#MoreThan multiple sclerosis: Guest blogger Cathy Chester’s journey as a writer, mom, advocate and optimist

Posted July 6th, 2017 by

As part of our ongoing #MoreThan series, we’re continuing to highlight patients’ stories of all the ways they’re more than their diagnoses. Here, Cathy Chester – blogger, wife, mother and advocate – shares her diagnosis story and how she’s much more than MS.

#MoreThan MS

When I was in my 20s I was thrilled to work for a large publishing house in Manhattan. It was an exciting dream job but I was competing against other recent college graduates who were all jockeying for promotions. To meet the challenge, I needed to be quick on my feet and look polished. I arrived early each morning wearing a beautifully tailored business suit and high heels. I could taste that promotion.

But fate stepped in when I least expected it. My 2-inch heels gradually became unbearable to walk in and I started to struggle to maintain my balance. I finally lost the battle one day when my right shoe slipped off my foot without notice. The growing numbness in my legs and feet masked the loss of my shoe. It was time to see a doctor.

After a CAT Scan, spinal tap and MRI I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

I am more than my diagnosis.

When I told my boyfriend I had an incurable, unpredictable disease with no medications to curb my symptoms I held my breath, waiting for him to say, “Goodbye. See you around. Have a nice life.” Instead I heard, “We’ll get through this together. A life without you is no life at all.” We were married two years later.

I am a wife and a fighter.

Four years passed when we learned the happy news that I was pregnant. After two devastating miscarriages, we were overjoyed. At the time, I was driving with hand controls and walked with a cane. I was anxious about being a good mother despite constant fatigue, numbness and weakness. Then something extraordinary happened. As my baby grew inside my belly my hormones gave me a second chance. I no longer needed the cane and hand controls, I felt boosts of energy and the numbness and weakness temporarily disappeared. When our healthy baby was born, I called him my sweet angel.

I am a loving mother to a beautiful, happy son.

My relapsing-remitting MS reared its ugly head in those early days of motherhood. I learned how to manage my daily symptoms of the returning fatigue and numbness. I’d nap when my son napped and prioritized what I needed to do over what I wanted to. When walking became difficult I took intravenous prednisone (steroids) whose side effects were troublesome.

Eventually disease-modifying medications were approved and after trying the first two, number three was the charm. If you were diagnosed in the Dark Ages of MS, prior to medications, having options was Nirvana. As the old jingle said, better living through chemistry.

I am grateful.

Years passed and our son was preparing for college. I began questioning my future, wondering how to create a new career for myself. I dug deep to find what my passions were but it didn’t take long to find. I always loved to write and to help people manage their MS journey. I decided to go back to school to earn a certificate in patient advocacy. Then I married my newly acquired skills to my skills as a writer. That’s when I created my blog, AnEmpoweredSpirit.com, as a resource for patients to read and learn from my story, and to offer the latest news and information about MS.

I am a patient advocate. I am a writer. I love paying it forward.

As my blog grew and became recognized as an award-winning resource I began receiving offers to write for MS and health-related websites. I now contribute to three, moderate discussions for one and am the official blogger for a large international consortium whose mission is to improve the lives of those with MS.

I am a blogger, contributor and moderator. I am an active listener.

My professional life impacts me in countless positive ways, something I never imagined. My readers touch my heart when they share their joys and sorrows. I am deeply honored to hear their stories. Going from a blank screen to a message that touches others is magical. Helping the community makes all my efforts worthwhile.

I am grateful for this shared journey.

I am deeply humbled by loyal followers and eternally grateful for the love and support I receive from family, friends, colleagues and the people I’ve come to know both on and offline. I look to the future to find more ways to actively use my voice to continue making a difference in people’s lives.

 

I am more than my MS.

I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend.

I am a writer, speaker, moderator and advocate.

I advocate for animal rights and love our two beautiful cats.

I am obsessed with classic Hollywood films, the arts and culture.

I love music and swoon when I hear Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald.

I am a lover of books.

I feel at one with nature because it brings me inner peace and serenity.  

I love to hike and knit.

I love gentle yoga and practicing gratitude and mindfulness.

I am an optimist who always looks for silver linings.

 

 

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10 Comments

  1. You are all that . . . and more! Your journey is an inspiration to anyone and all of us who feel challenged to stay positive when life gets sticky. I always gain wisdom from your posts.

  2. Oh, Cathy, I love your spirit. your words were a gift as I start my day. Thank you.

  3. Cathy … you are such an inspiration and your story is a beautiful tribute and model for anyone who worries that they may be too limited to contribute .

  4. What a nice story to read from Cathy Chester #morethan it is lovely to read that she became a mother after her m.s. diagnosis, i was diagnosed aged 23 and felt that i would never become a mother, well time went too quick for me now being 40 and have just left a long term relationship with someone who didn’t mind about my m.s. i am now single and feeling that i have lost all my years and the man that did love me although he did have his own problems to deal with, not sure if i was being selfish as i enjoy going out and enjoying myself with friends he was more stay at home didnt have friends to go out with.

  5. Gosh, thank you! I have had MS all my lifeI have a Bachelor of Arts degree with writing as an emphasis.
    I was given the official diagnosis 31 years ago when after my wedding
    (Major stress factor) the neurologist
    said you may have MS. No drugs were available then and when my doctor responded to my question “will it make me die?” he said “well Jennifer we all will die. But if you mean die more quickly I’m not sure of that answer. I think you have the remitting relapsing kind of MS. I then asked if we could have children
    He answered, yes, but your body undergoes stress with the delivery and you will probably have an exacerbation after your child is born. When I asked what the word “exacerbation” meant I looked at my new husband and asked, do you still want to stay married? He replied, “I guess” with a big smile.
    We birthed 4 children in 5 years and they have all grown into wonderful adults! My key commitment to myself is to not stress. Stress brings on the exasperations. I learned the hard way when all 4 of our children were at the elementary school. I had always volunteered for each child’s room and when the year approached all 4 of my kids were asking for me to be their room parent. The stress was so much I was in bed the entire school year. I lost a lot of weight. Depression hit hard too. So many parents around us helped with meals everyday! At the end of the school year my husband got a promotion and we moved to another city.
    All 4 of our children are now getting married. They have learned to be self-reliant and not stress mom. All I am told is the color of dress I need to find for the wedding and what time I am to show up!
    My life was so busy earlier-on that I didn’t know medications had been made to help combat MS (not cure however). I have gone through several kinds of medications over the past 20 years and now my doctor has put me on Zinbryta. I will say it has made quite a difference in my energy and effectiveness with life!
    I started this long comment with thank you. That is for staying the course of giving information to others about this disease! I remember the fear I felt so many years ago with the news I may have MS. Staying positive and active is important to one’s life and providing the information you write is so effective to those who may have just learned their own news of having MS.

  6. Loved ready this blog… gives me hope to be who I am and being accepted as a fighter for MS!! Love my Doctor who has supported me a lot and am happy to see her this month

  7. Wonderful article! Cathy is a beautiful person inside and out.

  8. Great Cathy ……. Your mental strength is an inspiration for everyone.

  9. You write beautifully and your story is so inspiring! Thank you for all that you’re doing for all us MS warriors!!

  10. I was diagnosed with MS 3yrs ago while having knee surgery. I am in pain daily. I had to go off all MS meds due to hives. I have dental work I need done that is at least 10,000$. I need help. Does anyone know where I can get this done and make payments of only 20$ a month. ? I currently have no income.

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