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Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence

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Tonia Davis: Being the Best That I Can Be

Tonia Davis -- Salt Lake City, UT

I’ve always been a very active, healthy person. While in the Army I completed the physical fitness test 3 times a week, sometimes running 5 miles a day. Then one day, I lost vision in my left eye and the left side of my body went numb. I had no idea what had happened to me. I went to the hospital and the doctors thought I had a mini-stroke. While at the hospital, a neurologist read my chart and said that I didn’t have a mini-stroke, I likely had MS and should be tested. After a series of tests that occurred over a three week period, I was diagnosed with MS.

Tonia Davis staring at camera

It was November 1999, I had been in the Army for 22 years, and I was informed that I had MS. At first, I didn’t believe it. I was too healthy to have MS. The tests must be wrong. Continuing with my denial, I refused to take any MS medication. I was upset that my body wasn’t working like it used to, but that was life and I moved on. Fortunately, my neurologist at the Salt Lake City VAMC continued to try and reach out to me. At one of my visits he asked, “If an MRI shows that you have MS, will you start an MS treatment plan?” I was convinced that the test would show that I didn’t have MS, so I agreed. Following the MRI, my MS diagnosis was confirmed beyond any doubts that I had, and I began an MS treatment plan.

Following my career in the Army, I found things to do that kept my mind occupied and found ways to help others. I opened up my own t-shirt shop. I went back to school and graduated in 2003 with a degree in business. I joined the VA Women’s Clinic Club. The Club is a great way to provide support for other women as well as get the support that I need. I talk to a lot of newly diagnosed Veterans. I try to help them understand that they shouldn’t give up just because they’ve been diagnosed with MS. They’re going to be okay and they need to keep an optimistic outlook on life as their MS diagnosis is not going to change.

I’ve been an Ambassador for the National MS Society (NMSS) in Salt Lake City since 1999. I’m actively involved in the NMSS MS Walk event in April and NMSS MS Bike event in June. Being involved with these events gives me the opportunity to meet new people with MS each year, as well as their families and friends. It’s fun to meet so many people and I’m always surprised by how many people have MS.

I’m a very independent person, but must admit that I’ve come to rely on the emotional support of those around me. My daughter goes to MS events with me and is there daily should I ever need her. My husband helps whenever he can and never treats me like I’m handicapped. I’m very active in my church and have found God to be a source of strength.

I have a very good doctor. Dr. John Rose is one of the best neurologists in the world. He answers all of my questions and cares about me as an individual, not just a patient.

Having MS doesn’t mean that I can have a pity party for myself and I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I’ve learned to adjust to my MS. I exercise and do everything the doctors tell me to which has helped. I won’t give up on life and I keep an optimistic outlook that things will get better… not worse. Everything happens for  a reason and just because I have MS, I will not change who I am and who I want to be.

(from spring 2011 newsletter)