Life with MS

My Life with Multiple Sclerosis

By Diana Valeriano

It was a beautiful, hot day in July and I was sitting by the pool getting a suntan when I noticed my right hand had a prickly feeling in it, like when your hand falls asleep. I didn’t think anything of it. I rubbed it and the feeling came back. Later on, I went in the house and showered and dressed.

As the days went on, my right hand kept getting numb until my whole arm was numb and stayed numb. I went to three different doctors to see what the problem was. One told me I had diabetes; he didn’t do any tests, but I mentioned my brother was a borderline diabetic and so he assumed I was too. Another doctor told me I was under too much stress as I was going through a divorce. The third one (this one was the best) said I had a pinched nerve because of an auto accident. I told him I had not been in an accident and he told me I had been and just didn’t remember!

A friend of mine was going to a chiropractor at the time and wanted me to go see him, so I finally gave in and went. He took X-rays and told me he would have me using my right arm within three months. Well, he applied acupressure and within one month my arm was back to normal - no numbness - and I was able to do every-thing with my arm as before. So I kept going to him; it felt good to have my bones cracked.

About a year later, my numbness came back, but not as bad. So I went to UCLA – they could surely tell me what was happening. They ran tests and after three days of testing, they told me I had multiple sclerosis. 

I had never heard of it and I asked the doctor how long I had to live. He told me people with MS live a long time. He explained what MS was. 

I kept my disease hidden. I only told my children. I made light of it. They were young and didn’t realize how bad it could be because I was walking well and felt fine. I just tired easily.

I was dating someone at the time, so I told him, but was ashamed to tell anyone else. I was embarrassed that I had MS. Soon I was dragging my leg and limping. I wondered why I was afflicted with this disease.

The man I was seeing had a sailboat (now that I look back, that’s really why I went with him: I loved sailing). One weekend, we went with two other couples – each couple in their own boat – to Catalina. It was beautiful and hot. We anchored and decided we would go ashore for lunch. After lunch we took a walk along this trail to the water and turned around to come back to our dinghy, which we would row back to the boats. It was so hot on our walk back, I fell three times. They finally had to put me in a cart to get me back to the dinghy.

I had no energy whatsoever. Once I cooled off on the boat, I was fine. I was scared as this had never happened to me before. Later that night, I told the other couples I had MS and suspected that was the reason for my falling. On Monday, I called UCLA and they said it was the heat. I learned something new that weekend. I learned that people with MS cannot take extreme heat – me, who loved the heat and baking sun (I would always lay out and get a beautiful tan).

The gentleman with the sailboat broke up with me; he couldn’t accept that I had MS. But I have learned to live with this disease without feeling embarassed.

Now, many years later, I am in a power wheelchair. I have MS, but it doesn’t have me. I can’t dance or run, but I keep as active as I can and I have my faith. I go out to lunch with my friends or have them over, go to the MS support group meetings and attend bible study and church.

I became an ambassador for MS Focus: the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, so I can spread the word about the services of the Foundation and help people who have MS. For a person who didn’t want to talk about having MS, now I talk up a storm about it!

Diana Valeriano, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., was diagnosed with MS more than 30 years ago. Confined to a motorized wheelchair, she learned to manage her limited mobility, training herself to write and use a computer with her left hand after her right one became paralyzed. She is a peer counselor to those newly diagnosed with MS, and has published a cookbook of recipes with proceeds supporting MS research.