I Was Diagnosed with MS at 31

Courtesy of Amy Rowell
Amy Rowell, age 36, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her early 30s. In retrospect, she realized that her very first symptom had occurred 10 years earlier, when she was unable to pick up an 8-pound cat when working in an animal shelter. Since her diagnosis, she still gets frustrated when she has a bad day, but doesnt let MS define her or dictate her life.

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I had just turned 31, but in hindsight, I had been having symptoms since I was in college. Many people hop from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what their symptoms mean; I wasnt diagnosed because I created excuses for my symptoms.

I clearly remember the first time I had a symptom. I was working at an animal shelter and reached into a cage to get a cat. It was only about 8 pounds, but I couldnt move her. I just couldnt pick her up. It wasnt like I was paralyzed, but my arm just was not able to do the movement that I was telling it to do. I attributed this to a pinched nerve.

I was so young and the symptoms would go away or improve with time so I didnt think there was anything seriously wrong. I might have a bladder issue or some arm weakness or leg pain, but they meant nothing on their own.

It is a psychological game you play with yourself—it gets easy to dismiss symptoms and make excuses for them. When you are in your early 20s, you dont ever think it could be something like MS.

The symptoms that finally took me to the doctor occurred in early 2007. I started feeling hazy or clouded. My movements werent quite right and I was really groggy. It wasnt like anything I had experienced before.

My husband was out of town, so I called my mom for advice. She said to rest and call her if I didnt improve. That night, at dinner, I was using my fork and completely missed my mouth. The next morning, I did the same thing with my toothbrush.

I called my primary care provider the next day and got right in to see him. He sent me to a neurologist who did an MRI that found two suspect lesions. Because I was so young, he sent me to a specialist. I had a diagnosis within six months.
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As told to: Tammy Worth
Last Updated: October 15, 2012

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