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.
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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