Vicki Williams - 2010

Having moved WELL into my mid 50’s and finished raising my children; it is time for James and I to consider retirement. We began looking and after some long searching in March 2008 found the perfect northern spot on Lake Travis in Austin. On the lake! After all my life working so hard, we are thinking of retiring on the lake. Wow…Of course at the time I am writing this, it is worth about half what we paid. I have already finished school, gone to EMS school, studied and received every fitness certification possible, received awards for community support, raised our kids, devoted numerous hours for our community, lost a parent to Alzheimer’s, learned how to do more things than I can imagine. Where did my life go? Life has been devoted to helping others learn to become active and fit; my passion. My favorite is the older population. I just want to hug all of them. Can you imagine…. some of them are alone? These are the sweetest, most wonderful, folks ever. How could life leave them alone? I feel as though I have deserted them too.  Being in the fitness industry and management, a personal training and hard-core cyclist, triathlete and runner; I know my body pretty well. It all began on the left-side in about 2003. My left foot dragging was first and awkward gait. The left eye-sight squiggles and temporary blindness, balance, joint stiffening, numbness, pain, ear issues and sick constantly. I was always on steroids and antibiotics. Symptoms were very noticeable when I was training hard, it was hot, or I was tired. I am fortunate. I worked for a wonderful boss for 16 years at Memorial Athletic Club. He was understanding, accommodating and still is a very dear friend.  I am so blessed with friendship from a selfless community of wonderful friends.

I went to so many doctors. Keep in mind because of being in the fitness industry; I knew when my body wasn’t acting right. Endocrinologist, Orthopedic, Pain Management, Chiropractic, Massage, Lymphatic Drainage, Cardiologist, Psychologist, Natural Medicine, ENT’s, Ophthalmologists etc. You can see one of our problems with healthcare just by looking at my segmented list of doctors who don’t talk to each other. I never looked sick and the doctors tell you that. They tell you, you’re stressed. You’re running or cycling too much? On to the next doctor I go. It never occurred to me to go to a neurologist, back then. In any profession there are good and bad. I had a doctor laughingly tell me and I quote” The next time you can’t see you need to go to the emergency room” I didn’t think he was funny. When I wanted to sleep all the time and started getting the weird vision issues, even my own family was thinking, I was doing too much. Then I had my first serious cycling accident at the MS 150 in Dallas. Over the years, a noticeable descend toward less miles, events, more illness, fatigue and balancing issues. I myself was beginning to think like some of them, maybe it was in my head.  In May 2009 at 52, I had been battling my 5th ear infection and 3rd ENT doctor. I felt miserable enough to get scared. On that frightful morning in May I awoke and couldn’t hear in my left ear and felt like there were bugs moving around in my ear and head. A newly referred ENT Dr. Nichols sent me for a brain MRI, thinking I had a possible tumor. It must have been hard for him when he walked in a month later. He is a doc who is, good-hearted. The 2 large legions were on the right parietal side of my brain, affecting my left side. What a shock. I was told I have possible Multiple Sclerosis. The charity I had volunteered years of my life too. I just clocked my 19th MS 150, in April. After numerous tests and a battle to find a good neurologist, he confirmed MS. Relapsing-Remitting is what they diagnose in the beginning phases. Thus began a journey I could never imagine. Due to misdiagnosis and guessing from some doctors, a lot had to be done. More and more tests only to confirm the obvious of Secondary MS. Apparently my age sped that diagnosis up!
I ended up with many MS specialists who practice far from Katy. If you are that type A person like me, it takes a while for you to accept the diagnosis. I am looking for doctors with the answers and certainly the cure! Why did I have to get the disease without the cure? I am told now I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. This may be the autoimmune disease that contributed to my MS. Things have changed in our lives. We have decided not retire in Austin and stay a little closer to home. Anyone want to buy beautiful property? James has had to learn, this has been hard for him too. I have had to shed anger. This disease can cause fear in the unknown, of what is coming next? It is an uncomfortable disease of the central nervous system. The injectable and steroid drugs are awful. There is no cure and our healthcare system is concerned with managing your symptoms not curing your disease. Funny enough MS brought comfort to my new life. I am learning to slow down, to care more about the simple things and spend more time with the ones I love. I have had to learn to depend on friends. I can’t work full-time, now. Thank goodness I was paying into long-term disability, so James doesn’t take on the debt. I have made new friends in BWC (becausewecanms.org). It is an organization filled with those of us who are trying to remain active. They are a so much fun. We are all alike, uplifting spirits. In addition, I love the camaraderie amongst the Lone Star Chapter of the MS Society. I am sure this is why I have volunteered for years. The MS Society make all the events fun. A special thank you out to Steve Moskowitz; with ConocoPhillips. He introduced me to folks, who care and enjoy teamwork in riding for a cause.
My journey has begun. MS, my family, my friends, are the cause I continue to fight for. I wish to continue on this quest for freedom from this disease. We need a cure and not just treatments! As one can imagine, going from an active lifestyle to doing what I can, when I can, has been difficult for me. Many days I can’t do much. Yes I need to get over it! A lot more Yoga and Pilates have replaced some hardcore activity. I have a love/hate relationship with MS. It has taught me lessons hard to understand, giving me new friends, new understanding and a new love for life.    

Let’s move forward toward, an active life, together in freedom from this disease.     Vicki