My name is Sandy Esperance and this is my story.
I am so happy and grateful to be sharing my story with you today. I don’t know who it can touch, help, encourage or possibly inspire, however I am thankful.
I am a 29 year old nurse currently working in Philadelphia. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. 6 years ago I initiated my journey as a nurse because my passion has always been people. It was in nursing school and through a devastating diagnosis that I began to learn about myself and how I could truly help people. Throughout my journey, I’ve always felt like there was something more that I wanted to do with my skills…that I NEEDED to do. It was as if my talents, my dreams, and my skills were confined to a box called a job but I knew there had to be something more for me. However, imagine stretching for a dream with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
I believe we are all born with something great in us…something special. Through my experience I have realized greatness is usually expressed through adversity; whether it be physical, mental, spiritual or emotional. It’s not the actual adversity that takes us to that level but how we respond to it that counts. It took me about 4 years after my diagnosis to start realizing that, and I continue to work towards it.
It was April of 2005, I remember running back to my room as my roommate and myself were running from room to room knocking on doors. (Yes I know, immature but we were stressed, and needed a break; plus, I don’t drink so not too many options.) I remember falling right in front of our room door and it taking me longer than usual to get back up – as if in a dream. We were laughing and I just kind of shrugged it off to giddiness.
I went back to my room to start studying again. As I took notes, I noticed my writing looked like chicken scratch. It’s already pretty bad but this time it looked worse than usual. I shrugged it off again and thought to myself “I am just tired” , since I was working out every day. I went to bed that night and woke up the next day to feel my right side to be completely weak. I had serious difficulty as I tried to get dressed that morning and my entire right side was dragging when I was walking to class. I called my mother with tears streaming down my face because I couldn’t understand what was happening. She picked me up from school and took me to the emergency room where they took and MRI and that’s when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. A disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves.
I remember feeling neutral. Not realizing the full gravity of the course of the disease, I felt somewhat of a relief thinking, “Ok at least there is a diagnosis, there has to be a treatment and I can get on with my life”. I also took it as something that was just an inconvenience at the moment because I wanted to get back to school, graduate as soon as possible and start making money to move out of my parents’ house. That was my only concern. I think I felt so neutral about it because prior to the diagnosis, I could only remember reading one sentence about it in our text books throughout my course. I mean, if it was that serious we would be more focused on it, right? And even after the diagnosis I didn’t take the time to really look into it. There was a mixture of denial and being afraid of what I might find. However, what you don’t know can kill you.
Physical therapy and getting IV solumedrol got me better physically. Mentally, I was frustrated, angry, stressed and depressed. In the midst of this, I had to take off about two weeks from school. I was able to keep up with most of my classes but one, and had to end up repeating the semester. Initially I was angry! This was pushing me back a whole year. Though it annoyed me as another inconvenience, I later found it to be a blessing in disguise. It inevitably allowed me to have more time to focus on that specific class the next semester.
I pretty much recovered physically and didn’t have any trouble with memory or speech. There were moments when I felt periods of weakness, but they were just moments. The biggest complication I had was fatigue at the time, I was always tired and taking naps. My next biggest MS flare came 4 years later. It’s called Optic neuritis. That is when there is inflammation developing in the optic nerve. I started to lose my vision with my sight deteriorating rapidly in my right eye, nearly leaving me blind. Scared, confused, angry, and growing slightly bitter; back to the emergency room I went. I was given another round of IV solumedrol plus oral steroids. I responded well to the therapy and regained my full site over the next two weeks. At this point in my life, I had started my nursing career and hadn’t told anyone at work. I did not want anyone in my business. However, I was left with no choice but to tell them because I had to take off from work. Many were shocked and to my surprise very supportive.
As my sight and physical elements restored, that’s when I truly started counting my blessings. Realizing how serious this thing could become, I was coming across more patients who had the diagnosis and were confined to bed, couldn’t move, had urinary issues, and sulking in their depression. In my talks with God I remember praying for them but at the same time letting God know that was not going to be my testimony because I am a fighter.
I started taking my medications more consistently, stretching, and working out to keep my body in motion. I started being more grateful to God. However, as time went on I started to forget to take my medications every week. Not due to memory issues but more so to the distractions of life. I was on an intramuscular injection every week that I had to give to myself. It’s the worse trying to give yourself an IM injection. I started asking my sister, who is a physician assistant to help me out and give me the injection in my upper arm muscle. She did for a little while. But then she started complaining how she did not like giving the IM injection. My parents would ask me how I was feeling every once in a while however, no one would ever really understand what was happening physically or emotionally. It came to a point that I really felt alone. To have my sister complaining about not wanting to give me the injection, it felt kind of insensitive – I mean I was to one living with the diagnosis and having the symptoms. On top of that, the medications were not making me feel so great. The side effects would cause me to get these flu like symptoms and have to sleep it off. I started praying and saying there has to be a better way.
I was later introduced to a product that has changed my symptoms, my perspective and my life. Today, if you saw me you would see a very healthy looking young woman who you would never even know had Multiple Sclerosis. Not claiming that this has cured me but restored my faith and what I decided I wanted to be. I was told by doctors that diet wouldn’t make a difference but in doing my own research I discovered there was research and testimonials that supported diet and MS. It was also at that point that it was all up to me. I do believe in medicine to a certain extent, however, I discovered that there may be more than traditional medication that can help, I realized I was taking my first step to victory. In no way am I advising any medical advice: just to seek, find and learn what is best for you. As I love food, I have been making more of a conscious effort to change the things that I eat. Decreasing foods that could set off a flare and juicing more often. And yes, I have noticed a difference.
I had some people who also came into my life and taught me about positive thinking. They helped me to understand that I can decide how I want my life and my health to be. If I am constantly worried about having a flare, then I will likely have one. I believe we attract what we fear. However, if I declare myself whole, well, new and healthy and picture myself that way, that is what I will get. “As a man thinketh, so is he…” I can only say that has been a life changing model for me.
I continue to practice as a full time night shift nurse today. April of 2015 will make it 10 years since the diagnosis. I can honestly say I feel myself getting better and better every year; not just physically but mentally.
Physically, my life has not changed much, as I am thankful to say that I am fully functional. Mentally, I am changing my life through the way I view things now. I have learned to live more courageous and peacefully knowing that I am going to be ok. Surrounding myself with positive people and continuing to take the products I was introduced to consistently.
My advice for those who are on this same journey is do not be discouraged. Do you research, be as physically active as you possibly can, after consulting a doctor or maybe even a physical therapist. Regain strength in your body and know your body and what the limits are. If I had left it up to the diagnosis of a doctor, I would be in a wheelchair by now and just given up.
As I have learned that the diagnosis does not determine the prognosis, my dreams have only gotten bigger. I picture myself serving and encouraging others all over the nation and world through my diagnosis and reminding everyone that you can change your life. I further dream of taking my nursing skills and knowledge and aid those less fortunate on a full time basis while not having to worry about money. I have no doubt that they will be achieved. It is through this test I have been given the gift of insight and hope.
You can learn more about Sandy here.