I joined the Army October 21, 2004 and became an infantryman. I had the privilege of deploying to Iraq for what turned out to be a 16 month deployment. While I was an infantryman in Iraq, I saw it all. From the intense firefights (I took a bullet to my helmet), to getting hit with IED’s (Improvised explosive devices) and sadly witnessing the deaths of two of our own.
Upon returning back to Alaska in December 2006, I got married (divorced now) and we had our first on August 15, 2007. Being a first time father, I had so much joy and I just loved holding my baby boy. During those times of forever holding my son I noticed I would have this numbing feeling in my chest and through my back. I would get this electrical sensation running down my spine, but at the time I thought it just came with holding my son so much. Nevertheless, I pushed all of that to the side and went on with my new life as a father and eventually went back to work.
Upon getting back to Fairbanks, AK from Anchorage, AK. My son needed special NICU services because he was 2 months premature, so I decided that I wanted to reenlist. I was required to go through different job training since I reenlisted as a Human Resource Specialist and went to Fort Jackson for training. During my training everything seemed to be ok. After returning back to Ft. Wainwright and getting acclimated to being home with my now 10mo. old son and wife (at the time) that’s when things began to fully unfold. I found myself waking up to my eye being extremely blurry but I blew that off and I just thought maybe I needed a nap. Upon waking up from my nap my eye was still blurry and a little bit on the painful side.
I continued to blow it off and began to make up many different excuses. My son later developed a bad diaper rash that had both mom and I paranoid because nothing was working. So we made the decision to take him to be seen at the ER and with that, the decision was also made for me to be seen as well; kill two birds with one stone. While they were treating me they ran different tests and the conclusion was to give me steroids to help get things back to normal and after a couple days, I was.
Just a couple of weeks later, blurry vision came right back and this time, I didn’t waste any time and went straight to the ER. That was when I was admitted to the hospital and administered IV steroids. An MRI was ordered on my brain and spinal cord and -BANG- questions were answered once the appropriate doctors looked at the MRI. Everything that I had previously told them (i.e. the chest numbness and the electrical stimulation throughout my back and now basically back to back cases of optic neuritis) led them to determine that I, indeed, had MS.
Initially, I didn’t know anything about MS other than Montel Williams had it. He looked great so I didn’t have much of a concern. Unfortunately, because of the MS diagnosis the Army medically retired me. I was frustrated when they broke the news to me, mainly because I had just reenlisted for another 4 years and now I was out. There are reasons as to why they did it, especially considering the poor prognosis that I was given.
Currently there are people serving in the military that also have MS, so seeing that to this very day frustrates me. Being that I get paid monthly I guess I have no choice but to be thankful, especially since I never have any out of pocket expenses that I need to pay for pertaining to my MS. So everything happened for a reason; I reenlisted and by doing so that brought a little time for MS to show itself and because I was in the Army at that time, it was deemed service connected. So that’s almost like the Army taking blame for it. On top of that, because of my MS and routine MRI a brain tumor was located and was eventually surgically removed. So with all of this happening to me, I am blessed that I had a minor road block with being diagnosed with MS.
My advice to those newly diagnosed with MS: there’s a common saying that “I have MS, but MS doesn’t have me.” They should take that saying and run with it. There are going to be both good and bad days but know that the support is there for you. Just in the past 3 years social media has been a major factor to the MS community, from Facebook and Instagram, amongst others, there really is a lot out there. You have to look for it and be open to meeting others through social media as all of us have our own stories, experiences, recommendations etc.
So with that being said keep your head up high, stay positive and just try to go at your own pace. Family and friends are going to be difficult but true love and real friendships will prevail and there’s a BIG number of “MSers” that won’t be going anywhere and we are here to support each other through our adventure with living with Multiple Sclerosis; We Are Family!