Mary Pettigrew: Creator and Founder
For years, I’ve envisioned putting together a group of fellow MSers to partner with me to bring to life a place online where people affected with MS all over the world can commune freely, learn and share stories. As I became more familiar with twitter and other social media outlets, I discovered how wonderful and POWERFUL a tool this connection can be. After much personal thought, networking/brainstorming with other MS pals, not to mention the desire from others requesting community, I decided it was time to hit the ground running and launch our program. So, in the late spring of 2014, MS Pals launched on twitter and Facebook. Over the past year, it has evolved and has grown by leaps and bounds, leading us to think towards the future vision of what MSpals can and WILL become! This new website will keep everyone informed as to what’s happening now, as well as what’s yet to come! As we all know, fatigue hits us hard and the monster of MS is unpredictable, so the fact that we will have a “team” of people available to pick up the ball from time to time is crucial for our comfort level and our success.
I am a “late-blooming” writer from Texas who specializes in poetry. I also have a life-long background in music, the performing arts, and enjoyed 14 years as a special events planner in the private club industry. I am a 1990 graduate from The University of North Texas who started off as a music major (voice), but I wasn’t “feeling” it. So, I changed directions and happily ended up graduating with a B.S. in Hotel/Restaurant Management. I was healthy, eventually married, became a stepmother of two and had a fun, successful career in the food and beverage industry until 2001. Life, as I knew it, changed dramatically when I was diagnosed with MS. I attempted to work a few more years, but nothing connected quite right anymore, so I was soon forced to quit. I can’t describe how “lost” I felt in those first years after diagnosis. You see, this disease affects everyone completely different. I went through numb/tingly issues, my mobility was intact, but I was, and continue to be an “invisible symptom” case. My MS really enjoys messing with my brain. Anxiety, memory, mood changes, heat and fatigue are debilitating, and a battle especially when stressed. There has been some noticeable progression in my symptoms and have had to switch medications many times. This can be quite fearful…and common.
A few “denial” years went by…I dealt with this vile invasion of my “internal room-mate”. My husband couldn’t handle these health changes – he hated every part of it (I don’t really blame him for that). He avoided being around me when I was down – sometimes I imagined I could hear him say, ‘he didn’t sign on for this, couldn’t understand any of it, and I sure didn’t look sick (invisible symptoms).’ So, eventually divorce and other challenges came into play. Those were rough days…rough years. Looking back now, I know I was suffering from a nervous breakdown. Not yet had I thought to seek the help of a professional therapist to help me purge the noisy voices and conversations from inside my head, so I began to write. I wrote little songs and played piano again – I taught myself a little acoustic guitar – and it felt good – soothing. I had found a new form of therapy which enabled me to breathe again; a healing that didn’t require a prescription. Re-invention of myself seemed plausible via these creative outlets. Music, reading, and writing – primarily poetry – filled me with passion and endless possibilities. In fact, I’ve since begun to view my MS as a gift. A gift which forced me to focus on the important things in life, to find my sense of humor, to ignite my passion and live.
CAROLYN PALMER: Partner and Co-Founder
As Popeye the Sailor would say, “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.” Like most people, I wear many hats making me who I am. The hat I didn’t ask to wear is the hat that has MS Warrior written on the brim. It is what it is and until there is a cure, I will wear this hat with courage.
I lived with MS for many years until finally Dx’d on July 20, 2010. It was good to finally have answers after more than 20 years, but I wasn’t ready for what I was hearing. Multiple Sclerosis. Really? How long until I need a wheelchair? Will I get feeling back in my face? Shots everyday, no way! I can’t do this!
Like many, I CAN do this and have found a new normal. I miss working but have found other ways to be productive. MS has given me many new friends and I’m looking forward to meeting many more of you who wear the MS Warrior hat. We will fight together and be “strong to the finish” because one day there will be a cure.