Guest Post: A Devastating Diagnosis

A devastating diagnosis. My dear cousin Annie Smith, a school principal and mother of four school-aged children, was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She is one of the funniest, kindest, most sincere people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting- and I get to be related to her! Although she has been stricken with this disease, she doesn't complain- instead she fights back. Please read about her journey below.  

The first time I noticed that something just wasn't right was in the summer of 2011 when I was on vacation with my family. While staying in a cabin, my tongue and mouth started going numb. I attributed this to the new tube of travel toothpaste that I had bought. I made a mental note to never buy that kind again.  In early 2012, I woke up to my little toe again numb but noted I had had a pretty crazy night at a wedding reception and thought I must have danced too hard or someone had stepped on it! 
Then later that summer, while on another vacation, my tongue again went numb and quickly within the next two days it spread to my lips, then my mouth, and then finally the entire right side of my face was affected.  As soon as I got home, I made an appointment with my family physician who diagnosed me with an isolated case of Bell’s Palsy, but went ahead and scheduled an MRI just to be sure.  Within a few days, he had made an appointment with a neurologist for a second opinion and I had a feeling that something just wasn't right. 

I remember sitting in the waiting room of the neurologist when the nurse came in.  She asked why I was there and I told her that my doctor wanted me to get checked out for the Bell’s Palsy I had been diagnosed with.  She gave me a funny look and quickly added that I was also there to check for Multiple Sclerosis. 

I nearly passed out. 

I didn't really know much about it but couldn't believe what she was saying.  I looked at my mom who had joined me for the appointment and just started crying.

At that time I thought it meant a death sentence, so I had a really hard time controlling my emotions.  My mom was my rock during that time and she kept reminding me that we could get through anything.  After that appointment, my doctor told me to keep track of my symptoms and if I had any other numbness I was to make an appointment with him immediately and we would try to find an answer. 

Not quite a year later, my arm and fingers began to feel numb.  As soon as I made an appointment, my doctor scheduled another MRI and a spinal tap.  Within a month I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  That was a hard pill to swallow at just 34 years old, a busy mom of 4 and working as a full time PK-12 Principal.  Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

Annie, her husband Jake, and three of their four children.

In the last year, I have decided to fight this fight head on and take each day as it comes.  Some days are good days and some are not, but we get past the bad days knowing that better ones are in the future.

In 2014, my mom’s cousin Becky Kennedy was diagnosed with MS, as well as another cousin, Betty Kennedy.  This makes the fight to cure MS very personal and very real. 

Annie and Becky.

That's why I registered for Walk MS, an organization that connects people living with MS and those who care about them. When you participate in this community event, the funds you raise give hope to the more than 2.3 million people living with MS worldwide. Each step we take brings us closer to a world free of MS.

I am asking you to support me in Walk MS because this cause is meaningful to me. Millions of people are affected by MS and the challenges of living with its unpredictable symptoms, which 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.


I don’t like to ask people to give to many organizations; I know that we all have our own causes that we choose to support. But I am, with complete humility and compassion, asking for your help. My mom, sister, niece and nephew, as well as myself and my own kids are walking in the Des Moines Walk MS on May 16th in support of Annie. PLEASE make a tax deductible donation to our team by clicking here. Right now I'm at $35 and I have a goal of trying to raise $250 for Annie. Whether you can give $5 or $50, any support you could provide Team Kennedys Kickin It is appreciated more than you can imagine. It only takes a couple of minutes to donate, would you please support us? If you could share this blog post on your Twitter feeds and/or Facebook pages I would be forever grateful. Feel free to include #walkms

Last year, Team Kennedys Kickin It, 2014 MS Walk in Des Moines.

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