I Am Not My Multiple Sclerosis - Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence
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I Am Not My Multiple Sclerosis

Kim Harrison -- Jackson, MS

I was diagnosed with MS on February 25, 2003 while deployed for military duty. I thought my life as I knew it was going to change forever. I was right that my life did change, but not for the reason I thought. I did not know a lot about MS. I did not even realize that I had relatives with MS. For the past 11 years, I have come to the realization that “I am not my MS.”

Kim Harrison standing with two children after MS race

My journey with MS began over a decade ago. I was on deployment in Ft. Benning, GA. My unit had been “called up” to active duty. After being on active duty for a while, I realized that something didn’t feel right. I was experiencing numbness and tingling on the left side of my body. My left arm felt paralyzed and I had involuntary movement in my right hand. I had a “high step” which was making my walking a little more difficult. At first I attributed my symptoms to the overwhelming stress that comes with finding out that my unit was being activated, to actually leaving my family and my home in eight days.

Initially I tried to hide my ailment because I thought it would improve with time. But, my condition continued to worsen and the “high step” became more noticeable. For my own peace of mind, I needed to find out what I was dealing with. I had a few visits to the clinic before I was sent to get an MRI. I remember the doctor telling me about five or six different possibilities, “or it could be MS.” Those words have resonated with me. About a week later I was diagnosed with MS.

Although I was medically discharged from the Army Reserve, I was able to maintain my position as a law enforcement officer. I have had many exacerbations, but MS has left me with a greater appreciation for life. I give God all the credit for me being the person I am. Every day I reaffirm to myself, “I am not my MS, I don’t live with MS, it lives with me.” I have accomplished so many things since I was diagnosed. I have obtained a Bachelor of Science degree as well as a Juris Doctorate in law. I was a single parent before my diagnosis and I still am. By far, being the mother of two wonderful children is my single greatest accomplishment.

I cannot pretend like the road has always been easy. Although the path sometimes looks straight, MS has made the road more difficult to navigate. I am often reminded by friends and family of my MS when they feel like I am overdoing it or when I try not to make excuses for not carrying out a task. And frequently my MS reminds me, especially when I cannot feel my feet or I cannot get out of bed because of the weakness in my legs. But, I always remind myself that “I am not my MS.”

Sometimes my MS makes me proud. I am so honored to have the support of not only my family and friends but the support of my boss and co-workers who have joined forces to form an MS Walk team. It does not hurt to have a VA neurologist who attends to my every care and concern whether they have anything to do with my MS or not.

Having MS is a challenge to say the least. Having MS and trying to have a normal life is more challenging. MS is so unpredictable and it affects everyone differently. I look forward to a world free of MS. But until then, I look forward to each day where the effect of MS does not affect my ability to freely function and enjoy life to the fullest.

(from spring 2014 newsletter)