Making Sense of My MS

Rockford, Illinois © LISA S CLARK 2022

This is a photo of me as a pom pon girl in high school. During my high school years, I remember having tons of energy in all areas of my life. It was when I started college that I started to experience mental, emotional, and physical fatigue that simply intensified as the years passed. Fatigue is the most common Multiple Sclerosis symptom. 

In college, I also started having significant symptoms of depression, another common MS symptom. The summer before my senior year, I also started having dizziness and vertigo, and this triggered panic attacks. I had lived with anxiety since I was a child, but this was on a whole new level. 

I’d like to say that I sought help for all of my symptoms, but I did not. I shoved it all down, and forged ahead to graduate school. I set a goal for myself to get a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and to become a Licensed Psychologist. At the age of 36, I reached that goal. But I was beyond exhausted. The year was 2003. 

I was eventually diagnosed with MS in August 2016 when my left arm and hand went numb. I finally had a symptom that I couldn’t ignore or push through. I went to my doctor, and she immediately sent me to the hospital to get multiple MRIs done. The results showed lesions in my brain and spine – classic Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple blood tests, to rule out other medical conditions, confirmed the diagnosis. 

I am happy to report that function returned to my left arm and hand, and that I have been stable (i.e. no new MS lesions) for the past 6 years. Getting the MS diagnosis was scary as hell, but my life finally made sense to me. The diagnosis also made me determined to enjoy all areas of my life moving forward. As I indicated on my Profile, I am Reclaiming the Joy of My Youth.

To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis, go to www.nationalmssociety.org

I Knew Something Was Wrong

I’ve had a love for swimming since I was 4 years old. I learned how to swim in a pool in Pompano Beach, FL during one of our annual Florida family vacations. I later enjoyed using this pool at Forest Hills Country Club in Rockford, IL where my parents have been members since 1980. I was on the FHCC swim team and basically lived there during the summers in middle school, high school, and college. (Photo courtesy of Forest Hills Country Club)

Fast forward 20+ years to July 2016, and I am using the pool at the Princeton Gym in Madison, WI. I was just starting to get back to swimming laps, and I noticed that my left arm felt heavy and numb. I told my husband that something was wrong, and that was the beginning of a very scary time for us. My MS diagnosis came on August 26, 2016.

It is common for people that receive a life-altering diagnosis to go through a grieving process. It takes time to accept your new “normal” and to heal from the medical trauma that you endured. I am very thankful that I’ve had the resources, support, and education I need to adapt to my life with Multiple Sclerosis. I realize that not everyone has that, and I don’t take it for granted.

Me & My Mom

Rockford, Illinois © LISA S CLARK 2021

My mom, Ulla Kercher, is an amazing woman. At 88 years old, she just moved to a small home in a senior living community in my hometown, Rockford, IL. She has been a widow for 10+ years and had maintained two houses after my dad passed away, one in Rockford and one in San Diego, CA. My dad would be so proud of her and delighted that she is doing well with an abundance of support from family and friends. 

I was with my dad when he had hospice care at home in 2011. One special moment I will never forget … my dad was lying in the hospital bed, with my mom and I by his side. He had been failing quickly since his terminal cancer diagnosis the week prior. Suddenly, he spoke softly, saying to my mom, “There are no words to describe how much I love you.” He passed away a few days later. They had just celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary three weeks prior.

Generation X

Rockford, Illinois © LISA S CLARK 2019

It is amazing and strange to me how often my generation is completely left out of The Conversation. For years now, you always hear about Boomers and Millennials, and more recently Gen Z and Alpha. It’s like Gen X disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle or something. 

I happen to be very fond of my generation – perhaps we all feel that way. We enjoyed our childhood in the 70’s, attended high school and college in the 80’s, and by the 90’s we entered postcollege young adulthood. The photo I am sharing was taken my sophomore year in high school before a New Wave dance party.