Deanna Renee

“I will not let MS define me”

Deanna ReneeWhen I was 17-years-old, MS crashed into my life. I woke up with blurred vision, and body weakness. Within a month I received an official diagnosis of MS. Initially, it felt like I had been handed a life sentence. There was, and still is today, so many negative stereotypes and attitudes around the illness. No one could tell me what my future would look like. I was offered very little support at this time and scared of what my future might hold. 
I was advised to defer my final year of high school, but I was very stubborn and wanted to graduate with my classmates. Despite having more days of absence than in attendance, I graduated at the end of 2007. I had always been a high achieving student and was horrified I did not achieve the exam results I required to enter The University of Melbourne and the course of my choosing. 
I was devastated. Looking back I am ashamed that I spent the next two years wallowing in self-pity, while learning to manage my MS symptoms which included fatigue, pain, balance and visual issues, anxiety, and depression. I also had to learn how to pace myself and reserve my energy which is a hard task for a 20-year-old. 
In 2010, I was sick of feeling sorry for myself. I applied to Monash University and in 2013 completed a Bachelor of Social Sciences. To celebrate this achievement, against the advice of those around me, I took a month-long backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. During this trip I felt an amazing sense of personal achievement and soon had the epiphany that my MS cannot stop me from achieving my goals. In 2015, I commenced a yearlong Master of Science in Medicine and graduated in the top percentile of my class. I then went on to backpack around India for six weeks.
Today, I am studying a Master of Social Work at The University of Melbourne. While the pathway was not what I expected, I got there in the end. I continue to improve my wellbeing through regular exercise, diet, mental health maintenance and a strong support network of family, friends, MSL support services, and other social networks. I am currently an MS Ambassador sharing my journey. I am looking forward to educating audiences about the challenges of living with multiple sclerosis and finding the silver lining of living with a chronic, incurable illness.

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