At Reboundwear, we are so inspired by the stories our community shares with us. From fly fishers to artists, we know that our community is everyabled--and they are so much more than their injuries or diagnoses. That’s why we launched “I Am More Than,” an article series introducing our incredible customers, and giving them a platform to tell their stories.
Before her MS diagnosis, Charlotte felt that her brain function was off. She sought out the help of a neurologist who ran tests, but simply came to the conclusion that she was depressed. This was far from the case. Just a month later, Charlotte had a partial seizure at work. In the ER, she was paired with a new neurologist who spent two months testing her to see what might be wrong. Finally, a lumbar puncture revealed her diagnosis: MS.
MS, or Multiple Sclerosis, is a disease that impacts the brain and spinal cord which makes up the central nervous system and controls everything we do. The exact cause of MS is unknown, but doctors do know that something triggers the immune system to attack the brain and spinal cord. The resulting damage to myelin, the protective layer insulating wire-like nerve fibers, disrupts signals to and from the brain. This interruption of communication signals causes unpredictable symptoms such as numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis. Everyone’s experience with MS is different and these losses may be temporary or long lasting. In our interview, Charlotte referred to MS as ‘the disease of questions.’ Some of the symptoms Charlotte deals with are leg mobility issues, cognitive, memory, speech, and vision issues.
When asked what she would tell herself after receiving her MS diagnosis, Charlotte said, “On the first day, I would ask myself, what are you crying for? On the second day, you can cry. But first you have to accept your new reality before you can adjust to it and continue to live your life. If you let this control your mental health, you will have major problems. I would tell myself ‘MS lives inside of me, but doesn’t define me.’ You should never let anything have control over your mental health, it will win.”
After Charlotte’s diagnosis, she began taking medications to help manage her symptoms, although the types of medications changed over the years due to reactions she had. Her main form of therapy is exercise, specifically HIIT, running, and boxing. Charlotte is a firm believer that everyone should exercise and keep their body in motion! She even mentioned how she has pushed her parents to join Silver Sneakers, and encourages them to exercise regularly as well!
Before her MS diagnosis, Charlotte exercised sporadically, going for walks or runs. After her diagnosis, she noticed that exercise helped her manage her symptoms. About a year after her diagnosis, Charlotte was making sure she exercised as many days a week as she could. Two years after her diagnosis, she invested in a trainer whose personalized exercise routines helped her symptoms immensely. Charlotte said that exercise, especially boxing, has also helped with her mental health, “I am a firm believer in doing anything to keep yourself in motion! It helps with mental health immensely!”
One thing Charlotte noted was that warm weather tended to help with her symptoms, while cold weather could be a trigger. However, Charlotte’s dedication to exercise helps her recover from flare-ups more quickly than she did before. “Whatever you can do, do it!” Charlotte said, “You can always make progress, you can always get stronger. The stronger your body is, the easier it is to fight back from a flare-up.” But, Charlotte mentioned that when she is experiencing a flare-up, the best thing she can do for her body is rest! As tempting as it may be for her to jump out of bed to do certain activities, she makes sure she takes it easy until her body has recovered, and then resumes her exercise routine, daily activities, and hobbies.
Charlotte has many hobbies outside of her love for exercise! She loves to cook, and eat cookies, but pointed out that eating right and maintaining a balanced diet is important for her symptom management. She also enjoys bowling, maintaining her yard, and most of all, spending time with her lovely daughter. Charlotte has also been known to be an avid motorcyclist, unfortunately she will be retiring due to vision inconsistencies as a result of her MS.
When asked what advice she has for family members or friends of those with an illness, like MS, Charlotte said, “The most important thing is to just keep checking in. Many of us don’t know it’s okay to not be okay. Let us know we can lean on you, vent, etc. Ask your loved-one what they need, and when you’re checking in and say something like ‘what are you up to today?’ not just ‘how are you feeling?’ We don’t always want to talk about how we’re feeling because we don’t want to burden others or feel pitied, it’s a situation where only you really know about what you go through.” Charlotte also mentioned that it’s important to do research, “I didn’t know it could affect your bladder or bowels, there’s a lack of awareness, even those that have it don’t know what to expect. I do think that everyone should visit the Shepherd Center at some point, everyone should appreciate what they have for support body and mind wise.”
Charlotte’s goal now is to be a voice for people with MS, to bring awareness and attention to the community by unraveling the web of MS in a positive way. She hopes to be able to start a support group for MS patients in Atlanta, GA soon! “The only way to live life is to be positive!” You can follow her journey on IG @mswebb611 !