Name:

 

Gina Anderson

Country of residence:

 

USA

Age:

 

42

Occupation:

 

Teacher/Band/Music

Who is accompanying you on the Kilimanjaro climb?

 

Suz Thomson

When were you diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis?

 

 

August of 2009

How has your diagnosis affected your life?

 

Returning to my job as a band teacher was difficult following my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis. Teaching in a small district, it was hard to keep my diagnosis confidential. I learnt that letting my employer know about my diagnosis was not necessarily positive. Following that, my employer labeled me as disabled and they believed that major changes were needed to accommodate me in the workplace. They didnít understand that MS can affect everyone differently.

 

It has affected my life, not what I can or canít do, but on how other people see the diagnosis of MS. 

What is your current level of physical disability (if any)?

 

 

I donít have much feeling in the right side of my face and my hands have problems from time to time. When I do minor work or reading for more than about 20 minutes, I develop double vision for about an hour after. 

Please provide a history of your disease and how the disease is now affecting your life?

 

 

I was diagnosed just two years ago but I have been living with MS for about 16 years. Sixteen years ago I lost the function of my right hand, but this was thought to be a pinched nerve. Then about eight years ago I lost the feeling on the right side of my face. This was the first time I saw a neurologist and he thought it was just a virus.  This would happen now and again so I didnít do anything about it. Then two years ago, I was training for Ironman Wisconsin and I woke up with double vision. By the time I saw a neurologist I was having problems getting up off the floor and it felt like my entire body was being weighed down by lead. I even kept swallowing the wrong way and I later found out that this was also a symptom. I was hospitalised for five days on steroid treatments the week before Ironman Wisconsin.  Needless to say, I did not make it to the race. 

 

Being a music teacher it is difficult to miss teaching time, and because of concerts, the director needs to be there.  I canít have a MS day on a concert day but if I do, I need to have the mental determination of climbing a mountain to make it though the day. 

What are your current views/feelings of your life with Multiple Sclerosis?

 

 

 

I donít feel disabled by multiple sclerosis in any way. It just comes and goes like the flu. You need to deal with it when you have a relapse and hope that it is not going to last long. 

 

The one thing I do think about on and off again is health care and not having the freedom to move to another job. I now have a pre-existing condition and this can be difficult. 

 

On the humorous side of things, it has given be a new set of jokes and I tend to take more risks. MS has made me uninhibited about doing things. 

How have your relationships with your family/personal/friend relationships been affected by your diagnosis?

 

I am single and even with the macular dystrophy I always felt it was a dating barometer. The guy that sticks with you when you tell him you have MS is a good guy. 

 

My family is always supportive of everything that I do and I live next door to my brother and he stepped up when I needed someone to drive me. It has brought us closer. 

What has motivated you to take part in the Kilimanjaro climb?

 

 

I saw Lori Schneider on TV shortly after I left the hospital. She was talking about her time on Mt Everest and how she would like to take a group up Mt Kilimanjaro. I have been thinking about the opportunity and discussing it with people for the past year. When it came time to sign up I took the leap of faith. I needed something to work for that was superior to anything I have ever done. 

What is your previous experience of hiking/climbing?

 

 

I am from a great outdoor place and am a regular camper and hiker. But as for climbing, I donít have any experience with this.  I thought there was an escalator on Kilimanjaro?!

What are your aspirations/hopes for the Kilimanjaro climb?

 

 

With this climb I hope to meet like-minded people who are also staying very active through their diagnosis of MS. MS affects everyone differently and I am lucky enough to be able to do this at this time. I would like to show other people that you donít just donít have to sit around and you might be able to set some big goals for yourself. By doing this climb I hope to change the idea that we all have about support groups and maybe support other people in my area with a more active approach. 

What hopes/aspirations do you have planned following the Kilimanjaro climb?

 

 

I teach and so I would like to talk to students about this climb and how the trivial things that get in the way donít have to stop you from doing great things. As students, are you really giving your best every day, or can you do better?

 

I also have this idea in my mind about starting a band of beginner adults in my area. An adult beginner band would be a way for people to engage their minds by learning something new and doing a lot of laughing along the way. 

Please highlight any other achievements you have made since your diagnosis

 

 

Having just been diagnosed two years ago this August, it has taken me a year to get back on my feet and moving forward again. I do hope to sign up for Ironman Wisconsin. 

What would you say to other people who are living with MS?

 

 

Not everyone can do what we are doing, but there might be something you would like to achieve.  Find out what that is and go after it.  When you have a goal and are learning all you can about it you feel so good. 


I think Mister Fred Rogers said it best ďPart of the problem with the word disabilities is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who canít feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who arenít able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.Ē
 
Living with MS gives you a chance to look at life from a different angle.