*With God, All Things Are Possible

*I wrote the below "note" almost a year ago...well, about 3 weeks AFTER I was diagnosed with MS. It took me a little while to "come out" of the MS closet, per se...it's not exactly easy accepting a diagnosis of any kind, but especially one where your every thought, your every move....your every plan for your life....let's just say in about two seconds flat all of that changed. I was a snow globe in a doctor's hands. It took me a while to get my bearings and then, when I finally did, when the snow finally settled, I decided telling everyone at one time, straight from the horse's mouth, would be the best way to go. I wanted no holes left unfilled, no stones left unturned. MS isn't well known, some have even thought it to be an STD (by the way, um, NO). So I told my story from beginning to end. Then I began to see the REAL plans God had for my life...One of my favorite sayings ever is, "If you wanna make God laugh, tell Him all the plans YOU have for your life." Yeah, that makes Him roll. ;)

Hello, my friends!!!! First of all, I just want to tell you how much I appreciate your cares and concerns, and of course, your PRAYERS!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Many of you have been asking me questions about my recent status when I referred to a spinal tap I had. You’re also smart enough to figure out that a spinal tap/lumbar puncture is NOT an everyday procedure, and I figured it was time to give you the benefit of the doubt.

A little over a month ago I got a nasty cold….no big deal, right? This lead to a nasty headache. Also no big deal….until my hands went numb and I lost my vision. Scary, I know, but the loss of vision has happened many times since high school due to what I had been told were migraine headaches. My PCP said, “If it happens again, call me.” Sure enough it did, only this time the right side of my body went numb and weak….I thought I was literally having a stroke, which a 27 year chick of fabulous health should NOT be having. I took my doc’s advice and he immediately got me in with a neurologist. My first appointment with Dr. Chander was in a week.

For that excruciatingly LONG week, I was still having symptoms of whatever was going on with my body, which was now becoming foreign to me. Not only was the right side of my body numb, but so was the right side of my face. I was weak on that side as well. When I walked I limped and a few times Jordan even had to carry me because my leg just didn’t work….I couldn’t stand, let alone travel from point A to point B. All train of thought was lost; no sentences were finished and I told friends and family information over and over again. They would remind me, “You’ve told me that already,” or “You just said that.” I could NOT concentrate on anything. As if that weren’t enough, I was so dizzy and tired that I felt like I was drunk. (Go ahead and laugh that one up.) I would be sitting on the couch or by the pool and become so overwhelmingly tired that I had to lie down and take a nap. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy naps, but several times a day? After I’ve had a good 8 hours of sleep? NO ENERGY to play with Lilli???? What the heck?!?!?!

So I saw Dr. Chander, a very tall and dark, middle aged, Indian man with a thick accent, a cool doctor’s bag and a remarkable bedside manner. He’s precious from balding head to size 14 foot. He informed Jordan and me that these symptoms I was having could be caused by one of three things: First, migraine induced strokes. This was nothing to worry about. They were basically stroke like symptoms, but not real strokes and could be controlled with migraine medication. Our second possible diagnosis was a pseudo tumor. This is where your spinal chord has too much spinal fluid which causes your brain to send off tumor like symptoms. This was also very treatable: lose some weight to lessen the fluid in your body and also your spinal chord. The last one was Multiple Sclerosis, commonly known as MS. He went into detail on what he would find if it was MS: lesions on the brain and oligloconal banding in the spinal fluid….he wasn’t worried about it, so we chucked that out with last night’s leftovers. We all leaned towards the pseudo tumor because, well, let’s face it….Brandi isn’t exactly a size 2.

A week or so later I went for an MRI and EEG. One week after that, I went for a lumbar puncture, or what we as laymen call a spinal tap. (This was NOT fun.)

Within the weekend Dr. Chander had my results. My family and a few friends I’d told were praying, but there were no doubts that my results would come back to be a pseudo tumor. Jordan couldn’t go with me to the neurologist that day so I took Lilli…you know, for five year old moral support. ;) I walked in refreshed and ready to take action on my new diagnosis of just being plain overweight. “I can handle it. No big deal,” is what I told myself. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and after we got this out of the way, we were headed to the pool.

