Stepping into a New Chapter
After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Amy Adams uses new challenges as motivation to conquer her goals.
Over the past several years, I’ve realized my diagnosis does not dictate my level of joy in life.
Amy Adams, 44, made a New Year’s health and fitness resolution, giving 2020 the theme of “I’m gonna walk all over you.” A former healthcare marketing professional with more than 18 years of experience, Amy loves facts and figures.
“In 2019, I did about 6,200 steps per day on average,” says Amy, who lives in Canton, Georgia. “I wanted to walk all over that in 2020 and do even more.”
She put that to the test this past February when she visited Walt Disney World with her husband and three sons. In five days, Amy walked a total of 110,000 steps – or 22,000 steps each day. That figure is impressive for anyone, but it was especially meaningful to Amy, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in October 2014.
Tuning into Herself
In May 2014, Amy began noticing trouble with her balance and dizziness.
“I started looking up my symptoms online,” Amy says. “I came across articles that said it could be MS, but I put that thought on the back burner and didn’t pursue it.”
After casually mentioning her symptoms to her primary care physician, she was referred to a neurologist and got an MRI. About a month later, she received a phone call confirming her diagnosis.
“When I was diagnosed, they said I had probably had MS for 10 years or more,” Amy recalls. “I thought some of my issues were just due to getting older, but they weren’t. Had I listened to my body better, I could’ve caught it earlier.”
Amy began receiving treatment for MS that November. At the time, her symptoms were relatively mild, and she was working and easily walking.
“I started to notice it was more difficult to walk into my office from the parking lot around 2017,” Amy says. “That’s when I felt muscle weakness in my arms and right leg.”
Then in 2018, Amy received another piece of tough news: Her department at work was being eliminated.
“That forced me to tune into myself and my needs more,” Amy says. “In some ways, as much as I didn’t anticipate leaving my career, it was one of those things that allowed me to focus more on my health.”
Amy decided to prioritize a positive mental outlook and physical exercise to combat her worsening symptoms.
“After realizing how my MS had progressed, it prompted me to look for experts who specialized in helping patients with things like mobility and hand dexterity,” Amy says. “That’s what brought me to Shepherd Center.”
Better Days Ahead
Amy worked with Clare Hartigan, PT, MPT, a physical therapist at the Eula C. and Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation and Wellness Program at Shepherd Center, from November 2019 through the end of that year with the primary goal of improving her walking.
“Clare was absolutely lovely and reassuring,” Amy says. “I felt like I was accepted and ready to tackle anything.”
Amy tackled a lot, including her regular exercises, stretches and learning to use assistive technology such as the Bioness/Walk Aide Neuroprosthesis, a device a user wears that delivers electrical stimulation to help move the legs.
“I wore the device on my right leg,” Amy says. “It was amazing. Once we got it dialed in, I took off walking like it was no trouble at all. It brought me to tears.”
In January 2020, Amy’s parents gifted her the money to purchase one of the devices. Wearing it, she was able to take 110,000 steps in five days at Walt Disney World.
Three weeks after the trip with her family, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Amy’s scheduled occupational therapy appointment at Shepherd Center had to be canceled. She wasn’t expecting her therapy to resume during the summer until she received a call to set up a telehealth appointment in July with Shannon Schneider, MS, OTR/L, occupational therapist at the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute.
“The virtual appointments are so awesome!” Amy says. “I don’t have to re-map my whole day and drive into Atlanta. I’ve had four appointments so far, and it couldn’t be more perfect.”
Amy’s new goal is to improve her hand dexterity and coordination. No matter what challenge she tackles next, she remembers to be grateful and hopeful.
“Over the past several years, I’ve realized my diagnosis does not dictate my level of joy in life,” Amy says. “And I never give up hope that better days are ahead.”
Written by Damjana Alverson
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.