The Grey Zone

Written by on April 4th, 2017 – 8 Comments


In the summer of 2014, I was a lawyer, wife and Mom to a beautiful 4 year old girl and adorable newborn son. Life was seemingly perfect…although, I was way too caught up in the details of life to appreciate it back then.

During my parental leave, I agreed to return to work to deal with an intensely stressful situation that lasted much longer than anticipated. ‎When I re-commenced my parental leave, I got sick multiple times. When I say sick, I mean big, ugly flu bugs. One after another. In fact, five times in a month. That’s when the numbness started. It culminated one night in September, when I woke up to discover the right side of my body stopped working. It was two in the morning and I certainly didn’t want to inconvenience anyone, so I hopped into my car and somehow drove myself to the hospital. My mind was racing. Was I having a stroke? Was it cancer? Was it ALS? According to Doctor Google, it was all of the above and possibly rabies.

I wish I could tell you I got my clear answer after that September night. While I have ruled out the biggies mentioned above ( including rabies), I am still living in the grey area of the unknown. Since 2014,  I have had bouts of weird symptoms. Numbness, cognitive fuzziness, muscle fatigue etc. Several MRIs have also confirmed lesions on my brain that ‘looks’ like MS. However, I am still in the group they call ‘possible MS’ and only time and space will tell.

So, there I stood with major uncertainty that would likely last for the foreseeable future. So, I had two choices: 1) give in to the deep depression that desperately wanted to take hold; or 2) find some meaning in the grey area. I’ll be honest, option 1 was pretty appealing. I had a good month-long pity party and quite frankly, have little memory of that period ( I hereby retroactively apologize to my clients).

However, I snapped out of it. I had to. I had two little people who needed me to get my s#*t together. So, I started working out, running (in fact, marathons) and fundamentally altered my diet. My body started responding in amazing ways and I dropped a solid thirty pounds. However, I still couldn’t get a handle on my mental health. I have always been riddled with anxiety. However, for the first time, my anxiety was now being manifested in physical symptoms. Once I realized the correlation, which took an embarrassingly long time to do, I started with an amazing pychotherapist who turned it all around for me and mindful meditation is a big part of my life now. I also started yoga. I am incredibly inflexible, but I have a yoga mat, so I assume I am doing good things.

I still live in the grey area, but I am now focused on my abilities and challenging my mind and body with an urgency I have never had before.

I don’t want to say I am grateful for MS. That’s not true. MS sucks. However, it has reminded me of the importance of self-care and appreciating all the amazing things my body can do today even if it works differently than yesterday.

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8 Responses

  1. Ashley M says:

    Kelly, your story is inspiring! You have taken control of your life and your health in a big way. Your children have an amazing role model. I can’t begin to imagine challenges you face on days when you you’re struggling to find motivation, energy and your inner smile not only for yourself but for your family. Kudos to you for your amazing outlook. I look forward to hearing about your journey! Continue to write, you are helping more people then you know. The way that you ended your post, reminds me of something I read early on where the individual writes ” MS saved my life”. They changed their diet and lifestyle in a big way and they have never felt better (for the most part).

    Better days are ahead 🙂

    • kellymcdermott says:

      Thanks for the kind words Ashley! Communities like this is what is all about. We stand together and support one another by sharing our lived experiences.

  2. kellymcdermott says:

    Thanks for the kind words Ashley! Communities like this is what is all about. We stand together and support one another by sharing our lived experiences.

  3. Monica says:

    So, I am 33 mother of a 2.5 year old and 9month old and as of yesterday I was diagnosed with CIS “maybe MS” so it’s nice to see someone else (in just a quick search) that it somewhat in the same shoes. I’m curious have you started any medicine? I myself want to try some things myself first before committing to a life time of meds, but would love to hear from you.
    Thank you for this!!!!

    • Ashley M says:

      Monica, I am glad to hear your are searching for whats best for you! I just wrote a blog called What the Gut that talks about some really great references for natural healing for autoimmune, not just MS. I think you would be interested in it. I take meds (rebiff injection 3 times a week) be 100% sure its MS before starting any medication though. My blog also talks about that. One day I would like to rely solely on food and gut health… I am not quite there yet. I offer a lot of information in my blog, nothing pertaining to kids unfortunately so I am sure Kelly will be a great resource for you!! Forgive me for butting in on your convo but I could’t but share I have some pretty helpful info for you if and when time permits, take a read through. I have only just begun.

    • kellymcdermott says:

      I am so glad I can provide you with some comfort. The grey area can seem like a lonely place.

      No, I have chosen not to start any drugs. I was presented with the choice very early on, but my doctor has endorsed my decision to delay until necessary.

  4. C M says:

    I’m so glad to read another story that I 100% can relate too. I knew for 10 years that I had MS…but the doctors told me otherwise after many MRI’s. Symptoms started when I was 20 years old. A full on attack happened about 6 months after initial symptoms. I had to quit competitive sports, and take a semester off of school as I was bedridden. My mental health was not in a good place. At some points I thought I was dying. The doctors told me my 1st MRI was “inconclusive” and I went for 2 more. 1 was again inconclusive, the 2nd showed that I have a “neck condition that may have been causing my symptoms” and I was sent on my way and told to got lots of rest and not play contact sports. Eventually my symptoms subsided and I went on as usual. Then, at the age of 29, all of a sudden I was so tired after 9 hours of sleep every night and naps every day after work. I couldnt function. My wrists were achy, hands tingly, and sore. I was familiar with MS,Lupus, and a few others that people close to me suffered from. So, I went back to the neurologist and said “I know I have a neurological issue here as my stepmother and best friend both have MS. I can’t deal with this, and its now almost 10 years later…Give me another MRI now”. Then, sure enough it came back with a couple “shadow of lesions” as my Neurologist said. He said they are barely there, but its enough for him to say I have “very mild” MS. He said he was sorry I have suffered, but if it doesn’t fully show up on the MRI, there is nothing else they can do. He gave me a few papers, a # for an MS nurse, and sent me on my way. I’m happy I got an “official” diagnosis, but it still angered me for all those years that I (and you and others) suffer in the grey area knowing our bodies and that something is wrong.
    I don’t blame you for not starting drugs. I couldn’t afford the Tecfidera I was prescribed(even covered at 90%) and so I signed up for the Biogen program to help. But, the drug caused me to break out in large cold sores all around my mouth, all the time. I couldn’t go to work or out in public it was horrible. So, I went off of it last July and have gone the diet and lifestyle way. Like Ashley above mentioned, your diet is a huge factor in how you feel and heal. The Autoimmune Paleo Diet has changed my life.
    Best wishes to you. Keep your head up, you are doing great 🙂