Life with MS

My Story: Laughing with the Universe

By Nicole Lemelle

When you make plans, the universe laughs. For years, that saying never pertained to me. I lived my life taking premeditated steps. My goals were completely thought-out, closely following a life plan created in my head. Each step guided me towards a rosy future.
Step 1 - I graduated from high school with a scholarship to college.
Step 2 - I received a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology.
Step 3 - I was accepted into nursing school. 
Step 4 - The universe laughed.
During the spring of 2000, half-way through completing my nursing degree requirements, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My peculiar journey to this discovery began a few weeks earlier with some weird physical warning signs.
Periodically, I would feel a brief jolting pain shooting from my eye. Then one day, I haphazardly covered my right eye with my hand and discovered I could not see out of my left eye. Deep inside, I knew something wasn’t quite right. But I was in nursing school, and at that point in my life nothing was more important. All of my time was spent studying and going to class.
For a while I was able to ignore my sight issues – until I walked face first into a cinderblock wall in my dorm room. I was afraid, because I just didn’t see the wall. The pain was so relentless that I conceded defeat to the throbbing discomfort and reluctantly made an appointment with an eye doctor.
Once I got to the optometrist’s office, I nervously sat in the waiting room. Twenty minutes later the nurse brought me to the back. When the doctor entered the exam room, I told him my story. He did a quick
assessment, then proclaimed I had tired eyes and prescribed me eye drops.
I was headed towards the office front door when I remembered my fading eyesight and being so scared. So I made an about-face and went back to the examination room. I burst in and desperately squawked, “But I can’t see out of my left eye!”
The doctor examined me again. Then he began asking me about my family history. I could barely answer his questions. I was fighting back tears. He then said, “I want you to get an MRI today.”
Thanks to nursing school I was familiar with that test, but I didn’t know why he wanted me to have one done. And I was too upset to ask. After my exam, I headed straight to the radiology center to get the MRI scan.
Later that night the optometrist called me at home and said, “I made an appointment for you to see a neurologist.”
Two days later, my parents and sister met me at the office of LSU’s chief of neurology. The doctor got right down to business. He began explaining my MRI scan. I impatiently pleaded, “Could you please tell me what’s going on with my sight?”
He calmly stepped into my personal space and said, “Nicole, I am 99.9 percent sure you have multiple sclerosis.”
From that point, the lights went out for me mentally and emotionally. I’m so happy I had my family there to speak for me.
While the doctor was giving me the facts about living with MS, I was foreseeing my future. I saw visions of me rolling in a wheelchair to the bursar’s office and withdrawing from nursing school.
I left the doctors office not really knowing what to expect, but I knew this event would mark a turning point in my 25-year existence. In my mind I was anticipating the worst. And because I didn’t know much about MS, all I could think about was wheelchairs and Richard Pryor. I know it sounds silly, but at that moment, that was my mindset.
Two days later, I received the recommended dose of outpatient intravenous steroids. The next week, I went back to class and began running at the park again. And soon after, my eyesight returned to baseline. 
To my relief and surprise, my initial thoughts did not become my reality at all.
I completed nursing school and married my boyfriend, Tommy. And for nine years, I lived relatively symptom free. 
Since then, unfortunately, the disease has progressed. I now use a wheelchair. I had to retire at the age of 37 from my medical device sales job. And I have difficulty with fine motor skills.
Yes, MS continuously tests me in ways I never thought I would have to experience. But I always adjust after every exacerbation.
Today, I have a very happy life. I write a blog, My New Normals, study Spanish, and participate in therapeutic horseback riding. Despite my challenges, I always try. And when I try, I win. I develop. And I laugh with the universe.