What is your key to living successfully with MS?

The key to living successfully with MS or anything else that is challenging is to educate yourself. Read about it, talk to others who are in the same situation as you and have a close relationship with your physician. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t try to diagnose yourself.

When MS impaired her vision in 2001, Carole Reed was forced to give up the job she loved as a paramedic. But despite the struggles she continues to faces, she shines her inner light brightly and challenges herself to rise above. “I flip the script,” she says. ”Instead of having a pity party, I pray about it and realize that someone else is having a harder time than I am. I dust myself off and I try not to dwell on it and push myself a little harder if I can. At the end of the day when you accomplished your goal, even though it may have been hard, you can say to yourself, “I am a conqueror.”

When were you diagnosed with MS?

I was diagnosed in October 1997 after being misdiagnosed with lupus. I was relieved, but also apprehensive to find out where these random symptoms were coming from. At the time of my diagnosis I was working three jobs, with my primary job being a Master Paramedic for DeKalb County EMS.

How did your diagnosis change your life?

Initially, having a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis didn’t change my life. It only presented itself in an awkward gait at times. In August 2001, a month before the horrific 9-11, my vision became impaired. When my vision didn’t improve, I had to make the gut wrenching decision to come off of the ambulance – temporarily, I thought. Little did I know that I would never drive or ride in the back of an ambulance caring for people again. On a positive note, it allowed me to be hands-on with my daughter throughout her high school years. I was always a participatory parent, but now I could give 100%. I always stay busy by teaching or taking various healthcare or emergency preparedness classes.

What is your No. 1 piece of advice to anyone finding out they have MS?

When you find out you have MS, sit down and allow yourself to feel and express any emotions you might have. If you don’t vent, you may become depressed and work against yourself psychologically and it will manifest physically. Surround yourself with positive energy and those who love you.

What do you think is special and unique about the MS Center of Atlanta?

Nobody wants to be sick, but the MS Center of Atlanta is a warm and welcoming facility. When you walk in the door, you are greeted by your name with smiles from the staff as well as the patients. When you are in the infusion room you are allowed to relax and talk about the disease. You laugh, talk, cry and inspire each other without judgement. You are not just a number at the MS Center, you are a patient and a person. They are professional, but have time to give TLC when needed.

What do you do to get away and relax?

When it’s time to get away and relax, I try to do something totally out of my norm. I try to be adventurous. Of course, being able to sit back and relax away from the every day rat race is good, but sometimes you’ve just got to step out to the unknown. The things that I try are extreme outdoor activities. I go whitewater rafting, parasailing, and my last adventure was skydiving. On my birthday, my family treated me to the IFly indoor skydiving experience. I enjoyed it so much that I knew I had to do the real thing. On my daughter’s 30th birthday, we went tandem skydiving. It was so relaxing and freeing up there. While you are diving you have no worries at all. You develop a real appreciation for life. It’s you and the Lord. I love to say I’ve touched a cloud. My next adventure is zip lining!