MEET

DEANNA

MEET DEANNA RENEE

02 MARCH 2022

I will not let MS define me.

When I was 17 years old Multiple Sclerosis (MS) crashed into my life. I woke up with blurred vision, and body weakness, within a month I received an official diagnosis of MS. Initially, it felt like I had been handed a life sentence. There was and still today so many?negative stereotypes and attitudes?around the illness. No one could tell me what my future would look like. I was offered very little support at this time and scared of what my future might hold.

I was advised to defer my final year of high school, but I was very stubborn and wanted to graduate with my classmates. Despite having more days of absence than in attendance, I graduated at the end of 2007. I had always been a high achieving student and was horrified I did not achieve the exam results I required to enter The University of Melbourne and the course of my choosing.

I was devastated, looking back I am ashamed that I spent the next two years wallowing in self-pity, while learning to manage my MS symptoms which included fatigue, pain, balance and visual issues, anxiety, and depression. I also had to learn how to pace myself and reserve my energy which is a hard task for a 20-year-old.

In 2010, I was sick of feeling sorry for myself, I applied to Monash University and in 2013 completed a Bachelor of Social Sciences. To celebrate this achievement, against the advice of those around me, I took a month-long backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. During this trip I felt an amazing sense of personal achievement and soon had the epiphany that my MS cannot stop me from achieving my goals. In 2015, I commenced a yearlong Master of Science in Medicine and graduated in the top percentile of my class. I then went on to backpack around India for six weeks.

Today, I am studying a Master of Social Work at The University of Melbourne, while the pathway was not what I expected, I got there in the end. I continue to improve my wellbeing through regular exercise, diet, mental health maintenance and a strong support network of family, friends, MS+ support services, and other social networks. I am currently a MS Ambassador sharing my journey. I am looking forward to educating audiences about the challenges of living with multiple sclerosis and finding the silver lining of living with a chronic, incurable illness.