MEET KRISTEN HOLLOMAN
1. Were you or a family member diagnosed with MS as a young person (between the ages of 18 -40?) If so, please explain how this impacted your daily life.
I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of fifteen. As Sophomore in high school, I was busy thinking about getting good grades, driving a car and going to prom. Being diagnosed with MS was not a part of my plans.
I remember giving a presentation on a business that I created for my socio-economics class. As I was presenting in front of the class, I began to lose my vision. Everything was blurry, I couldn't see my classmates faces. Then it got worse. I started speaking slower and began to have difficulty finding my words. Somehow I finished my presentation and went on to the rest of my day. I wish I could say that the day got better, but throughout the day I became clumsy, my speech became worse, and my emotions were all over the place. My teachers thought I was on drugs. How could I explain what was happening to me? It all seemed so surreal.
Later that day, my mother spoke with a friend who recommended that I see a neurologist. Within a couple of days, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. My parents and my neurologist helped me understand the basics of MS and in time, as I grew older, I began to learn more on my own. All of my lesions are in my brain, causing difficulties with fatigue, vision, speech, coordination, hypersensitivity in my legs as well as hyper reflexes. The most important advice that my family and doctor gave was that this disease is manageable, but more importantly, that I can still lead a normal life doing the things that are important to me.
Now I am twenty-nine. I finished graduate school, have a great job in a local hospital as an Occupational Therapist, and started a family. I continue to do the things that I love such as spending time with friends and family, going to movies, painting, and volunteering in the community. I also enjoy working as an Occupational Therapist. Having MS helps me relate to others who are going through illness or injury. In this way it makes me a better therapist and a better person.
With all of this being said, I still have the occasional flare up or the frustration of being tired all the time, having trouble speaking or being constantly clumsy. I worry about the future and how MS will impact my life. I try to stay positive and try not to think about these things often, but I realize that it is okay to worry every now and then so long as I continue to focus on the important things in life.
2. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society supports many advocacy initiatives such as: access to health insurance without discrimination, national funding for MS research and accessibility. When you or your family member were between the ages of 18-40, did any of the these policy initiatives or another cause you to experience the effects of MS differently.
Insurance is expensive, but having a preexisting condition and then getting insurance is even more expensive! While looking for a job, I had to pay for short term insurance. The price per month was almost double that of a car payment! I couldn't believe it. I was also shocked to learn that many jobs would not provide health insurance as a benefit until finishing a six to nine month probationary period. It was a scary thought to pay so much for insurance with a small, set income. It is also frustrating trying to do the right thing by taking my medications and going to routine doctors visits, but being penalized for having a preexisting condition. Access to health insurance without discrimination is imperative for leading a healthy life. No one should ever have to worry about being able to take care of their health.
3. Throughout the World MS Day campaign, people supporting the motto will be asked your motto. What is your motto that helps you overcome obstacles and deal with the adversity posed by MS?
The past is what makes you, but the future is what defines you.
Having MS at a young age changed my life completely. Every step taken after the diagnosis has made me who I am today. All of the good memories and the bad changed me for the better. Now, I focus the future and the memories I want to make.