Every day, I have to decide between feeding my two daughters or keeping my MS at bay.
Four years ago, I woke up two days before Christmas feeling dizzy. My arms and legs were tingling and numb. One day later, that uncomfortable feeling had moved into my chest, and I knew something was wrong. I went to the hospital. They sent me to a neurologist, who told me I had multiple sclerosis, an incurable and debilitating disease. He sent me right back to the hospital.
That day flipped my life upside down forever. Not yet 42, I had a full-time job, was working toward my degree at night and making sure I was there for my two young daughters. Now, I had to quit my job and go on long-term disability. I couldn’t drive anywhere. And I had no energy or stamina to play with my kids. I was consumed with guilt and anxiety.
I started working part-time for the local fire department and had almost no debt, but my income no longer covered my rent, my car payments, our groceries, my insurance, my co-pays and the utilities. Within a year, I had run out of cash and out of options. I had to move my family out of our home and I applied for affordable housing and waited for a place to open up. Fourteen months later, I was still waiting.
As a family, we were facing real issues of food insecurity. That reality was almost unbearable for me. There seemed to be nowhere to turn, no one to help.
No mom in Loudoun should have to face such choices.
The Next Chapter
Finally, things turned around in October of 2016. With the assistance of local nonprofits, I was able to keep food in my pantry and purchase a small home in Hamilton. My daughters and I move in this summer. My health has stabilized, and there is a new medication on the horizon that promises a better quality of life. I have learned to ask for help. So, I have found a network of people who have helped me understand what options I have to reduce the cost of living here in Loudoun.
I am still anxious about paying day-to-day bills. I want my daughters to grow up unscarred by my troubles. I worry about living alone and about my MS relapsing. I know I could find myself in a wheelchair someday soon. But for now, I am excited to start a new life in a new home and help my kids recover.
When I look back on these past four years, I realize how important it is for people to learn to look beyond labels. Disease does not discriminate. Black or white, young or old, rich or not, poor health can change anyone’s life in a matter of days. “Disabled” does not mean “cripple,” or “needy,” or a “charity case.”
And, as a community, we need to see—really see—how many of our public servants (firemen, police officers, veterans and teachers) cannot live in the county they serve because of a dearth of affordable housing. It is time to change that equation.
Won’t you help us End the Need?
As part of the Community Foundation’s Faces of Loudoun campaign, Loudoun Now is publishing monthly articles highlighting men, women and children who have found a helping hand when they needed it most. Learn more or donate to help End the Need at FacesofLoudoun.org.