Sympathy isn’t something we’re looking for. People living with Multiple Sclerosis just wish for people to understand that our bad days are like your monumental awful days, times 10. Just know that we will push through like champs the best we can, but please be patient with us.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Melinda McCartney, Behavioral Health Support Staff for the Medication Assistance Team and the Opioid Drug Task Force Team in Bishop, CA.
Thank you for joining us Melinda. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2018, as a single mom of two young teenagers. My symptoms began with vision loss and cognition troubles. At one point I lost all of my vision, while perhaps ironically working in the Optical Department of the Federal Medical Facility where I was (and am currently) employed. I could only afford to take two weeks off from work after my diagnosis, so for months I continued to work and excel at my job while blind.
Throughout this time I was determined to be an example to my boys and to not let my diagnosis define me, so I began giving back to others living with MS. In 2019, I volunteered at my first National MS Society event, Walk MS Greater Los Angeles and have continued to dedicate my time and resources as a volunteer across CA (my home state) while also serving as an MS advocate, aiding in recruiting other volunteers and advocates both locally and out of state. This has brought countless new opportunities for me to help so many others; now I even give motivational talks in my community on the power of resiliency and hope.
Her commitment toward sparking positive change is her way of giving back and saying thank you to all of those who ride, walk and advocate in support of MS warriors like herself. “After the first initial months of my MS diagnosis, I informed my doctor he had misdiagnosed me. MS didn’t mean what he kept telling me. It meant that I was ‘Mighty Strong,’ and I was going to show him and the rest of the world just how Strong I am.”
Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story of how you were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis? What did you do to not let that “stop you”?
After the first initial months of my MS diagnosis, I informed my doctor he had misdiagnosed me. MS didn’t mean what he kept telling me. It meant that I was ‘Mighty Strong,’ and I was going to show him and the rest of the world just how Strong I am. Just as I know all my fellow MS Warriors feel.
I had my two sons ages 14 and 12 (whom I often refer to as my sidekicks) relying on me to show them MS didn’t mean our world was ending. Quitting wasn’t an option, so I dug deep so that I could muster the strength to get back to work and face my own fears. Turns out I’ve always been Mighty Strong.
Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your chronic illness?
Well, I’d say the first accomplishment was how I was able to quickly adapt and work completely blind for more than 8 months during the initial onset of my diagnosis of MS. Once I’d regained the majority of my vision back after several infusions, I was able to pass my driver’s license test and regain my independence. That was a big moment for me because it allowed me to start volunteering and attending the National MS Society events, which is my way of saying “Thank You,” to all of those who cycle, walk, volunteer and fundraise to help find a cure for MS.
What advice would you give to other people who have MS?
This diagnosis isn’t easy. But really, what diagnosis is? Know that you have the power to choose your mindset. You can choose to stay positive, and strong — even on those days when you’re fatigued and resting because you haven’t the energy to do much. In my family we call that a “Do Nothing Sunday.” Having the self-awareness to take a day to rest, that’s still you being strong. Because you are giving your body time to rejuvenate for the next day. Don’t let anyone, especially those who haven’t any clue of this MonSter we battle every day, tell you how to feel, or how you should be doing. This is YOUR fight. Just know that we are stronger together, and you have a community of MS Warriors behind you every step of the way!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My two sidekicks (aka my two sons, ages 14 and 12), without them and their constantly encouragement, I wouldn’t have had even close to the drive I needed. They constantly push me and help me get to where I need to go. They also helped me keep my sense of humor when it comes to so many aspects of my MS symptoms. They helped me understand and believe that I haven’t lost anything with my diagnosis — instead I learned just how blessed I truly am.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Since my diagnosis, I haven’t rested. I came back to my hometown and started advocating for awareness of MS within the local community immediately. This year (2020) my local community of Bishop, CA will be holding its first MS Awareness event, which I am proud to be a part of. To see the community show support for those living with MS means a lot to so many, and I am just so happy to be a part of such a movement.
Can you share “5 things I wish people understood about MS or knew about people who live with an invisible illness” and why.
I wish people could understand what I call a “Bubble Moment.” I’ve heard it referred to as “Brain Fog” by others. It’s not that my brain is foggy; it’s almost as if a bubble pops, and whoops, there went that thought.
Sympathy isn’t something we’re looking for. People living with MS just wish for people to understand that our bad days are like your monumental awful days, times 10. Just know that we will push through like champs the best we can, but please be patient with us.
I wish people could recognize that through all of the days that we are positive, a quiet day may occur. We’re not having a meltdown, just a not-so awesome day. It can be from some major pain from an MS symptom, more severe fatigue than we know what to do with and aren’t able to sleep, or it could feel like we’re stuck riding a tilt-a-whirl and can’t get off. Please give space for people with MS to have their quiet day(s).
Don’t judge our routines that helps keep us focused. Consider it a MS regimen, akin to regimented routines the military imposes on soldiers.
When people with MS trip and fall (and we will), it isn’t because we’re drunk. Sometimes the coordination and connection between our feet and our brain just isn’t working. But also know that doesn’t mean we need to use a walking assistance device at all times.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“A meaningful life is just the sum of meaningful moments. Live in every moment.” Brendon Burchard Author of the Charge
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
It would just be a privilege to be in the company of anyone that has a platform that can help spread awareness for all the amazing people that battle MS every day. There isn’t anyone particular individual that comes to me, as I see every person so unique and wonderful and can bring about positive change in their own way!