MEET HEIDI DOMINGUEZ
When were you diagnosed with MS and what was the first thing you did after you found out?
My final diagnosis came on July 17, 2009; the eve of my 39th birthday. For two months prior I had been battling eye issues which I thought were due to fatigue and stress. After finally seeing an opthamologist, he sent me for an MRI. He saw I had optic neuritis but didn't know if the inflammation was due to MS or a tumor. The MRI and a future lumbar puncture confirmed MS. After I got the news I cried a bit and told my circle of family and friends but still got out to celebrate my birthday. I decided it wouldn't hold me back and I would live with it.
What advice would you give to someone just finding out they have MS?
The advice I give to the newly diagnosed is first, this is not a death sentence. It has its negatives but for the majority they live very active lives still. Second, I tell them to find a doctor they can trust. Third, don't be afraid to ask and accept help on the bad days. People want to help where they can.
What is something good that came out of your MS diagnosis?
In the last couple years I have finally found a medicine that helped me and I was ready to focus on my health. I started exercising and eating better which allowed me to lose 50 pounds. The weight loss allowed me to start running after more than 20 years. I started to run March 2015, barely able to do a mile. As of today I have finished two half-marathons (Oct '15 and May '16) in addition to countless 5ks. I'm not fast, but I am able and making improvements.
What is your morning routine?
Wake up, shower, take my daily meds and head to work. My meds have decreased from 6 to just 3 due to my eating and exercising changes. After work, I either head out for a run or take a kickboxing class.
How has MS affected your daily life?
The positive impact of MS is its my body's alarm clock. It tells me in not so subtle ways I need to slow down and take a minute. I am thankful for that nudge, it allowed me to make changes and improve the quality of my life. The symptoms I have include facial numbness and tingling, cognitive impacts with finding words or remembering things and some small balance issues.
Can you remember your saddest memory of your life?
The first year, I had a couple relapses including a second bout of optic neuritis then the facial numbness and a burst of new lesions on my cerebellum. I was so scared it was progressing and I would be unable to work. I transitioned medicines every few months trying to find one that worked.
Can you remember the happiest moment of your life?
The last year or two, realizing I was ready to live my life with me at the center and not just say the words. I've done more in these 2 years than the twenty before. It's been a lot of new adventures finding who I was and wanted to be.
What is the greatest achievement you have done since being diagnosed and how were you able to achieve it?
Losing the weight and running my first half marathon. I signed up on my anniversary of diagnosis, 7/17/15. I had exactly 3 months to train when the most I had run was 3 miles. That day (10/18/15) was a proud moment, and within a month I had signed up for my second. I completed that on May 15, 2015.
Any other thoughts you would like to share?
MS should not be the scary, dark elephant in the room. It can change your life in a negative or a positive if you let it. Yes, I have bad days where I still cry or ask 'why' but my good days are more than the bad. On the bad days, I snooze my alarm and take it slow. On the good days, I wake up ready to go for it.