Today, by way of a change, I want to feature the life of Juliette Piazza. While she may not have MS herself, there can be little doubt that the disease has had a profound impact on her life, helping her “find my way.” This is Juliette’s story in her own words:
My mother, Marie, has lived with multiple sclerosis since she was 13. She has been on heavy treatment ever since the beginning and that, associated with her differences from her peers slowly building up, didn’t help her to gain confidence. She was diagnosed at a very young age, and this was the start of a life of low self-esteem and social loneliness.
When I was 8 years old, I remember that after one of our regular family dinners, I realized my mother was exhausted. At this precise moment, I conceived my mother was, in one sense, more vulnerable than other mothers and I needed to protect her.
It was then that I started to take care of her by doing all the little things of our daily life, such as cleaning duties, cooking, and being her little reminder for all medical appointments and daily life events she would forget and miss otherwise.
At the age of 16, I needed to make a decision; I had to choose between short studies that would lead me quickly to a job and allow me to stay close to home or, as I was a good student, aim for longer and more prestigious studies aiming for top universities in the country. I took the latter option, thinking both about my own future and also the fact that parents always wish see their children succeed instead of making sacrifices for them. I was conscious that my studies would be very time-consuming and that I wouldn’t have time to take care of my mother anymore, but I still decided to go for it.
I remember the first weeks of class. Staying on campus during the week, I used to come back home every Saturday afternoon. As weeks passed, I was seeing the impact of my absence in my mother’s tired eyes. She was more hesitant walking, and it seemed that her body had weakened. To counter my helpless new situation to her, I put myself in a bubble; that helped focus on my studies and keeping the distance with my mom. It was hard, but necessary.
After two years, I managed to get over it and chose to join a School of Biomedical Engineering. I really loved it and remember that I was amazed to discover all types of medical devices, from the scalpel to the MRI, all these tools that were designed to help people and enhance patients’ treatments.
I Find My Way to Travel
As I was getting closer to graduation day, I developed a strong need for traveling. I was keen on going abroad and discover something different. I worked hard and took decisions that led me to start my career in San Francisco.
I worked for a small company, training doctors and nurses on how to use cutting-edge cameras, developed with the latest imaging technologies. Then, I moved to London where I joined a promising British start-up as customer specialist, where I was still in a very people-facing position. The company product and people were great, however. After [a] couple months, I figured it was not really what I wanted to do. At that point in my life, I was missing something.
By the power of networking and being good with people, I managed to find an amazing opportunity with another start-up, French this time. They were developing a smart toy to help children with autism, and their project really inspired me. Again, this latter experience took me further than ever before. I loved it, but still something was missing. I realized I was just following someone else’s idea and vision, and that these ideas sometimes didn’t come from profound belief.
Were all these sacrifices just leading me to do something I didn’t feel confident about? With all [the] barriers my mother had to face, she didn’t have the chance to even envision doing what I do. She couldn’t work, and today she doesn’t have colleagues, or emails to check, she doesn’t ‘follow’ companies on LinkedIn and rarely goes out of the home. It is a shame, because she is talented, would have been hard working and could have been the best colleague.
The answer was just under my nose. I will help our society to be more inclusive by helping people with disabilities to have a better access to employment and the package that comes with it, such has colleagues, gossips, Slack groups, and other sometimes stressful 1:1 meetings. I now wake up every morning with that ambition, knowing that I will succeed one way or the other, because I am passionate and strongly believe in what I do. This is now my life dedication.
And my mother, today, is fine. I mean, it is a degenerative disease so … tomorrow will be worse than today, but she is still OK. She can still walk but it becomes harder for her.
My mother is a woman who never complains, she lives in Solliès Toucas, a small town in the south of France, and is always happy even if she has pain.
A heartwarming tale, that’s for sure. I hope you enjoyed reading it.
• Have you got a story to tell about how MS has affected your life? I’d love to hear about it. You can contact me by email at [email protected]
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