“During my senior year in high school, I decided I wanted to serve my county in the United States Navy. Doing so would give me an opportunity to do something bigger with my life than I could have done on my own. Luckily, my family was very supportive. After completing my job training as an Aviation Ordinanceman, I was sent to my first duty station in Atsugi, Japan. My job dealt with all weapon systems on F/A-18 Super Hornets. I would upload and download bombs, missiles, and gun systems, and I would be responsible for the maintenance. Women do not typically do this job, and I was excited and proud to be doing it for my country. Upon arrival to Japan, I was sent straight to deployment on the ship to join my new squadron. My new life in the United States Navy officially begun.
Emotions overcame me as I stepped off the shuttle bus looking at this massive aircraft carrier. The butterflies and happiness filled my entire body. I was beyond proud and thankful for every person in my life who supported me and helped me to get to this point. As I started working with my new squadron, it was challenging and exhilarating at the same time. Most days on the ship were a blur, but they were also exciting and fulfilling.
One memory I hold dear from my first deployment was meeting my future husband, Logan. Looking back, I feel so blessed to have met the love of my life at the age of nineteen. Logan has been with me before my diagnosis, to hearing my diagnosis, and now, living with my diagnosis. I am thankful the Navy brought us together.
On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake hit Japan, and soon after, a tsunami hit the land. Feeling the power of the earth move was unsettling. Aftershocks continued for days after the earthquake. The result of this disaster made the Navy base evacuate to Guam due to the increasing levels of radiation spilling into the air. Two weeks later, I was finally flown off in one of the last planes going to Guam to meet up with the rest of the squadrons. After two months in Guam, we were flown back to Japan to begin preparing for another deployment. Everything seemed like it would be getting back to normal. A week before deployment, my mom called me one evening. I knew something was wrong because it was not normal for her to call me at night. I received the devastating news my uncle who was battling brain cancer had passed away. My world stopped and for a few moments, I could not breathe. I hurt. To make matters worse, I could not go home to say my goodbyes. I was not ready for deployment and just wanted Logan there with me. Unfortunately, he was to be left behind to receive surgery on his shoulder due to an injury from loading weapons. My duties as a sailor were needed, and I was headed out to deployment on my own to serve my country.
Deployment was hard that year. For the next six months, everything seemed like it went wrong, and it did. The gloomy days were never-ending, and I searched for a light of hope every morning checking emails. All I wanted was to hear something from my family or Logan to shine a light on my day. About a month into deployment, I received a message from my mom. Sadly, my other uncle passed away due to complications from a routine gall bladder removal. Again, I could not breathe. I sat there thinking this was not real. A tear rolled down my cheek. I so badly wanted to cry and scream. Instead, I swiftly wiped it away so no one could see it. I collected myself, and it was time to work. I was denied again to go home for the funeral and say my goodbyes. This was just a part of being in the military. I signed up to serve my country, and there was no going back. After this news, my life started to take a turn and not a turn for the better.
Days slowly passed by on the ship, but we did get port days throughout the deployment. Port days are when the ship would port at a country, and we got to take a break and go on land. These were great because it meant catching up on sleep, getting off the ship, and enjoying delicious food. The day we ported, I woke up with a horrible migraine, and I had numbness on the left side of my lips. As weeks passed back on deployment, the numbness consumed the whole left side of my head. I noted numbness and tingling in both lower legs, blurry vision in my left eye, weakness in both hands, and a loss of appetite. I was sent to medical, and they found nothing wrong. I was told by the coreman to come back if it worsened.
Each time I went back, I was rejected for treatment because they could not see anything wrong with me. I only went every time because my Chief ordered me. Looking back, I find it ironic because I knew something was wrong with me, and I could not get others to see it too. I remember feeling anger, sadness, despair, and rage because no one was listening to how I was feeling. I suffered greatly emotionally, mentally, and physically. Finally, my Chief made a call down to medical for them to figure out what was wrong with me. He could see me worsening and knew something was being missed.
