Help, just a phone call away!

Inspiration shines through a personal struggle, and results in helping countless others in the process.

Michele ScottAmelia Davis

By: Amelia Davis – QCN
Date: 02/25/2010

 

MS came knocking at my door in 1998, just two months before my thirtieth birthday and just two months before my mother’s death.

I had many symptoms in my teens and early twenties; loss of sight in my left eye, both hands going numb with no ability to differentiate between hot and cold. When I woke up one morning and the whole left side of my body was numb, I realized the cold reality that I could no longer run from the disease that had been stalking me for years. I finally had to admit to myself that I had MS. I was diagnosed with remitting-relapsing MS. Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic, and often disabling, auto-immune disease of the central nervous system that occurs mainly in young adults.

 

Although I have not experienced all of the symptoms myself, I can relate to the fear and uncertainty that go along with wondering how long the symptoms will last. The anxiety of not knowing if you will ever regain your sight, feeling, or the ability to do something you once took for granted, can be as troubling as the physical symptoms. I was devastated, and I thought that my life and work were over. As a professional photographer, I have always used my eyes and hands to show the world what I see and feel, but now I felt that I could no longer trust my hands or my eyes to translate my vision to the world. I felt that my own body was somehow betraying me.

 

It took about two weeks before the reality of being diagnosed with a chronic illness that has no cure finally hit me. When it did, I woke up at 2:00am in the morning in tears, crying from the weight of all the reality that was staring me in the face. It was at that moment that I wished I could pick up a phone and talk with someone who felt the same way I did. At the time, there was no number for me to call for help. I felt completely alone.

 

It was out of that feeling of isolation and desperation that I started MSFriends. MSFriends is the only 24/7 peer support telephone helpline that is staffed entirely by people living with MS. It is a community of people who are all living and thriving with MS. MSFriends exists so that no one ever has to feel alone.

 

As time went on, I found that my skills as a photographer only deepened as I developed a greater empathy for my subjects. My subject matter changed as well. Whether it was architecture or portraiture, my world became larger. As an artist, I know the impact and importance an image can have, and realized that by using people with chronic illnesses or disabilities as my subjects, I could have a positive influence on the way people viewed those living with the disease. At the end of the day, I hoped these photos could serve as a touchstone for those of us who continue to live with a chronic illness.

 

It was not until I got involved in my book projects, and did my own research on these topics—breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, and osteoporosis, that I found out that all of my preconceived images were wrong. There is no one "face of any disability or disease". Instead, there is a group of individuals who share the challenges and limitations imposed upon their lives.  Although our stories are not exactly alike, we all share the same emotions of fear, disbelief, and ultimately acceptance. It was through taking these photos, and interacting with these people, that I got the solace and strength I needed. I walked away knowing that I too could get through this.

 

Amelia Davis is an award winning photographer, author and President of MSFriends. Amelia’s website AmeliaDavisPhotography.com has examples of her work, and links to her books. Go to the official MSFriends.org website for information on how you can help or donate to the cause.


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