Often we pray for things in life and wonder if they are answered or not. Many times those prayers are truly answered and we just don’t realize it at the time. Amy McGovern is a mother of three young children and a wife to her adoring husband, Dan. She feels as though she always prays but little did she know, over five years ago, how those prayers would be answered. She and Dan were living in Rockford, IL and Amy wanted to move back home to Iowa. So she prayed. Not only did Amy pray that they would be able to move back home but, also that Dan would find a new job with regular hours and that they could expand their family by having a third child.
While pregnant with their second child, Griffin, Amy noticed she had some numbness in her feet but quickly dismissed it as issues related to the pregnancy. She, along with her doctor, thought that it was most likely sciatica and once the pregnancy was over it would go away. Seven months after his birth she started getting extremely bad headaches. Amy was suffering from some post-partum as well and was convinced that she had a brain tumor. She went to the doctor and they performed an MRI. The good news was that there was no tumor but she did have some white lesions that were consistent with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or migraines.
Soon after she noticed numbness in her right hand and tried going to a chiropractor for about three weeks. Then the numbness returned in her right leg and she was referred to a neurologist. Another MRI was performed which again showed lesions. The MRI was followed up by a spinal tap. That was on a Friday. After a long weekend of anxious waiting, Amy received news on her 29th birthday that she did in fact have MS.
That day was very surreal. Like anyone, Amy had many questions in the months that followed. During this time they were still living in Rockford, separated from their extended family. That entire winter she was in a funk and slipped into a depressed state not knowing what her life would be like going forward. One of the biggest questions she and Dan had was would they still be able to have another child that they wanted so badly?
Amy remembers very vividly a conversation she had with her Mom on the phone sometime after her diagnosis. Her Mom told her, “Your aunt Debbie is so impressed with how strong you are.” Strong? Amy had never seen herself that way in the face of this life changing disease that had suddenly rocked her world. Soon, Amy realized that her aunt, mom and many others were right! In spite of having MS she was still working and raising two small children.
“I’m kind of glad I have MS. I think I have it for a reason, and I’m glad I have it and Dan or the kids don’t have it. I think it’s made me a stronger person and has deepened my faith and brought me closer to God. So for that I’m glad.” Wow! What an amazing outlook on what could very easily bring most to their knees in sorrow and despair. Amy certainly still has days that she struggles, as we all do, but has realized that in spite of MS, she has a purpose and has every intention of fulfilling it!
Amy first began treatment with a once a week shot called Avonex. It was effective in keeping the symptoms and flair ups at bay but it would wipe her out the entire next day. “I kind of felt like I had the flu,” she says. “I would also be extremely achy and get hot and then cold with the chills, but the shots were definitely worth it.”
Since her initial diagnosis the only time Amy has had issues with flare ups from MS is when she has been off the treatments. She and Dan both wondered what that would be like if she became pregnant with their third child. By this time they had moved back home to Iowa. Her doctor in Dubuque didn’t want Amy taking treatments while they were trying to conceive, so she went off the shots and had a flare up. This forced her to begin receiving treatments again. The new treatment was with a different drug requiring daily shots. Amy wasn’t excited about having to inject herself daily but it allowed the couple to still try to conceive.
Amy eventually did become pregnant and was told that the MS would most likely go into remission during the pregnancy. “The third pregnancy was horrible,” Dan says. Amy had an episode at about 14 weeks that required her to take a week off of work. A short time after that she had a second flare up and this time it introduced a new symptom. Up to this point her symptoms were always related to numbness on the right side of her body. This time things were different. She began having issues with vision in her left eye. Her eyesight in that eye became what Amy describes as dim and it kept getting progressively worse. She was scared and frightened. Not only was Amy pregnant and concerned about the baby but she now had the added worry of wondering whether she could continue to work. Amy absolutely loves being a hair stylist so her sight and being able to be on her feet all day is very important. Would MS take that away from her?
Despite all of this Dan says Amy deals with it well. It is easy for her to get wore down and she tires easily. Amy has Relapsing Remitting MS and she has lesions only on her spinal cord at this time. Her toes and feet are always numb and if she gets overheated her hands will sometimes go numb as well as her cheek. Once Amy rests or cools down this typically goes away.
Dan is often concerned about what the next episode may bring and when it will happen. He and Amy are now both grateful she is on a treatment plan that only requires her to take two pills a day. It’s much better than the shots and, even though there are some side effects, the tradeoffs are worth it. Recently, they had an issue with insurance and Amy was off the medication for two weeks. Dan says it is frustrating when issues related to insurance could cause his wife to be sick unnecessarily and he can’t do anything to change that.
For most people that suffer from MS, the summer poses bigger issues. The heat is difficult and the humidity is worse. When the humidity and mugginess rises, it can really wipe Amy out and zap her energy. Dan is very aware of this and reminds her that it’s OK to take a break. That is much easier said than done when you have three little ones running around. Amy says keeping up with them makes it sometimes easy to forget she even has MS. The kids are pretty young but they know their Mom has MS and that she takes medicine every day to help her. They got a book from the National MS Society called “Keep S’myelin” to help explain to the kids what it is and to reassure and alleviate any apprehension they had.
Even though she is very open about her diagnosis most people wouldn’t even know Amy has MS. “It makes you realize that everyone may have something even if you don’t see it,” she says. Having MS has caused Amy to look at things differently and enjoy life and be grateful for it. It has reminded her to have patience and treat others kindly because you don’t know what is going on in their life or what struggles they may be trying to overcome. “It certainly makes you look at things differently and opens your eyes to the generosity of others. During one of my flare ups while I was pregnant, a neighbor up the street we didn’t even know that well brought us a meal. There are a lot of good people in the world!”
Growing up Amy says that although she felt faith filled she didn’t necessarily have a strong connection to God. That has changed now. Anxiety has always been something Amy has dealt with but now, “I put it all into God’s hands.” Dan agrees and would have rather the disease had affected him but believes Amy handles it with grace and strength. “This has made our marriage stronger. I was at my lowest and he stepped up. You see someone’s true colors in times like that,” Amy says as they both look at each other, their faces erupting into magnificent smiles. It was more than just smiles though; it was the two of them sharing with each other the joy and love they have for one another. One couldn’t help but notice the peace behind those smiles that no matter what the future with MS will throw their way that they will be alright. One strong woman determined to live her life and her adoring husband who is right there next to her for whatever she and his family needs.
Be Great! Be Strong! Be Determined!
If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to share it on social media and enter your email address to be notified when new content is published!