Dr. Chander looked at my test results over and over for a good five minutes while I sat and watched him. I was swinging my feet back and forth under the table, starting to get a little nervous. Finally he looked up and explained all of his findings.

“Your blood work looks great. Unremarkable. The MRI shows two lesions on the brain. One on the left side and one on the right. The left one is active, the right one, for now, is not. The LP also shows the oligloconal banding…….” He rattled on like this for a minute while I fought to catch up, not completely understanding what this precious doctor was so delicately trying to tell me.


I can handle this. No big deal. He explained all sorts of treatment options, what the cause was, what the lesions are doing to me…………………..

There was a window in my examination room. A small opening, but nevertheless, a window. It was positioned right above the head of the examination table. I was staring out it while he talked. Being so high up in Erlanger Hospital, I could see most of downtown Chattanooga. Cars kept driving. People kept walking…..conversing…..working……going about their own lives without even a clue as to what was happening on the 12th floor of Erlanger Hospital’s neurological center.

After a few moments to grasp what was going on, and a minute to get my bearings, Dr. Chander asked me if I was ok. I just stared at him.

“Am I gonna die? I know nothing about this…..I just know that Annette Funicello and Montel Williams have some MAJOR problems and she died and he’s in pain every cotton picking day! What the heck? I’m only 27, doc!”

He was very patient and reassured me that I was NOT going to die, at least not from MS, and a plus: NO PAIN! Woohoo!!! So, why am I so upset then? Hello, Brandi, it’s MS. Not exactly a day in the park.

So here it is:

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive auto immune disease in which my immune system is not only attacking any foreign bacteria, infections or viruses, but it’s attacking my central nervous system(CNS) which includes my brain. Essentially, my body is at war with itself. There is a protective covering around the nerves and brain called myelin. Well, the myelin has been breached, therefore I have lesions on my brain and nerve damage. This causes the stroke symptoms. Yes, MS is the disease that causes crippledness, blindness and paralysis.

You cannot catch MS from me. It’s not contagious. Researchers don’t yet know what causes it or where it comes from. It is found in mostly females, ages 20 to 40. They’ve caught mine early, which is a plus. There are four courses of MS; I have the first one known as Relapsing-Remitting MS, which means that I relapse AND go into remission. The symptoms I was having which led us to this diagnosis were the result of an MS attack or flare-up. In my house, we lovingly call them “blips.” Attack sounds old lady, episode makes me sound like a hypochondriac, exacerbation is too much for someone who has a numb face to spit out, and flare-up is just plain old boring. BLIP sounds like I own it. And I do.

Since the first blip, I’ve had another one. With every blip, new lesions form. It actually started the morning I was diagnosed and I thought nothing of it until after talking with the doc. I experience the following: numbness and weakness on the right side including my face (the left lesion is the only ACTIVE one as of yet, therefore, I have no problems on the left side.) Blindness or loss of peripheral vision, loss of hearing or muffled sounds. Sometimes I can’t write or walk, but it’s all good. EXTREME fatigue. Double vision and dizziness. Slow cognitive function….this means I can’t concentrate, I lose my train of thought, I forget words or tell you things over and over again. My eyes do funny things when I’m reading or concentrating on a task….they move side to side really fast for a split second. I get crazy legs, commonly knows as restless leg syndrome and sometimes my muscles twitch….my leg will jump in my sleep. That’s a pain for Jordan because he tends to get kicked. Some of these symptoms I didn’t realize were a part of MS until AFTER the diagnosis when we started putting it all together. They're usually brought on by stress or just plain ole being too tired, but can also be aggravated by heat....well, there goes my sun bathing appointment by the pool. I also have to watch my temp when I get sick and try to avoid hot baths....I'm gonna have to pray about that last one. In the end, if that's ALL I have to sacrifice, I'm pretty sure I 'll get over it. But, just so you know: THIS WILL *NOT* INTERFERE WITH MY PAINTING OR SINGING. EVER. I won’t let it. Another high note, I can have as many babies as I want!!!!! The disease doesn't disappear during pregnancy, but researchers have found that in pregnancy, most MS women have little to NO symptoms. PRAISE GOD!!!!

