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Activity Keeps My Mind and Body Fluid

Tina Messmer –- Pierce County, Washington

Growing up, I didn’t have the most supportive parents. When I turned 18, my parents kicked me out. With nowhere to go, I found myself living on the streets for close to a year. One day, I walked by an Army recruiting office and went inside. I believe that decision saved my life. I was with the US Army for 10 years. They trained me to be a medical specialist, an area that I thrived in. I loved my time in the military and even met my husband while serving my country.

Following my departure from the Army, I used my training and found employment as a medical assistant. I worked in family planning and then urology. I was a clinical consultant in my last job, a position which allowed me to travel all over the US. I spent my days meeting new people, teaching them how to use medical equipment on their patients, and I loved it. Unfortunately, I had to leave due to my MS. I was having a lot of exacerbations about that time, and the traveling became too hard on me. Following my early retirement, I applied for social security disability.

I enjoy being active, and with a little research I found lots of ways to stay active and meet new people. I started volunteering at the American Lake VA in Washington. There I’m able to socialize with fellow Veterans, exchanging our life experiences and helping them however I can, even if it’s just to lend an ear. There are so many people and service animals that I look forward to seeing. Through volunteering, I learned that I could get medical benefits for my years of service and applied for VA health care which has been wonderful. The other volunteers and Veterans have become a family for me, something that I haven’t always had.

I also volunteer and advocate with the National MS Society (NMSS). They do so much for people effected by MS, including supporting MS research. With everything we are learning about MS and the new medications, I’m optimistic there will be a cure in my lifetime. While at a VA support group, someone from the NMSS spoke about their resources and how they can help people with MS. I contacted a NMSS Navigator and the NMSS is now helping me by paying my MS support group co-pay for a year. While there are other MS support groups I can attend at no cost, I’m more comfortable going to the Veteran support group, and the NMSS is helping make that happen for me.

I also do a lot with my grandchildren, including volunteering at the elementary school my youngest grandchild attends. My oldest grandson volunteered with me all summer at the American Lake VA which was a real treat. I go to the gym seven days a week and have two rescue dogs that keep me busy. I find that keeping active keeps my mind and body fluid.

I was diagnosed with MS about 10 years ago, though I believe I’ve had the disease for a lot longer. I experience the symptoms of MS every day, but it’s not what I want to focus on. There are days that I feel down and frantic, but doesn’t everyone at some time? When I feel this way, I think of my husband and family, and how supportive they are. I think of everything I have and don’t focus on what I don’t have. I treat every day like a new beginning, doing my best to stay positive. I find ways to help others. It’s fulfilling and hopefully it helps those I’m helping.