MS did not end my life, it just opened up other doors. The quality of my life has actually become so much better since I’ve been diagnosed with MS. I learned to listen to my body. Our bodies talk to us and I think most people in general don’t listen. Now I’ve learned to listen. I learned the five little tingling that let me know I’m in trouble. MS fatigue can feel like a wall just came down. Suddenly I can’t do anything anymore. I can be out and about and realize I’m not thinking very clearly. Then I realize I need to get home and spend the next few days recuperating. It affects my walking. It affects my cognitive abilities. I’ve learned now that if the cognitive fatigue is coming on, to not get behind the wheel of a car.
Diagnosis: Relapsing Remitting
Elsa’s parents were from a small town in Northern Mexico. She grew up in the US speaking Spanish at home.Her father’s death during her senior in high school ended her dreams of college. She began picking up secretarial work to support herself and discovered she was good at it. With the ability to type 100 words a minutes and found her strength in taking instructions and executing tasks efficiently. She advanced in both the academic and corporate worlds working as a secretary for university department chairs and eventually held a steady career as an Executive Secretary to senior partners at a law firm.
Then MS struck. One of Elsa’s symptoms was cognitive related which affected her comprehension of instructions. She would go into her boss’s office to take instructions, but she would no longer be able to remember them by the time she got back to her desk. Eventually she could no longer work at the career that had given her so much self-esteem.
“I figured I can’t be the only Latino with MS.”
Elsa began attending NMSS (National Multiple Sclerosis Society) self-help groups and programs where she was the lone Latina. One day when signing up for a program at the NMSS office she asked about programs for Latinos.
“Their eyes lit up. They sat me down for two hours. It was as if they had seen me coming.”
Elsa, working with the NMSS, was soon organizing a bilingual self-help group and became the only bilingual member of the peer counseling staff. She was also invited to join the NMSS advocacy program that annually lobbies state legislators.