Immunology. The study of the immune system. It was one of the two classes that I wasn't in danger of failing when I returned to school. Ironic, right? The class that I didn't have to withdraw from happened to be all about the immune system while my immune system was fighting against me. I even saw a question like the one below on an exam soon after I returned to school.
"Which of the following diseases CANNOT be classified as an autoimmune disease?"
B. Multiple Sclerosis
C. Lyme Disease
D. Celiac Disease
"THIS IS CRAZY!" I thought. Once again, MS had proven that it was a very clever stalker. It even followed me into the classroom. Immunology class seemed to be going great until I nearly collapsed one day after class. I was obviously disoriented and weak but I was EXTREMELY ANNOYED. I said to myself, "This is getting old! Am I going to start passing out in random places every week now? What is the point of these stupid steroids if I'm going to be fainting for fashion?!"
A classmate tried to take me to the emergency room but I decided to call my doctor first. When I spoke with Dr. Carter, she told me that the steroids most likely lowered my blood pressure which causes vertigo, intense dizziness. I thought "Great! So the medicine is making me sick too." She assured me that the feeling would pass with the proper amount of rest. I decided to stay in my apartment for the rest of the day. I just didn't want to risk collapsing anywhere else. I could just picture myself falling on the floor in the middle of the Susquehanna Dining area (a popular cafeteria at Towson Univ.) for everyone to see. There was no way that I would EVER come back from that. So, I chose to confine myself to my room.
As I walked back to my apartment, I called my mom to tell her what happened. The exhaustion and distress in my voice got her pretty rattled. She insisted on driving to Towson that night to make sure that I was okay. I told her that she didn't need to but we all know how that goes. She wasn't going to listen to me. She ended up rushing all the way from D.C. to Towson on a Wednesday during rush hour. She brought dinner, my favorite cookies, Oreos, and everything else that I would've needed for a dizzy night in bed. She seemed so worried that I wanted to cry for her.
ME: "Mommy, I don't want you to worry like this. I felt faint for a while but I'm okay now"
MOMMY: "I'm a mother. If I didn't come here to see you with my own two eyes and make sure you're alright, I would have never forgiven myself."
What do you say to that? The last thing I wanted to do was stress my mother out. She stayed for a few hours and after much persuasion, kissed me goodnight and went home.
The next morning, I spoke to her on the phone and she said that she told my older sister, Tamika, about the visit that she made. Tamika instantly expressed her disapproval and told my mother that she couldn't continue to coddle me. It was only going to make matters worse. Tamika called me later that day and gave me the same lecture. I have to admit that I didn't want to hear it but then it started to sink in.
At that point, I knew three things...
1. I definitely didn't want to stress my family out
2. I didn't want anyone feeling sorry for me
3. I didn't want this to take over my life
Slowly but surely, I started to understand her perspective. Constant coddling and complaining was only going to hinder me from working through my disease and moving on with my life. It would only cause me to pity myself and encourage others to pity me as well. Tamika knew that and she didn't want MS to become a crutch for me. In a way, her lecture got me to leap off of the angry and depressed bandwagon. It took a lot of time, but this marked the beginning of the fearless approach that I developed. I wasn't going to ignore multiple sclerosis, however, I wasn't going to let it take hold of my personality, my dreams, or my spirit.
I had come a long way from my first stiff hand in Advanced Physiology class and that unforgettable ambulance ride. I started to come to terms with my illness by praying myself through stages of sadness and remembering that life goes on, even with a disease. I wasn't FEARLESS just yet, but I was well on my way.
STAY TUNED AND STAY FEARLESS