Meet Walk MS Sioux Falls Ambassador Rachel Jaspring, diagnosed April 2012
My name is Rachel, and I am 19 years old. I love to be active and play with my dog. I live in Chancellor, S.D., and am the second oldest of six kids.
While I was on vacation with my cousin skiing and shopping, my world was turned upside down. It was day three of our trip. I woke up in a dark hotel room and turned on the bathroom light, but my left eye had black spots clouding my vision. I thought it was just from sleeping on that side of my face, so I thought nothing of it. We were to go horseback riding that day, and my vision was still not improving, so I went to my cousin's mom, who is a pediatrician. She suggested pink eye, because it was red from my constant rubbing. By the end of the week, my vision was completely gone in my left eye. Still, I thought nothing of it. I informed my mom, and we promptly made an appointment with our family eye doctor.
After a series of tests, the doctor came back in to tell us the possibilities. I will never forget the look of pity on his face. I also remember thinking I did not want anyone to look at me like that. He said I had optic neuritis, a sign of multiple sclerosis. I only knew one person with MS, and she had to switch from a walker to a wheelchair. I was 15 years old, and I did not want that.
I went to see a pediatric neurologist and spent three days in a hospital for sol-Medrol (IV) infusions every six hours, which thankfully, restored my sight.
I am almost 19 and have since lost sight in my right eye, three months after the first. I have also had shock waves go through my brain to the tips of my toes. A little more recently, my vision has blurred, I lost feeling in my feet, and the nerve pain (which can only be described as burning) is never ending in my legs.
I have learned a lot since my diagnosis. One big thing that I have learned is no matter what, always keep a smile on your face. Being happy and enthusiastic through hard times makes them not so hard and it keeps you going even when you feel like you cannot go anymore. I have also learned that a smile is more contagious than any sickness I have ever gotten. I cannot take all the credit for learning to keep the smiles rolling.
I've discovered a calling in caring for others with MS or similar illnesses. I want to be like the nurses who were there to give me a smile when I did not feel like smiling. I want to be the bright spot in a sick and hurting person’s day. This is my dream, and I am so thankful that I am well enough to achieve this dream.
In what way has MS made the biggest impact on your life?
My MS had made me appreciate life in general. I believe in taking chances while you can. You never know how short your life will be, so live it now!
Why did you decide to participate in Walk MS?
I want people like me to have better options in the future. I want to say that I helped make my life better, and I didn’t just sit and watch others do the work for me.
What’s your favorite thing about Walk MS?
The teamwork of the walk is so great. I love working with others! When I get to be me and share a piece of myself with others, it makes me happy!
What is one thing you wish people could understand about MS?
I know we have heard it all, but though we might look fine, we are not always fine. I would also like more understanding on the fatigue side of things.
What is the most important, meaningful or memorable connection you have made since being diagnosed with MS?
My connection with those who are hurting and sick is the most memorable. I think I have more compassion than I once had. MS humbles you.
What makes you a great walk ambassador?
I have the power to inspire! I want people to know about my disease, so it’s not so hard for other young people with MS. I am not going to hide behind this disease — I’m going to fight and educate!
Rachel may be reached for interviews at firstname.lastname@example.org. To speak with a National MS Society, Upper Midwest Chapter spokesperson, please contact Anna at 612-335-7918 or email@example.com.
Walk MS 2013
Join Rachel and thousands of others by getting involved in Walk MS. To learn more, register or donate, visit myMSwalk.org.