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Keyonna Renae

I spent years, almost a decade, knowing it was probably M.S. After watching my mom and aunt both be diagnosed with M.S. over 15 years, I knew the symptoms. But seeing the lesion on the MRI with my own eyes, and hearing the words Multiple Sclerosis, still felt like a gut punch.

The next few years were full of many ups and downs. Not only because of the debilitating M.S. flares, lack of education around my diagnosis, and understanding just how life-changing this disease was, felt very turbulent. I didn’t know how to advocate for myself or even what I needed to find help. Add on the craziness of the pandemic, and the social unrest that affected me deeply as a black woman my world had felt like it ended so many times.

For the first time, I contemplated suicide. I felt like there was no escape. That suicide was the only way my body and soul would get relief and peace. I had to have honest conversations with myself and for weeks woke up not understanding why I was still here.

But, I decided I was going to try. One of the hardest things I found was how do I even know what I need help with? People ask, “How can I help you?” and I’m like, “I don’t know.” I had to learn how to navigate what my needs were, and then how to communicate them. Nobody teaches you that stuff.

I reached out and got the guidance, medication, and supplements I needed. I started integrating spiritual, emotional, and physical practices into my life. Because it all matters. It all makes a difference.

Now I’m developing a course that teaches the chronically ill how to navigate wellness. It teaches patients how to talk to their doctors about their needs, intentions, and desired level of care in a way they can be heard.

I’m sitting on a patient advocacy council at a local hospital and giving a voice for what it’s like living day to day with a chronic illness. I’m a part of a shift in healthcare that is patient-focused to ensure we’re not falling into the cracks and given well-thought-out care.

I’m taking this gift of MS and using my voice as a catalyst for change.


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