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Friday, 09 September 2011 08:44

Leader’s Andreas is Sask.’s inspirational voice

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By Jessi Gowan — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Leader native Lacey Andreas is Saskatchewan’s Inspirational Voice for Multiple Sclerosis in 2011.

Diagnosed seven years ago at the age of 19, Andreas has worked hard to maintain an active schedule and stay positive even while dealing with the symptoms of her condition.

 “My diagnosis really made me put my health into perspective,” Andreas explained. “I never really got to have a crazy party life like other 19-year-olds. And I look at other people differently now, because you just never know what they are going though. I have definitely become more compassionate.”

On a day-to-day basis, Andreas struggles with symptoms including fatigue, heat sensitivity, and headaches. She has learned to slow down and listen to her body more, and has found ways to manage her daily physical symptoms through yoga, acupuncture, and visiting a chiropractor.

“All of these things go hand-in-hand to keep me feeling good,” she said. “Even when I don’t have stress, I try to prevent it and stay calm and when my body is stressed out, it feels so great to go to the chiropractor.”

Occasionally, Andreas’ physical symptoms are more severe. Although some people with MS consider the regular fatigue and muscle stiffness to be ‘sick’, Andreas really only feels ‘sick’ when she needs medical attention. Fortunately, she has only been to the hospital a handful of times since her diagnosis in 2004.

 “When I was first diagnosed, it was because of vision loss,” Andreas explained. “The symptoms you get and how sick you are really are determined by where the lesions are in your brain, and mine are in the optic centre. I am fortunate that it’s just my eyes and not my mobility, but it’s hard because you can’t really do anything when you can’t see.”

For the last year, maintaining her ability to see has been a challenge for Andreas. She will lose her vision for a month, have it back for a month, then have triple vision for several weeks, and then back to normal vision. It’s a cycle of frustration she had a difficult time breaking.

“The first year and a half after I was diagnosed, I didn’t take any medications,” said Andreas. “I had no energy, and was always cramping up, so after I got sick the second time, my neurologist put me on an injection only once a week. It was  less intrusive and worked well for me at the time, but since I’ve been sick so much lately with my eyes, I am going to be starting a new drug in a few weeks. This one I will have to take every day, so it will be a big change for me.”

Change is something you have to get used to when you have MS, Andreas admitted. When you think you have your symptoms understood and managed, something new will pop up.

It can be discouraging, but Andreas strives to keep a positive attitude.

“It’s a lot harder to be positive when you’re sick, but I don’t think it’s possible to really be positive until you’ve hit rock bottom and realize what’s going on,” she said. “I’ve accepted it, and I haven’t really let it hold me back in life. It’s OK to get mad, it’s OK to ask why, and it’s OK to just break down and cry, but you can’t dwell on it because there’s just nothing you can do.”

For Andreas, staying active with the MS Society in Saskatoon, as well as with other organizations such as YAMS (Youth Against MS) and volunteering at an Easter Seals MS Camp in Perth, ON, has helped her deal with the emotional struggles of living with MS.

Andreas has had the opportunity to work with some generous people through the organizations as well, including Aaron Solowoniuk, the drummer from the band Billy Talent, who also lives with MS.

“The more people that I reach out and touch, the more it makes me feel like maybe there is a reason that I have this, after all,” she noted.

“I am very involved with the MS Society here in Saskatoon, and the more I do for them, the better I feel. They have even started sending young people with MS to talk to me, so that I can help them out with some peer support. And it’s really helpful for me, too.”

Her hometown community of Leader has been another huge support for Andreas. For the last six years, Andreas and her team of 20 to 30 people have walked in the MS Walk, and with the support of the people in Leader, they have raised more than $70,000 on their own.

“It’s at the point where we don’t even have to ask, everyone just knows when it’s time for the MS Walk and they are so willing to donate,” said Andreas. “I’m so fortunate to be from that small town — it’s like being part of a huge family, and the people there are just so amazing. It’s easy to stay upbeat when you see that kind of support.”

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