Trish Palmer was hardly 30 years old when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Despite the disease, she continues to thrive as a traveling nurse based in Seattle.
In her free time — when she’s not working or navigating the world of online dating — she enjoys traveling, hiking, and educating others about MS. She hopes to empower others living with MS in the Pacific Northwest to find a treatment plan that suits their lifestyle.
What was your life like before diagnosis?
My life was pretty normal! I was working as a nurse and living in Columbus, Ohio.
What were your early symptoms?
Numbness and tingling were the unsettling sensations that I first experienced in November 2013, shortly after I turned 30. I woke up one morning with the feeling of pins and needles on the right side of my body.
It was so strange, but I assumed I had just slept in a weird position. The sensation worsened over the next three days into what felt like bees buzzing under my skin, along with difficulty walking and near-deafness in my right ear.
What does your treatment plan look like?
Every six months I return home to Columbus for an infusion. It takes about six hours, and I use the time I’m in town to visit with friends and family.
The medication I take is called Ocrevus, and I have some lab tests and the occasional MRI to check for new MS lesions. So far, things have gone well. I’ve been on Ocrevus since August 2017 and since then, I’ve been free of relapses.
How has your life changed since your diagnosis?
I can’t say in what ways my life would have been different, but I’ve had some challenging moments since I was diagnosed. From the death of my estranged father and a traumatic breakup to a cross-country move for a job I’d always wanted, I’ve experienced a lot since 2013. I think I’ve handled it relatively well, and I try not to let the diagnosis get me down.
What has your experience been like living with MS as a millennial?
Between dating, jobs, and new friendships, I’ve been navigating MS through some crucial parts of my life. Online dating is bewildering enough, let alone complicated by a chronic illness. It’s one of those things that isn’t an issue until suddenly, it is.
You know you have trouble swallowing, but you’re on a date and you don’t want to ask for a straw with with your beer… next thing you know, you’re choking and coughing because it went down the wrong way — do you explain or just laugh it off?
It’s one of the little things, but it’s happened more than once. I’m fortunate to work in healthcare, where discussing your health is probably more common than in other jobs.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of your journey?
The most rewarding part of my journey with MS has been the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve made along the way. They’re people I’m lucky to know, even if we met because of an unlucky situation.
What would you like to tell readers who have MS or know someone who does?
“No” is a complete sentence. It’s okay to be tired, it’s okay to sleep in if you can, it’s okay to not feel like being social. It’s also okay to be a social butterfly and say yes to adventures.
Everyone with MS is having a completely different and personal experience. Personally, I love when someone says, “I can’t even tell you have MS” or “But you look great!” However, not everyone wants to hear that. Many of the symptoms of MS are “invisible,” like fatigue, sensory issues, and pain.
What do you wish more people knew about MS?
The MS that affected your grandmother or uncle isn’t necessarily the same as it is today! There are treatments and adaptations that make living well with MS more possible than ever. It is important for people with MS to be proactive in managing their disease and to talk with their healthcare provider about treatment options that fit their needs and lifestyle.
For more like this, check out our Wellbeing section here.