Motherhood and MS: Mel’s Story

"Am I going to be able to keep breathing? I remember asking my mom as we rushed to the hospital. I had no idea what was happening to me, and at that point, neither did she. I woke up the night before and had lost feeling in my toes. The numbness eventually spread through my feet and all the way up to my belly button. Now I couldn’t feel my face. We were both terrified, full of questions, and had no answers.  

At the hospital, I was told that I likely had MS, but it would have to be confirmed with an MRI. When I got the official diagnosis reality set in. A reality followed by sadness, fear, and even more questions. They couldn’t tell me when (or if) the feeling would come back. They couldn’t tell me what was going to happen next. All they could tell me was that the MS clinic was going to be my new home. I was in such a state of shock that I actually asked them if that’s where I had to live. They kindly said ‘no’ and explained that I would need to be monitored for the rest of my life. 

Finding my footing post-diagnosis wasn't straightforward. I knew what MS was. In fact, I’d written a paper on it in my undergrad. But living with it was another story. I was faced with a new normal that included navigating symptoms, treatment plans, daily injections and the unpredictability of life with MS. I remember looking out the window on a car ride home from the hospital and crying—worried I wouldn’t be able to have children. It was really upsetting.  

While the early days after my diagnosis were scary, I was still determined to find ways to help raise awareness and connect with others living with MS. I dove headfirst into fundraising and got involved with MS Canada. It was amazing to have the MS community rally around me, and my family and friends were right there too. I had just started dating my now husband about four weeks before my diagnosis. He was so supportive, and I really leaned on him.  

My strong support network has been so important to me, especially during my recent pregnancy and as I’ve embarked on an incredible new chapter in my life: motherhood. When I was first diagnosed with MS, I was afraid I wouldn’t get to feel a baby growing inside of me. I’m so grateful that wasn’t the case. One of the most relieving aspects of pregnancy was the break from my daily MS medication. This was because I was told that the best time for your central nervous system to take care of itself is during pregnancy. Two weeks after my baby was born, I started my medication again. While I did enjoy the nine-month break, I’m so grateful to have a treatment that works. I haven’t had a relapse since becoming a mother and that gives me incredible hope for the future.  

As a mom living with MS, every day I’m challenged to show up for myself, my baby, and my health. Managing my fatigue has been one of my biggest challenges. It’s more important now than ever for me to carve out time for myself. I try to make sure I have 30 minutes of uninterrupted alone time every day so that I can reset. Taking this time helps me be the best mom I can be. On days when I’m exhausted and can’t get the rest I need, I really lean into my support network.  

I’m really optimistic for the future. Sometimes I feel a little bit like an imposter, since I’m doing so well with my MS and that’s because I’m reaping the benefits of tons of MS research and fundraising. But as I’ve journeyed through my MS diagnosis, my worries have evolved. Now, my biggest worry is that my MS will one day impede my ability to care for my daughter. As much as I try to embrace my current abilities, that fear is always in the back of my mind. It makes me want a cure to be found more than ever. Being a mom with MS has deepened my appreciation for life. Every night, I find myself holding on to my baby just a little bit longer--soaking in every second I get with her.   

MS has taught me that life is valuable and precious. It’s made me determined to live with positivity and optimism, even in the scariest moments. It’s important to love every day, even though every day is not loveable. The lessons I’ve learned on this journey are ones that I hope to pass along to my daughter. I hope she grows up to always appreciate what she has, what she can do, and every moment she’s given.” 

- Mel, diagnosed in 2018