31 Days of MS: Taking Care of Myself Means Saying No Sometimes

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Holly Stevens

Photo courtesy of Holly Stevens

Day 20 of 31

This is Holly Stevens’ (@buckie_mom) story:

My MS was diagnosed in November 2006, back in my native California, after I experienced numbness and tingling on the left side of my body following a 5K run that April. I spoke to a nurse on a helpline about the way the left side of my face felt numb and droopy. She advised me to hang up and call 911. (She thought I might have been having a stroke.)

The emergency room ruled out heart attack and stroke, sending me to my primary care doctor the next work day. My primary care doctor, whom I saw on a Monday morning, figured I might have MS. I was referred to a top-notch neurologist in the area.

My specialty doctor put me through every medical test possible to rule everything else out. A spinal tap (lumbar puncture) compared against my blood proteins locked in the MS diagnosis. I started my disease modifying therapy shortly thereafter. Next month, I will be in my 14th MS year.

I am a degreed writer who worked as a journalist, editor, advertising copywriter, manager, trainer, on-site reporter, guest writer, public relations scribe, on-hold scriptwriter, proposal writer, photographer, and freelancer for more than 27 years. I can no longer work in my field as I am unable to proofread, edit, question, report, or write. Today, I can’t work more than nine hours a week due to fatigue, strength loss, and cognitive fog.

I delivered pizzas until recently, when COVID-19 work stressors left me almost catatonic.

Today, I am part of several Facebook MS groups, from which I have developed good friends over the past five years. I attended sponsored MS events before the pandemic shut them down. I do hope they start up again. I like to compare experiences with attendees, drug reps, and speakers. It makes me feel less alone.

It’s important to be my own MS advocate now, and I have learned to say “No” a lot more to physically and mentally taxing work requests. I’m not sure what the future will bring as I age, but I feel pretty strong, provided I don’t wear myself down.

Multiple Sclerosis News Today’s 31 Days of MS campaign will publish one story per day for Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month in March. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #31DaysofMS, or read the full series.

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