It was the second Saturday in May of 2003, the day before my 19th birthday. I had just finished my final exam of my Freshman year in college after getting little to no sleep the night before because of the excruciating pain in my neck. My feet were tingly, I couldn’t see very well, and I was extremely dizzy, but it was move out day from the 6th floor of my dorm room. The elevators were broken, there were tornadoes going through the area so my parents weren’t able to make it up there, and I had a whole lot of stuff to cram into my Jeep Cherokee, Jerry!
After a couple falls, lots of help from gracious strangers, and one packed JerBear, I made the 1 hour journey home to spend my first summer working my first “real” job and being a big bad sophomore in college. Little did I know that I would hear four powerful words that would change my life, attitude, and outlook for the rest of my life.
It is still that second Saturday in May when my parents, and one of my 2 younger sisters suggested that we should all go to church and then celebrate the completion of my first year of college. There is a really special nature path at my childhood church, that my dad suggested we walk down before going inside. As we were walking, he stopped with tears coming down his face and then I look at my mom and sister and they are both crying. I had no idea until my dad was the one that shared some of the hardest words he has ever had to as a father, ” Sara, you have multiple sclerosis.” Well, now I am crying because I have no idea what this means for my future and all I want to know is 1. Am I going to die? and 2. Can I have children? It all was so new to my parents but thank goodness they know me because they knew the answers to both of those questions: “No you’re not going to die,” and “Yes you can have children, in fact pregnancy can be great for women with MS.” After talking further, my mom told me that they had known for a whole week before telling me because they didn’t want to ruin my finals week. The craziest part of my mom knowing was that we went to a concert together that week and that is one of the rare symptoms made its debut (blister in the back of the throat). She didn’t say a word. I can’t even imagine the feelings that were going through her as my mother. After hearing some answers, shedding lots of tears, and sharing a little bit of laughter, I was relieved. I at least had an answer and could figure out the next step I needed to take.
The next day (my 19th birthday), I started an intense IV of steroids that I was lucky to be able to do at home with my immediate family and extended family by my side. Much to my surprise, my amazing high school friends came together and planned a surprise birthday party to celebrate and to console and encourage me in whatever the next step will entail. I will forever be grateful for that party. It gave me hope that things are going to be okay.
Let’s just say, I do not remember 1 minute about the next 2 weeks of my life. I slept for 2 whole weeks because my body needed some TLC which required nothing but sleep and steroids.
Needless to say, my first summer as a college student was one that I will never forget and one that changed my life.