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Use It or Lose It: My Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis Was a Wakeup Call

Nurse with patient in wheelchair

I was a young stay-at-home mom in my early 30s when a series of mysterious ailments began to rattle my world. After several months of testing, I finally had a diagnosis — multiple sclerosis.

Laura Langham-Sotoodeh, RN

I was devastated when I was bluntly told that I would die from MS. Soon, I sank into a yearlong funk.

On a quiet morning while sitting with my family doctor, he gently said, “You need to choose where you will be in three to five years. You will still get there, but how is up to you. With MS, you must use it or lose it.”

He went on to explain his thoughts, but, really, “use it or lose it” were the galvanizing words I heard that day.

With his encouragement and my resolve to help others as I helped myself, I chose nursing school as the vehicle to “use it”— the “it” being my brain. And what a journey it was.

I was raising two children and supporting a spouse who was spiraling into drug addiction at the time. Despite this — and dealing with a clinical instructor who curtly told me there was no place for someone with multiple sclerosis in the program — I perse­vered and graduated with honors. It seems the words spoken by my family doctor ignited my desire to not lose anything more.

After several years and many experiences, I settled into a critical care role and stayed there, continuing to “use it.”

I love my unit, my role in the care of the very vulnerable, and the work family that came with nursing. Even better, my children have joined me on the nursing journey, and at times I get to practice beside them.

Having MS is a challenge, and I must continue to learn “use it” workarounds when “lose it” tries to come calling. But MS has also made me mentally and emotionally stronger. The vulnerability of it deepens my empathy.

Deciding to be a nurse and “use it” continues to be an amazing ride.

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