Hi, my name is Emily Britt. I am a 32-year-old wife and mother of three adorable girls. My husband and I have been married for 10 years. We have Zoe, 9, Bailey, 5, and Jovie, 10 months; they are full of energy, kisses and make each day…interesting.
When my husband and I would discuss having children we never imagined that a) we would start so soon, b) have more than two, and c) have all girls. We have learned that life is unpredictable, but even in the mystery of “why did this happen?” there is always so much “I am so thankful this happened!”
In 2010 my second daughter, Bailey, was 10 months old. I had been working to fulfill a New Year’s Resolution to run a marathon before the end of 2010 and my oldest daughter, Zoe, had just started Kindergarten, so we were in no way short of activity. I began to notice that my need to nap had begun to increase each day, after my morning workouts. I didn’t mind too much, as Bailey was still taking naps. Along with the naps, however, came migraines, which I had never experienced before; and eventually blurred/double vision. I had convinced myself for a few weeks that it would resolve. But one day while driving I began to see cars riding on top of one another…that’s not normal. My husband took me to our family doctor and before I knew it I was having an MRI, which lead to blood work, which lead to a spinal tap. It only took about two weeks of testing and symptoms to determine that my diagnosis was Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS).
At this point I had only known one person with MS. My husband’s uncle had MS and passed away shortly after I met him from complications of the disease. This was a pretty bleak time for me. I had too much to live for, I had daughters to raise, and I had a husband to love. Dying at 28 was not an option! I remember standing with my husband in the parking lot of the doctor’s office. He was holding me, I was sobbing, and I looked at him and said, “I am so sorry you have to watch me fall apart!” We had a few months of transition educating ourselves about what this disease was and, thankfully, what it wasn’t. It became something we would be able to live with.
I began a treatment of daily injections. I hated that this was something I had to do. For almost a year, I kept up with my treatment and doctor appointments. Then after a year and one MRI later, I had no new lesions and no new symptoms. That changed around the year anniversary of my diagnosis. Two different nights after my injections I had a severe allergic reaction to the medication. I promptly discontinued this treatment as these side effects were worse than any of the symptoms.
Now we were left unsure of options, so we began researching in a different direction: diet. We ended up finding a Ted Talk with a woman, Terry Wahls, who had Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS) and had deteriorated to the point of being in a zero gravity wheelchair. But with her own research at the University of Iowa she turned her health around by creating a specific diet to feed her cells and starve her disease. This was revolutionary. This was my new inspiration! My husband and I decided we were going to change the way we lived our lives. We were going to prevent disease in our bodies…for our daughters and ourselves!
A funny twist to the story is that we lived in Dallas, Texas at the time. At this point in life, Iowa City was not even remotely an option of places we would live. Little did we know that my husband would soon be asked to move to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to continue his research, with his boss from the University of Texas-Southwestern. I had never even heard of Iowa City until I had heard about this woman who saved our lives, and now we were going to live in the same city!
We completely uprooted our family. We were so excited for all of the opportunities that this city was purported over the internet to offer: the farmer’s market, the emphasis on education for our daughters, the small town setting, which was completely foreign to me, the access to local and organic foods, being able to meet farmers, the new opportunities for research for my husband and the possibility that I would one day be able to meet my hero!
In February 2014, we welcomed Jovie into our family. She is so funny and loves to wave, crawl, and eat sweet potatoes! The diagnosis of MS brought an uncertainty of whether or not more children would even be a possibility. Along with the excitement of finding out we were pregnant came the fear that a relapse would be eminent. Basically, every step along the way has been educational. Throughout this process I have learned that you can have a healthy pregnancy with MS, you can have a safe, symptom free c-section, and a big one for us is that you can breastfeed successfully with MS, at least in my experience. As we approach Jovie’s 1st birthday I still struggle with being scared of a relapse. The hormonal changes are said to result in relapse, but it isn’t certain. I always fear that my children will watch their mother become disabled over the course of their life. As I said before, through our life together we have had a lot of hard lessons, but we are always left with more to be thankful for. We have met amazing people and been challenged more because of the Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. We have gained so much more than we have lost. I have something that constantly reminds me to enjoy every moment with my daughters and my husband. I have a little more urgency to be sure to teach my daughters important lessons in life, and I have signals that force me to slow down sometimes, even when I don’t want to.
In the past three years of being in Iowa City with my family, away from our extended family, I have learned so much about myself. I am still in the process of understanding what it means to be a wife and a mother, what it means to live with a chronic disease, and how to raise three daughters to be healthy and confident.
I am always happy to discuss this disease. It’s something we are all still learning about. I would love to connect with other mothers that live with autoimmune diseases. I would love to know how we could work together to educate and support one another! I love talking with moms who are older and wiser, have older children and I hope to walk alongside mothers with younger children. We are not alone, and we are working together to do important work!
*Special thanks to Emily for sharing her story with us!!
*Want to know a little more about MS? Check out this website!