Living a Positive Life with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
24 FEB 2022
Carol Cooke is an Australian gold medal Paralympian and World Champion in cycling, author, speaker and advocate. As the world celebrates the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Carol describes the impact MS has had on her life, especially as a Paralympian.
MS has made me who I am
While speaking in a classroom after the London 2012 Paralympic Games, a nine-year-old girl raised her hand and asked me the best question in the world:
“If you could turn back the clock and change the fact that you were diagnosed with MS, would you?”
This was the first time anyone ever asked me this question. I really had to think about it because I'd been through so much - physically and mentally. I looked at her and I said one word: “no.” She was surprised and asked me why.
I responded that MS has made me who I am. It's given me opportunities that I never would have had if I hadn't been diagnosed. I wouldn't have gone to three Paralympic Games. I wouldn't have traveled the world racing at World Cups and World Championships. I wouldn’t have written two books. I wouldn't have started a charity event to raise money for MS in Australia. I wouldn’t have met so many people.
Life doesn’t end after an MS diagnosis
The doctor who initially diagnosed me with MS told me that life as I knew it was over. He recommended I begin putting my affairs in order before I became disabled. While he was thinking in a negative way, I preferred to move forward and think about my new diagnosis in a positive light. But it didn’t happen overnight. It took me awhile to get to that.
Whenever I’m asked to share the one piece of advice I would give to a newly diagnosed patient, I say that it's important to believe that life doesn't end after that diagnosis. Yes, we may have to do things a little bit differently. As a Paralympian, I ride a trike, three wheels, but I'm still out there doing it.
However, there may be tough days and that is okay, too. I’d say that during the pandemic I’ve found it extremely hard to stay strong, to stay motivated. And I too found myself slipping into that, ‘oh, nothing's going to change’ mindset. But I decided that every day I had to sit down at the end of the day and write three things down that I was grateful for. It was really, really hard to do that at the start. But the more I did it, the more I was able to realize that I had a lot to be grateful for in this world.
I have been overcoming challenges for more than 20 years and I knew I would not let the pandemic hold me back from preparing for the Tokyo Summer Paralympics.
The opinions represented here are not indicative of the opinions of EMD Serono, Inc.
For more stories on the journeys people with MS face, click here.
- US-NONNI-00953 February 2022