Mission Stadiums for Multiple Sclerosis

My MS Story

by Brandon Bowers

August 20th of 2022 was the day that changed my life forever. I was 31 years old, a former collegiate volleyball player, recently married, with a great job, family, and friends. When I woke up on August 13th, everything was pretty normal. That changed the very next day.

On August 14th, I woke up and couldn’t feel the toes on my left foot. Something I hadn’t experienced before. It was weird. As an outpatient orthopedic physical therapist, I approached the situation as I would if I were one of my own patients. Fast forward to 24 hours later, nothing had changed and things were only getting worse—my lower leg went numb, followed by my entire leg. After finishing with patients that night, I drove straight from the parking lot at work to the ER right across the street. Unfortunately, there was a four-hour wait before I was taken back into an exam room, beginning the journey of figuring out what was happening to my body.

The journey started with two MRIs of my lower back and a spinal tap to rule anything out that would require immediate surgery. I spent the night on a gurney in the ER. At six feet four inches tall, this was neither comfortable nor easy. I managed to get some sleep that night and awoke to a doctor providing me with the results of the tests from the previous night. “Everything looks good on your MRIs; you can go home and see your primary care doctor now,” she said. I was baffled. “My whole leg is numb, I can no longer sense the urge to go to the bathroom, and you are sending me home?” Her response was, “Everything looks normal; there is nothing else we can do. I’ll send in another team member to help you with discharge paperwork.”

Against my wishes, I was discharged from the ER and sent to my primary care doctor. I managed to get an appointment for the next day. When I walked in, I explained what was going on and that I needed him to send me back to the ER. After an exam, he agreed with this plan, knowing right away that something wasn’t right. Back to the ER I went and this time they admitted me. Over the next five days, I underwent six more MRIs; two of my brain, two of my neck, and two of my thoracic spine—hoping to bring clarity to my developing case.

On Saturday, August 20th, I received news I never thought I would hear in my life: “the way the brain findings look, along with the spinal cord lesion, it’s most likely this is a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.”

I convinced my nurses and doctors to let me go on a walk outside as I, along with my family, started to process this news. There is something to be said for being the favorite patient on your floor. I walked outside with my wife and parents on the hospital campus as we took it all in. We prayed, we cried, we laughed. Walking was becoming challenging for me, so we went back inside. I received a five-day course of steroids while in the hospital and was sent home, with a follow-up appointment with a neuroimmulogist scheduled in the coming weeks.

I saw my MS doctor for the first time on August 29th, where he reviewed my results and put a plan in place. I am fortunate to live near one of the best MS teams of doctors in the country. They have been a huge help so far and I am optimistic for my future and quality of life under their care. I recently had my one-year-ish follow-up from the start of this journey and am happy to share that there were no new lesions seen on my MRIs. I still deal with daily sensation changes in my left lower leg, along with occasional tightness. Otherwise, I am a pretty normal 32-year-old, former collegiate volleyball player, recently married, homeowner, with a great job, family, friends, and a baby on the way!

If you’ve made it to the end of this story, I am here to tell you that we can do hard things. You can do hard things. The going is inevitably going to get tough; life isn’t always sunshine and roses. But we can do hard things.

My mother is a swim coach and shares a message about a buffalo with her swimmers at the start of every season. The message is this – “when a herd of buffalos see a threatening storm coming, they don’t flee from the storm. Rather, they run into the storm to get through it faster and deal with it head on.” My mom says to her swimmers and now says to me, “be a buffalo.” Running into the storm and being a buffalo isn’t always easy, but I can do it, and so can you.

Being a buffalo made August 20th, 2022, the day that didn’t change my life.

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