When I was first diagnosed with MS, I was barely 18. Raised on a farm in central Alberta, I was an energetic, athletic teenager who loved cheerleading and horseback riding. I had just started college and dreamed of becoming an elementary school teacher. But MS was about to change my life forever. In just a matter of months, overwhelming fatigue left me too tired to handle the demands of a teaching career and I knew it was time to find a new dream.
Angry and resentful at the restrictions imposed by my illness, I decided to test my limits by entering a professional rodeo queen contest. I didn’t expect to win since its emphasis on daredevil sports like barrel racing and cow riding is challenging for even the fittest competitors. I entered the contest to prove something to myself – a personal act of defiance against the disease that was consuming my life. So no one was more surprised than me when I out-raced and out-rode all my competitors to win the title of Rodeo Queen.
Justifiably proud of my hard-won victory, I reigned as Rodeo Queen for a year and spent much of my time modelling, public speaking and, of course, riding horses. Although I was an experienced rider, I had to learn to balance and ride with no feeling in my legs because of the MS. It was frustrating at times, but forcing myself to deal with the challenges helped me to really grow and develop as a person.
Balancing my public appearances with time for rest and recovery, I eventually became a finalist in the Miss Rodeo Canada competition. To follow through on my goals and perform at that top level was a huge success for me.
Now confident that I could handle the challenges of MS, I decided to become a flight attendant and fulfill my dream of travelling the world. And travel the world, I did! From the busy streets of London to the exotic outback of Australia, I was always on the move. I saw the world and loved it. I had the odd relapse but I learned to pace myself and flew actively for 10 years.
Although my high-flying days are now behind me, I try to continue to maintain a positive, “can-do” approach to life. I owe a tremendous vote of thanks to my neurologist, Dr. Kenneth Warren. He is now retired but he was always there for me, helping me manage my MS and encouraging me to follow my dreams.
I was slowly going downhill and later moved into the SPMS phase. Just around this time I learned of a new discovery - CCSVI (Chronic Cerebro Spinal Venous Insufficiency) from Vascular Researcher Dr. Paulo Zamboni in Italy. I decided to try this vascular procedure and am really glad I did. Even though a lot more research needs to be done to answer many more questions, this has helped me immensely and greatly increased the quality of my life. I have had no active lesions, no progression in my SPMS condition and no new lesions in over 3 years now.
Today I am married with three healthy children. I want young women with MS to know that they can have healthy babies. I’m a walking testament to this fact as I’ve been living with and treating MS for many years. When it comes to making the best of all that life has to offer, I am living proof that “the sky’s the limit,” if you have the right attitude.
I can be followed on Facebook under Michelle Walsh from Saskatchewan, Canada or Twitter under @exflygal or I Blog for MS Village Canada
I am also a Board member for The National CCSVI Society of Canada
“All for One and One for All” is my motto for all of us MS Musketeers!