I first became very sick in August of 2009 dealing with various symptoms prior to my 2010 diagnosis of Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO). Serious symptoms of NMO lasted for about ten months; I was first unable to digest food, had loss of vision, and was temporarily paralyzed and dependent on wheelchairs and walker. I spent 10 days in the hospital before Christmas (released on Christmas Eve with a feeding tube) and was sent home still not knowing what was making me so sick. Christmas day from what I can remember was somber at best that year. I returned to the hospital the day after Christmas due to increasing vision loss. The following days were agonizing as I went through continuous testing (MRIs, spinal taps, and CAT scans; etc.). For a short while, I was preparing for news that I might have Multiple Sclerosis (MS). However, doctors were diligent to find the exact/correct diagnosis.
Finally, in February of the following year, I received the news that I had the very rare NMO. I was devastated, but looked toward treatment and hoped to re-gain a “some-what” normal life. Unfortunately, more bad news came in March with my triple negative breast cancer diagnosis. With that news, I continued with endless doctors’ visits, my Rituximab treatment for my NMO, plus a double mastectomy, breast reconstruction, chemotherapy and radiation treatments for my breast cancer. I have been “wiped out” for almost three years now; “drug through the ringer” as my family commonly says. I continue to struggle with permanent nerve damage, and intermittent bodily pain from the NMO. I also battle with depression and anxiety. Having two major illnesses is overwhelming. Due to the number of doctor appointments, I am unable to hold a job. This too is hard for me, as I have worked since I was 15 years old. I deal with lasting effects from both of these illnesses while keeping house, taking care of my two children and maintaining a marriage of 17 years to my husband, Darren. Darren and I try to keep the kids, Cassidy (13) and Colton (9) highly involved in sports to see to it that they have a sense of normalcy in their lives. Throughout this entire situation, I always try to remain optimistic and positive. I always try to smile, laugh, and never complain. My family does a great job helping me get through tough times by attending doctor appointments, treatment sessions, and just being by my side to offer a shoulder to cry on. My husband, Darren has been one of the most amazing individuals in my life. He holds down his job as Dean of Students at a High School, shuttles the kids around to sports activities, coaches various youth sports teams, while seeing to it that I feel comfortable and well to enjoy daily living. Even before my breast cancer diagnosis I was (and still am) dedicated to Breast Cancer awareness, attending charity events (Bras for a Cause), Breast Cancer walks, and I inform every individual I encounter about the importance of early detection. Our family is a poster family for Breast Cancer awareness by proudly donning Pink Wear. Colton, Cassidy, and their teammates show their support by wearing Pink wear during their games. Now that I have found the Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation I am able to pursue NMO awareness. I am excited to learn more about my NMO, and hope to participate in the efforts to find a cure. My Pink and Green goes well with one another, and I look forward to continuing to share my story with others.