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Jewls and her kidsI always wanted to climb a mountain. I dreamed of reaching the summit and gazing far into the horizon. I imagined the intense clarity and perspective on a life viewed from the peak. My body may not be able to take me up the crest of a mountain; however, living with MS has provided many steep obstacles to overcome, each with the promise of a new view from its summit. 

My name is Jewls and this is my MS story.

At 34 years old, I had already faced many challenges. I had settled into life as a single parent of two kids (ages 8 and 11) and was looking toward the future. There was some, albeit chaotic, rhythm to our lives. I had scouted the path ahead, gathered my resources, and set off to climb the next hurdle. The kids were doing well, my full-time work covered our expenses, and I was applying to graduate school to pursue my dream of becoming a counselor. All seemed to be finally on track.

Then a new obstacle arose before us—MS. The disease was a cold, granite monolith that emerged without warning. It blocked our path and changed the course of our lives. I worried that I would not be able to be the mom my kids needed financially, physically, or emotionally. I was afraid that I would lose my sense of identity. I did not feel prepared to tackle Mount MS.

My grandpa and my mom building my house in 2006
My grandpa and my mom building my
house in 2006.

Four years have passed. My children and I only vaguely remember life prior to the arrival of the seemingly insurmountable Mount MS. As I look back on the journey thus far, I see many hills and valleys, mistakes and triumphs. I am fortunate that I did not have to climb Mount MS alone. Family, friends, and the National MS Society acted as my ropes and carabiners. Their support gave me strength and provided footholds when I was too weary to continue the journey.

After my diagnosis, I found my house was not accessible. I sold it and bought a gutted fixer-upper. The kids and I lived with my mom while we finished our new home. My 80 year-old grandpa widened the doorways and did the finish work. My mom and I did all the tile work. The kids helped paint. When our new home was finished, I felt confident that I would be able to stay there regardless of how my MS progressed. My home is my base camp.

My boyfriend, Josh, and my kids taught me that I am still the adventurer I always was. We continue to enjoy fishing and camping. When we go hiking, I usually have my wheelchair and use adapted trails. Our trip to Glacier National Park in the summer of 2007 demonstrated that we are still able to do what we love, just in a new way. The acceptance and resiliency of my children is one of my strongest footholds.

Recently, I discovered the generous support of the National MS Society. Last summer, I had my worst relapse to date and was not able to walk. I turned to the Oregon Chapter of the National MS Society for help. The Equipment Loan Closet provided an electric wheelchair. I discovered that the chair gave me the freedom to do things with my kids that I had abandoned, such as going to the zoo. I am grateful for the constant support and encouragement of the staff and the MS community.

Me with my grandma at my graduation in June of 2008.
Me with my grandma at my graduation in June 2008.
In June of 2008, I graduated with a Masters degree in Counseling from Portland State University. Graduate school with a chronic illness and two children was possibly my greatest challenge. One of the biggest lessons I learned was when to ask for help. The Disability Resource Center at PSU coordinated accommodations so that I could manage the barriers of MS and go to school. I finally graduated and began my career in counseling. I now have the honor of helping others identify the ropes and carabiners that support their lives.

Since graduation, I have been privileged to work on the Parents with MS project through the Oregon Chapter of the National MS Society, providing support to parents with MS. I hope to help parents with MS identify footholds in their lives and provide support as they climb their own Mount MS. My goal is to help the entire family system navigate through the many demands of MS and scout their own path for the future. To this end, I bring my education, professional experience, and personal story to the program.

Me with my mom, Linda, and my sister, Lisa—the most incredible w
Me with my mom, Linda, and my sister, Lisa -
the most incredible women I have ever known!
Throughout the last four years, there were many times when I felt my feet come out from under me, literally and figuratively. At these times, when my emotional, mental and physical strength faltered, I doubted my worth. In these moments, the footholds in my life held me steadfast and lifted me up. My mother and sister showed me unconditional love for my person regardless of disability. My best friend, Laura, reinforced me with laughter and care. My boyfriend, Josh, reminded me that I am worthy of giving and receiving love. My children accepted me as “mom” even when I was different from the other moms they knew. And the staff at the Oregon Chapter provided me with an avenue to contribute to the community. For all of these wonderful people, I am forever grateful. 

I look forward to the future now. While I may not be ready for all of the chasms in Mount MS, I know that my family, friends, and the National MS Society will be there to help. As I look around from my place on the mountain, I am grateful for the lessons learned from each vantage point thus far. And I am eager to view life from the next crest on Mount MS.

Click here to view Jewls's family photo album
View Jewls's family photo album

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Read David Kelleher's myMSoregon story

About Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis interrupts the flow of information from the brain to the body and stops people from moving. Every hour in the United States, someone is newly diagnosed with MS, an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with more than twice as many women as men contracting the disease. MS affects more than 400,000 people in the U.S., and 2.5 million worldwide.

About the Oregon Chapter, National Multiple Sclerosis Society
MS stops people from moving. We exist to make sure it doesn’t. Oregon and Clark County, WA have one of the highest incidence rates of MS in the country. The Oregon Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society serves nearly 7,000 individuals with MS and their families. The Society helps each person address the challenges of living with MS.  We fund more MS research, provide more services to people with MS, offer more professional education and further more advocacy efforts than any other MS organization in the world. The Oregon Chapter has been dedicated to achieving a world free of MS since 1963. We are people who want to do something about MS now. Join the movement at http://www.defeatms.com/.

Studies show that early and ongoing treatment with an FDA-approved therapy can reduce future disease activity and improve quality of life for many people with multiple sclerosis. Talk to your health care professional and contact the National MS Society at http://www.defeatms.com/ or 1-800-344-4867 to learn about ways to help manage multiple sclerosis and about current research that may one day reveal a cure.