World MS Day falls on my birthday this year. May 25th, 2016.
May 25th has always been a strange day for me. It felt like this "no rules, no consequences" day where I could allow myself to eat whatever I wanted, guilt free. A get out of jail free card, if you will.
I would "save up" cravings and plan my birthday around the food I wanted to eat. I needed to get in my favorites, the foods I always had to give up when starting a diet: Ice cream, pad thai, cafe con leche with toast (born and raised in Miami, dale!)... The pressure was on to get it all in. I made it a point to gorge myself because I didn't know when I'd eat them again, May 26th has always been my restart day.
I've shared 6 birthdays with my diagnosis and this year, it falls on World MS Day. When I think back to each birthday, I can see my illness progressing. The first year, my 21st birthday, I had muscle spasms and stiffness. This was also when I was at my biggest weight and still ate whatever I wanted that day.
Each year, the symptoms were worse. On May 25th, 2012, my 22nd birthday, I suffered the worst flare I've ever had to date. It began at 3am and lasted for 19 hours. My party was cancelled and I spent the day in severe pain and drugged by the pharmacy in my nightstand. That was the first birthday where I simply didn't eat at all.
I'll gloss over the next few years, highlighting mobility loss, chronic pain, optic neuritis, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, fatigue, numbness, sensory dysfunction and more.
I've spent every single birthday fighting a smile through symptoms because, well, I had MS and this was all "normal", according to my neurologist.
It seems fitting that this birthday, my 27th, shares its celebration with World MS Day because after 6 miserable birthdays, I fought back and took control of my life.
I made myself my first priority and implemented the Overcoming MS (OMS) diet plan. I diligently took up meditating, exercise, positive thinking exercises, supplements, healthy relationships, and stress relief techniques.
Now, with my 7th birthday with this diagnosis I am happy to report that I have lost over 155 lbs and have lessened or eliminated most of my symptoms. I felt well enough this year that I even quit my job to travel, hiking mountains in Peru and meditating on Lake Titicaca.
I am proud to share my birthday this year with World MS Day because they are both well worth celebrating. This year, I'll definitely be eating whatever I want on my birthday, but these days my favorites look a little different... and I now I get 365 days of guilt free eating as opposed to one.
Happy birthday to me and happy World MS day to us all. I'll be celebrating big for both this year because I can, and that means more to me than I could ever explain.