I recently started treatments which will hopefully and prayerfully put me into remission, as in, NO SYMPTOMS. However, there is no cure for this confusing disease and I will be on medicine for the rest of my life, or until they find a better treatment option or, God willing, a cure. Once a week I take an injection called Avonex. This is the best MS treatment on the market right now. It will slow the progression of the disease, lessen the severity of MS attacks, shrink the lesions that are currently there, and prevent more from forming. It can also put me into remission, which is the ultimate goal. This will allow me to keep my quality of life, ie, no crippledness, blindness or paralysis, suffering from just a few symptoms that I can totally handle. The shot does, however, have flu like side effects which can last for about 24 hours, on average. Therefore on Mondays when I take it, I’m out of commission. This will happen for the next few weeks until I get used to the meds and the side effects wear off.

So this is my new life. I’m 27 years old and I have MS. I felt the need to tell you all because I believe in the power of prayer. I also believe that if you see me with a cane during a blip, it might very well raise an eyebrow or two. hahaha! But please, guys, don’t feel sorry for me or pity me; I DO NOT WANT PITY OR TO BE THE "FACE OF MS." This is a blessing from the Father! It could be SO much worse. And you know what? I CAN HANDLE IT. NO BIG DEAL. I’m still the same crazy nut you’ve always known, that you can always count on for prayer! I’ll always sing and I’ll always paint. I’ll always be BRANDI.

Besides that, my God is not finished with me! “He who began a good work in [ME] is able to complete it until the day of Christ” Philippians 1:6, and “I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 Psalm 139 tells me that He knew me before He even formed me in my mother’s womb…..He had a plan for me even then! And yes, MS was a part of that plan. I don’t understand this anymore than you do, but I’m not gonna ask God why. I have no reason to! Isaiah tells us His ways and thoughts are higher than our own. I’d be out of my right mind to ask my Father WHY. I’m also not going to pretend that it wasn’t and isn’t hard for me. The first week was awful for Jordan and me and for our family; we didn’t know which way was up. I felt like I was falling through the air, spiraling out of control, with nothing to grab on to. It was crying one minute and laughing the next. Staring at the wall trying to put the pieces together became my daily activity. I buried myself in a game and didn’t paint for a week. I didn’t sing either. Then it all hit. I wasn’t giving up, but I needed time to think and PRAY….to seek God’s beautiful face in the midst of this very ugly and very painful storm. For a time, I felt like my world was crashing in on me….I’m BARBIE! I don’t get sick and if I do, I suck it up and move on…..SUCK IT UP AND MOVE ON. So that’s what I’m doing, albeit ever so slowly. This is not exactly the easiest mountain to climb, but with God, all things are possible. Matthew 19:26

Through all of this I’ve grown closer to God and seen His grace even more so in my life than I ever have before. His hand is ALL OVER MS. His hand is ALL OVER MY LIFE. I’m so grateful to Him for all He’s done and is doing for me. I don’t deserve His unending mercy and grace. I don’t deserve His love or His sacrifice. I don’t deserve HIM. But He loves me, nonetheless. Therefore, no matter what comes my way, even MS, I’ll carry my cross and be crucified daily with Him. Galatians 2:20

Through Him, I’m fighting this war inside of me that I can’t even see. I’m fighting an enemy I can’t even see. But aren’t we all? Ephesians 6:12 says that “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Our job is to run the race and fight the good fight, to resist the devil and flee from temptation, to glorify God in our daily lives, to honor and obey Him….all this, that we may have crowns to lay at His precious feet.

No, MS is not going to kill me. I will die from something else before I’ll die from MS, though I have no idea what that will be. However, I do know this, when that day comes, I will look at my Creator in His eyes and I’ll be able to say, “I love you so much that I never gave up….I never even thought about giving up.” And He’ll say to me, “Well done, my good a faithful servant.” And I’ll fall on my face and worship Him.

*With GOD, I can handle this. No big deal.*

To learn more go to: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/index.aspx


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