At seven years old I absolutely knew what I wanted to do with my life: become a performer and maybe head for Broadway! A basement renovation in our home provided enough open space for my first stage, and I loved performing for my family. I’d sing at the top of my lungs and dance my heart out.
When I was eighteen I entered Syracuse University’s musical theatre program with my dream of Broadway still in sight. But when I took classes in ballet and modern dance my coordination was not as strong and precise as it needed to be, and I could not figure out why. At times my head felt clouded, almost like it was filled with cotton.
Even though agencies in New York were giving me a chance to audition, I was physically unable to perform. I eventually put my Broadway dreams on hold and moved to Atlanta with my high school sweetheart, Michael. Soon after he proposed, and we started to plan for our wedding and our life together as a married couple. That’s when I noticed that my legs were becoming numb and I was experiencing a pins-and-needles sensation in my feet. I had heard people talk about getting cold feet before marriage, but they didn’t mean literally, did they? I went to see the doctor and an MRI test confirmed I was living with multiple sclerosis (MS). I was overwhelmed with feelings of fear, panic and denial. How was I going to get through this?
In spite of my diagnosis, I kept trying to pretend everything was “normal.” I was such a good actress that even Michael, the person closest to me, rarely noticed my efforts to hide problems with my walking and coordination. I didn’t talk to anyone about my symptoms because they were too difficult to explain. But with this news I thought my dreams of performing were over forever. A few years later, I had an unexpected opportunity to perform with a local producer/songwriter. The lyrics talked about doing what makes you happy, and following your dreams no matter how many challenges you face.
I fought my fears and sang like I had nothing to lose, and the feeling was amazing. It was the push I needed to re-ignite my passion for music. I went on to record my first album, “Believe.” I also wrote and directed a short film, “The Show Must Go On,” to help others understand what it is like to live with MS. I found that when my heart was opened once again by my love for music, it freed my mind as well. I was less afraid – and more focused on what I could do. I realized that denial was holding me back and decided to educate myself about MS. I saw how much I could still accomplish.
Instead of avoiding my doctor, I started to listen to him about treatment options that could help me protect my health. I also got more involved with MS organizations. Most importantly, I found the confidence to conquer my biggest dream of all: becoming a mom. Michael and I now have a son, Kingston, and a daughter, Giabella.
I wrote “Dreams: My Journey with Multiple Sclerosis” to encourage people living with this disease to use their passion to overcome denial and help others understand the impact of MS. I hope that this story will help others on their journey with MS. Download a free copy today for you or someone you know who needs help getting started on their dreams at DreamsTheEbook.com.
About Kristie Salerno Kent, a multiple sclerosis patient advocate, singer and songwriter, award-winning filmmaker and mother of two has just released her first book, “Dreams: My Journey with Multiple Sclerosis.” A free download is available at DreamsTheEbook.com. Kristie is a paid spokesperson for Acorda Therapeutics®, Inc.