The term blind-sided became personal for Anna when she became legally
blind during her junior year of high school at the age of 16. While her friends
were learning to drive, giggling about boys, and shopping for homecoming dresses, Anna was struggling to learn Braille and coming to grips with the idea that she was being propelled in a trajectory that would change her life forever. And so began her wrestling match with an unrelenting partner, relapsing and remitting MS.
Anna’s blindness lasted 10 months but her disease continued to weaken her body. By the end of her freshman year of college, another relapse left her dependent on a cane for mobility. It was at this point that Anna was
introduced to a nurse specializing in Lifestyle Medicine Integration. Together they researched and applied nutrition and functional exercise principles to improve her quality of life. Within 6 weeks, Anna was feeling better and was able to run a full 6 miles!
Anna has since taken responsibility for managing her health through
nutrition, functional exercise measures, as well as the disease modifying therapies prescribed by her neurologist. She graduated from the University
of Florida with a degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition, has recently completed her twelve month dietetic internship, and plans to take her state licensure exam this year. Anna’s passion is to become a dietitian to help
others with autoimmune diseases regain quality of life, manage symptoms, and learn to thrive.
Because of her stellar care of herself, Anna has, in the past, been able to
hold at bay the severely debilitating symptoms someone with such an aggressive form of MS should be experiencing. But due to the highly
aggressive nature of her disease process and after struggling with this
disease for over a decade, the lifestyle and medication approach to managing her MS is no longer working. We fear the time when her disease will overpower her efforts as her disease process has continued to relapse and progress through even some of the strongest medication options available.
Time is critical as Anna’s functionality is declining and her symptoms are hindering her day-to-day life. At 26 years old, Anna is living at home as she needs the extra care and financial support, is unable to work, and is struggling to reach the finish line of obtaining her dietitian license. Anna struggles with vision, mobility, bladder and bowel dysfunction, nerve pain, weakness, cognitive difficulties, and severe fatigue. There are days when Anna can’t drive, can’t walk, or can’t get out of bed. On a good day, she cannot do anything more strenuous than walking for about 20 minutes and she occasionally uses a cane at times to compensate for muscle weakness and balance.