(BPT) - When Chrystal Graham of Alpharetta, Georgia was diagnosed with relapsing Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2009, she was 27-years-old and no stranger to coping with life's challenges. Having dealt with the loss of her mother to illness, Graham knew she could manage her way through almost any type of adversity.
'When I heard the words MS, I thought to myself, 'there is nothing that can be given to me that I can't handle,'' said Graham. 'However, I still had moments of doubt, wondering how this could happen to me and how I was really going to confront it.'
Graham set about learning as much as she could about MS, a disease where your immune system attacks the fatty coating called the myelin sheath on nerves in the brain, spinal cord, and eye area, which causes scars to develop and prevents the nerves from communicating as they should. This communication breakdown creates a range of symptoms from mild to severe, and from temporary to permanent.
The truth is, no two people experience MS exactly the same way. Some common symptoms are problems with memory, attention, problem solving and vision; problems with balance and coordination; depression or mood swings; sexual issues; muscle stiffness and spasms (spasticity); weakness; bowel or bladder problems; pain and fatigue. Currently there is no cure for MS, people living with this overwhelming disease have it for life.
Graham admits that learning to cope with a lifelong disease can be daunting, so she focused on cultivating a reserve of inner strength to help her overcome any challenges she encountered. 'I had to dig deep within myself to find the strength and grace to live with this disease,' she said. 'I tend to be resilient and optimistic, and there's a lot of strength in that, but I also find strength from my family and friends. They are my core of support, helping me get through difficult times, while cheering me on through the great times.'
Graham's support network provides her with the encouragement to continue enjoying the same hobbies she had pre-diagnosis - writing, blogging, and doing yoga with her daughter.
As an MS LifeLines Ambassador, Graham shares her inspiring story about finding inner strength in a video gallery at MSLifeLines.com/MyStrength. Sponsored by EMD Serono and Pfizer, the video gallery showcases real stories from people with MS discussing where they find strength in their lives.
MSLifeLines provides education and support to people living with relapsing MS and offers a variety of resources for both people with MS and their caregivers. Individuals impacted by MS in any way can learn more about the disease and free resources available by visiting www.mslifelines.com or calling 1-866-783-5189.