Meet Lindsey – a mom of 2 (with another on the way!) who’s showing the world that MS isn’t stopping her from living the life she dreamed of.
I’m excited to introduce you to Lindsey, one of the many inspirational MSers that I met through this blog. Lindsey, who is also a young mom with multiple sclerosis, reached out to me after seeing my post “Breastfeeding and MS” with some questions about my experience. She actually inspired me to write the post “Pregnancy and MS: The things You Want to Know” since these types questions and issues are so common when you’re diagnosed with MS at this point in your life. I know for me, learning of this disease in my late twenties was daunting and made me question if motherhood was even possible – but not to worry, it is! Check out how Lindsey is able to manage MS and motherhood.
Meet the Faces of MS: Showcasing people with MS living Well and Strong
Name: Lindsey Paunovich
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and live here still with my husband Tim, 2-year-old son Luke, 11-month-old daughter Claire, and our golden retriever/cocker spaniel-mix Elsie. We are also expecting our third little blessing, another daughter, due February.
After the birth of our daughter Claire I took a part-time position at my workplace within Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to this role I had worked in communications within the higher education setting for more than six years, and in marketing and communications for more than 10 years.
How old were you when you were diagnosed?
I was diagnosed in May 2013 when I was 28-years-old, literally days before a long-awaited trip to European adventure my husband and I had spent a year planning.
Tell us a little about your first symptoms and how you were diagnosed.
Just months before my diagnosis, I began feeling a tingling and numbness in my shins that worked its way down to my toes and up to my torso all the way to my belly button. I honestly thought I must have pinched a nerve in my back and would probably would not have sought help from a doctor had it not been for concerns of my family.
Ironically my general practitioner told me he needed to rule out MS during my first visit to discuss my symptoms. A series of blood tests, x-rays and an MRI later, my husband and I found ourselves in the office of a well-known neurologist specializing in MS. He confirmed my diagnosis of Relapsing Remitting MS almost immediately upon seeing my MRI results, finding lesions within both my spinal cord and my brain.
Looking back I can still remember every moment of that fateful day. And while I still harbor hard feelings about the way in which MS abruptly introduced itself into my life, I now see how it was a blessing to have been spared the confusion and uncertainty that comes when someone is not given an immediate diagnosis.
If you had to attest you living Well and Strong to one thing, what would it be?
If I had to choose one thing that I had to attest to living Well and Strong it would be my family; specifically, my children. Focusing on my family and my kids’ needs really helps me keep my mind, body and soul active and fulfilled. It allows me the opportunity to stay positive – to eat healthy, to exercise (when I can!), and to get out and explore through the eyes of my kids. Some days are so much harder than others, especially running after a toddler and a soon-to-be toddler while pregnant, but knowing how important my wellness is to my kids makes my dedication to living well and strong so vital.
What are some of the strategies you use to keep MS under control?
I really try to take things day by day. Stress is an issue for me personally – and it is also a big trigger for MS symptoms. Because of this and the fact that I am a perfectionist, I have really tried to alter my mindset and how I approach every day.
Since diagnosis I have been on the MS medication Copaxone 40 mg (when not pregnant or breastfeeding), which involves giving myself injections three times per week. In addition to medication, I also try to maintain a healthy lifestyle through a healthy diet, exercise and staying active as much as I can. I love yoga, a practice that I began after diagnosis and have maintained throughout my pregnancies. And I also see a therapist regularly. Of all the strategies I do to help keep my MS under control, making the leap to talk to someone outside of my close-knit circle of family and friends about my MS, my feelings and my life, has been a true game changer.
What are some of the things you’ve done despite having MS… Any accomplishments?
The last three and a half years have truly been a whirlwind. Five days after my diagnosis, my husband and I took that trip to Europe we had long planned. We used the time to reflect, enjoy ourselves without the burden of my diagnosis keeping us down, and of course, ate incredible food and drank lots of wine.
Upon return from our trip we found out we were expecting our first child. Since then, we’ve added another little one and will soon greet our third blessing in February. After careful and conscious discussions with my neurologist I have breastfed both kids for 3 months each and plan to breastfeed my third baby if I am able as well.
I think there is a misconception that people with MS cannot have kids; but that is most definitely not the case. While I do not know how these three babies will affect my disease progression (ahem, stress calling – lol), I can say that at least for now the actual process of carrying and giving birth to my children has not shown any indication that it has caused an increase in progression for me.
I hear you’re pregnant – congratulations! How is it being pregnant with MS? Share your experience, if you don’t mind.
Thank you – yes, we are very excited to welcome our third little one in February. Being pregnant with MS has definitely been a learning experience for me because I have only known pregnancy while also living with MS. That said, there are times when I feel a particular symptom (like fatigue) and wonder, is this pregnancy or is this my MS?! Sadly, I will probably never know which is which, but I try not to let it get me down. Instead, I focus on the fact that most women with MS experience a relief from relapses during pregnancy – which has helped me greatly during my pregnancies. And while there is an increase chance of relapses post-partum, my neurologist, husband and I have a solid plan to combat the disease while still trying to give myself the opportunity to experience motherhood on my terms.
What advice would you give someone who’s recently been diagnosed?
Multiple Sclerosis is unique to each and every person, which can be very hard to comprehend since you cannot compare yourself to any other individual. That said, you can still learn from others’ experiences and help draw from their strengths to help you combat the symptoms and feelings you may face.
Take things day by day. Give yourself time. For me, there are still days I find it hard to believe I have MS, but that is OK. Listen. Learn. And reflect. A diagnosis of MS does not mean you cannot have the same life you always dreamed of having. Trust in your support system and trust in yourself.
“Faces of MS” showcases other people with MS share their experiences and success strategies for living Well and Strong to help the larger community.