Noelle’s Story

Noelle’s resilience and positive energy empower her to “Rock It”!

I was seventeen when I had my first MS symptoms. I was at boarding school, and I thought I was living my best life. I was learning about myself, building my self-confidence, and growing into an adult. After a fall, I started experiencing neurological symptoms. I saw a neurologist, who said that I either had MS or that I was just being overly dramatic. However, I knew something wasn’t right.

I went on to college, traveled, and tried new things. There were times when I wondered why I was having tingling or burning in my feet and legs or why there were times when I was overly fatigued. I wondered what was wrong with me, but my concerns never stopped me from moving forward in life.

At twenty-three, I developed numbness over the left side of my body and heaviness in my foot, and after an evaluation, I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. My plan was to “give it my all” and keep going no matter what. I was accepted into the Masters program at the Boston College School of Social Work. Even though inside I felt like my world had crashed down, I did my best to keep going and challenge myself. My doctor recommended yoga, but I chose instead to take a belly dancing class! I felt like I was taking control.

The first few years after my diagnosis were not smooth sailing. I had major relapses and learned I was allergic to all the currently available MS medications. Despite this, over time, I got married and had three beautiful children. There were still big challenges, but I did my best to move forward the handle them.

On my darkest days I still allow myself to grieve. There are lots of tears, screaming, anger, and feelings of depression. I accept my ever-changing feelings about living a life with MS. I try to live my life despite MS, and I am constantly working on my coping mechanisms.

Twenty-three years after my diagnosis, my neurologist confirmed that I had transitioned to secondary progressive MS. I was depressed, and this new chapter began with lots of tears, but I tried my best to accept the challenges of my new life. I am now using an assistive device for safety at all times. This was a struggle at first, because I was concerned about what other people saw and thought and about having an obvious physical disability.  Over time, I realized that using adaptive equipment didn’t just keep me safe but also allowed me greater independence. I was able to continue having a full life despite my disability. This changed my mindset.

I believe that every patient owns their unique treatment plan Just because something works well for me doesn’t mean it will work for someone else. However, hearing about someone else’s experience can help us to try something new. Over the last few years, I have focused on supplements, nutrition, and exercise in conjunction with MS medication.

I decided to add boxing to my treatment plan! What started as a desperate attempt to improve my arm strength, evolved into a life-changing experience. I found a boxing program called Punch 4 Parkinson that accepted people with MS!  After only 6 months, my improvement in strength, balance, walking speed, and core strength was staggering. I noticed an immediate improvement in my self-esteem and overall mental health. I was shocked and thrilled by the positive changes in my body. This experience taught me that it is okay to ask for help, to go out of my comfort zone, and taking a risk on something new.

There are many times when my body feels broken but I believe that I have been blessed with natural resilience, which I try to nourish as much as I can. This resilience in conjunction with a wonderful support system and an excellent care team is crucially important for me. I have learned how to be my own best advocate. I often remind myself that I am stronger than I think. I try my best to take time to listen to my body and my feelings, and I never stop living. In my home our mantra is “Rock It!” All my experiences, good and bad, have taught me that we all have a path forward if we just find the positive energy inside us.