Did you know that 10,000 of the 400,000 people living with Multiple Sclerosis in the United States are under the age of 18? I am one of those 10,000.
My name is Emily Blosberg, I am 17 years old, and I have Multiple Sclerosis. When I was just two years old, my dad was diagnosed with MS. I grew up volunteering with the MS Society since the day I could wave pompoms at the finish line of the bike ride fundraisers. Now, 15 years later, I have a different connection.
On September 9th, 2010, I noticed a numbness in the fingertips of my right hand. This sensation soon spread to the front of my hand, up my arm, and eventually covered my body. After a week, the sensation subsided, and everything seemed to go back to normal. However, two weeks later, my whole body began to "tingle" and my eyes started to "jump." When this returned, yet again, a few weeks later, the neurologist ordered an MRI. This MRI showed a lesion in the center of my brain stem, which lead to the diagnosis of "Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis," which is essentially a one-time event. The next year was filled with doctor appointments, therapy appointments, and many months in bed - sound asleep.
At age 14, I missed nearly my entire 8th grade year. My mom would bring me to school for the lunch hour so I could see my friends, but I did not have enough energy to go to any of my classes. In July of 2011, I experienced severe headaches. These headaches would not cease, leading to another visit to the neurologist in November. Another MRI was ordered and it was finally determined that I have Multiple Sclerosis.
At 15 years old, I was diagnosed with a life-long disease which could affect me in ways that were, and are, unknown. At first, I didn't know what to think. I finally had an answer. I grew up knowing what MS was, so it wasn't a mystery to me. I was comfortable with it. But I didn't want anyone to know that I had MS. I was afraid I would be treated differently. I had already spent a year being treated like I was lesser than my friends, a baby, and broken.
In March of 2012, my high school had an all-school gathering. I had spent previous months recruiting for my Walk MS team, but had little luck. So, at the school gathering, I stood in front of of my peers and simply told them "I have MS." I explained what this meant, and ended with a simple phrase, "I am not looking for your sympathy. I am just looking for your support." This one sentence moved people to hold a stronger understanding of what I needed. Students came to me after school to shake my hand in appreciation. This was one of the greatest feelings of my life! I knew I would not be treated unequally, like a baby, or broken anymore. I was no longer "that girl who never goes to school." Instead, I was Emily. I am Emily. I will always be Emily, because MS doesn't define who I am.
Published On: March 27, 2014