31 Days of MS: I’m an Advocate With 40 Years of Experience to Share

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by BNS Staff |

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Debbie Petrina

Photo courtesy of Debbie Petrina

Day 24 of 31

This is Debbie Petrina’s (debbiems.com) story:

My story begins with a lesson I learned when I was a young girl. My Aunt Josie was very smart and a keen listener. She would ask provocative questions, frequently adding “use your intelligence,” then patiently waited for my answers. What she really meant was “use your common sense.” Common sense generates creativity, imagination, and practicality. Our two-way discussions were inspiring.

I was 25 in 1980 when my aggressive MS symptoms started. Without the information, treatments, and support available nowadays, I used common sense to get through each day. My creativity, imagination, and practicality helped me overcome each obstacle. An early decision was to volunteer with the National MS Society when I went on social security disability insurance, because at that time I needed whatever support I could find and so did they. I became a trained peer counselor for the society. We grew separately and together.

My lifetime story with MS is long. For nearly 40 years, I inspired others living with MS, educating them about how and why to move forward. I’ve talked with others about it, participated in groups/events, blogged, wrote two books, maintained a website… This ol’ MS vet has a lot of stories to share. Sharing is caring.

MS is a fearful experience before, during, and after diagnosis. Sorting out the complications and complexities surrounding it is difficult. My intention has always been to reduce the fear, clarify the complications, and teach those enduring MS with what I had already learned. Knowledge reduces fear.

No one has a choice about getting MS, but we all have a choice about whether we are going to let it control or manage our life. Being proactive and taking charge gives us a sense of control.

Interaction with others educates us. By learning to manage my MS well, I can look back on a fulfilled life. Going forward, I’ll continue to learn for myself and for others in my shoes. Life is good, no matter what we have to face.

Aunt Josie was a smart lady.

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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