. She regularly supports others living with MS, counseling them to take action swiftly after their diagnosis to find a neurologist, start on treatment early, and make adjustments to their diet and lifestyle. Looking ahead, Angie hopes to continue to grow her business, be a good mom and stay active, while remaining committed to her MS advocacy work and supporting other people along their journey.
At the age of 26, Eliz was living in Washington, D.C. and working as a sales consultant for a technology company when she suddenly lost all sensation from her belly button to her toes. She went to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with MS that night. A few weeks later, she had a relapse that caused her to lose her ability to walk, talk and move her arms. With the help of her family and physical therapy, she was able to relearn to walk with an arm crutch. But it wasn’t until a year after her diagnosis that Eliz allowed herself to mourn and start to process what MS meant for her future. Today, she does her best to live life to the fullest and feels that she is empowered to make informed decisions with her healthcare provider about her care. Eliz is committed to sharing her experience with the MS community and staying active with the hopes of maintaining movement in her legs. She plans to compete in recumbent tricycle races in the future and looks forward to continuing to push her own boundaries, which she calls “living limitlessly while limited.”
Victoria was 25 years old and launching her career as a talent agent in Los Angeles when she started to experience extreme numbness in her legs and sleepless nights. Though she was first treated for stress, her symptoms continued to get worse, and after a few months, she was sent for an MRI and diagnosed with MS. Devastated, scared and confused, Victoria initially went back home to be near her family and tried to avoid facing her diagnosis. Ultimately, she came back to Los Angeles and began working with her doctor to determine a treatment plan. She also found adaptations that allowed her to continue to do the everyday activities she loves. Her mantra has been, “MS can’t stop me. I may have to modify, but I keep going.” Today, Victoria fills her days with activities that make her feel positive, such as her career, working out and giving back to women of color with MS. She recommends others share their experiences of living with MS and advocate for themselves when it comes to their health and treatment. Looking to her future, Victoria wants to continue excelling in her career, get married and start a family, while continuing to empower other women of color in the MS community.