As I went to medical this last time, I could not move nor feel the entire left side of my face. I chewed a hole on the inside of my left cheek due to no feeling. I still have a scar from it that reminds me every day what I went through during this time. I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. They also told me I was tying my boots too tight, which was causing my lower leg numbness and tingling. I was prescribed steroids and sent back to full duty status. For the next three months, my symptoms slowly worsened. I still have no idea how I had the strength to finish that deployment. Especially since the day I left the ship, my body took a turn again for the worse.
After two years of being in Japan and finishing the worst deployment, I was finally approved to leave and go home to the states to see Logan and my family. In just a short seventeen hours of travel to Pennsylvania, I could see Logan about forty yards away from me. I was so excited to see him, and I could not wait to have the feeling of comfort being in his arms again. I kept my head down to concentrate on walking as I was extremely dizzy from vertigo. Next thing I knew, I had collapsed headfirst. Again, I knew something more was going on with my body than what anyone knew.
I was laid up in bed for the first two weeks because the vertigo was out of control. Finally, Logan and I made our way to Idaho to see my family. My mom knew first thing something was wrong and took me to the emergency room. I received an MRI scan that showed multiple lesions on my brain. Luckily, a ray of sunshine fell on us that day. Even though we found the lesions on my brain, we also found out we would be expecting our first baby together.
We knew I had lesions, but we did not know what that meant. I was referred to a neurologist who did extensive testing. One test I had to go through was getting a spinal tap. The test was painful, and I could not move as a needle was sitting in my spinal canal. A couple of days passed from the test, and I finally saw my doctor’s name come up on my phone. I was praying he had an answer as to what was going on with my body. I made Logan answer the phone. Logan hangs up the phone and said, ‘She has Multiple Sclerosis.’ I sat there numb, not knowing what to do. I was not even sure what this diagnosis was or what it meant. But, looking at my mom and sisters’ faces filled with tears, it was not good. I was relieved though. I had an answer.
Fast forward to the present day (ten years later), I am a completely new and better person because of my MS. The first six to seven years were really challenging as no treatments were helping me, and I felt like my disease was worsening. I have had to switch doctors multiple times because they were not trying to find a treatment to help me. Most of my treatment resulted in an adverse reaction, but yet they still pushed their drugs on me. On top of all of the treatments, I was also suffering from depression and anxiety from my MS. I had no idea at the time. I kept ignoring all the signs my mental health was suffering also. Hitting rock bottom with my physical and mental health, I decided I needed to take control of the things I can and advocate for me and my health.
I decided to try an autoimmune specialist who focuses on the holistic approach to healing. My world opened up to the possibilities of treatment through nutrition and supplements. I needed to couple that with mindset changes and physical fitness. Each of these played and continue to play an important role in the lifestyle I live today. Due to this change, I was introduced to a community that believes and practices the same. I am able to share and help others like myself. Each person I have helped has continued to inspire me to keep doing better for myself and them. I decided a year ago, after three years of no treatment, I would try Ocrevus. Ocrevus is an infusion treatment for MS. It has been a miracle drug for me. It has been gradually slowing down my illness. Since the beginning, my lesions have been active and growing. Now, they are less active and not growing. There is the hope of fighting my disease.
Multiple Sclerosis is a scary disease because it can change for the worse at any moment. Maybe next year I will lose my ability to walk or maybe in the next ten years. But that does not matter. I have learned to focus on present-day and living my life rather than just trying to survive my life. I have two kids now, and they are my biggest blessings yet. I battle this illness and find the strength to fight it because of them and Logan.
I cannot tell you how much a support system like family means. They love me unconditionally, listen to my struggles, and help me when they can. They pick me up and help me continue to fight even when I feel too weak. My pain is not gone, and I experience it daily. Chronic pain in my legs is something I will always feel. Pain does not have to be debilitating mentally. That’s a hard lesson to learn, but you will become stronger for it.
My life is not normal. Who really is living a normal life? Just be you. Life is always going to be hard at times, but you can change the way you see and deal with those hard times by working on you. Be the person that satisfies you deep down. Be the person that creates endless opportunities to be who you want to be. Be the person that you need to be. Be unapologetically you. Today is the day of your new beginning.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bobie Linnan from Utah. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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