By AMBER POMPA
Kimberly Martinez of Wolfe City uses humor to get her through those tough days and does her best to impress upon her daughter, Katelynn, how important it is to stop and smell the roses.
This is important to Martinez because, according to her, any day, any moment could be her last.
In January 2009 Martinez was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, though she began showing symptoms of this chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system in 2004.
It all started when Martinez was blow-drying her hair.
“I dropped my hair dryer when I felt an electrical shock sensation through both my arms,” she said. “I called my mom and said, ‘Mom, I think I have MS.’ I had never known anyone with MS and have no idea where that thought came from. It just appeared.”
Martinez made a doctor’s appointment right away and, according to her, the doctor was “iffy” about her symptoms. They ordered an MRI, which came back clean. The doctor told her it was fibromyalgia.
“I was like, OK, it’s an answer, and I was on my way and on with my life,” she said.
But Martinez’ symptoms kept getting worse, something that is not associated with fibromyalgia. She tried to explain her symptoms to the doctors, to make them understand, but to no avail.
“It was very difficult to put it into words,” she said. “I was laughed out of so many physicians’ offices between 2004 and 2009 that I just gave up. Even my husband would say ‘There’s always something wrong with you.’”
Martinez decided to suffer her symptoms in silence, rather than deal with the disbelief and frustration.
At that time Martinez was a full-time caregiver for her mother-in-law and worked in a nursing home, all the while in constant pain, but not knowing why.
“I just pushed through and ignored it, but my mother-in-law could see the pain I was in,” she said. “It got really bad in 2007.”
After her mother-in-law passed away in 2008, she decided it was her turn to take care of herself and some of the things she wanted to do, like going to nursing school.
“God had other plans, however,” she said. “That’s when the ‘ice-pick pains’ started, but I would ignore it like I’d always done and push through it, but they quickly got to be so bad, they couldn’t be ignored.”
In January 2009 she went to the doctor to have a second MRI performed. This one didn’t come back so clean.
“I had over 15 lesions in my brain,” she said. “They asked me how I could have ignored it, the symptoms and pain, for so long and I said, ‘That’s me.’ Even now, my pain level sits at a 10 every day, but I have to take care of my husband and my 11-year old daughter. This disease is either going to own me or I’m going to own this disease. I’m too stubborn to let that happen.”
According to Martinez, it was almost a relief to be told it was MS. It meant she wasn’t crazy or a hypocondriac. It was an answer, albeit, not a positive one.
Instead of going through depression, as many might, she used her humor and sarcasm to get her through. When her legs go out from under her and she takes a tumble she laughs and responds to people’s inquiries with “I was just checking the floors. You missed a spot over there,” or “Just checking out what’s on the bottom shelf. I’m too lazy to bend over.”
“I try to teach my daughter life humility is a beutiful thing,” she said. “It helps us grow. I have been blessed by my disease, because it has taught me to teach my daughter the truly important things in life. We can either be blessed or cursed. I choose blessed.After several years of taking medication, the doctors are now leaning more toward Devic’s Disease, or Devic’s Syndrome, instead of MS.
Devic’s is a rare disorder that resembles MS and is often misdiagnosed as such. It is an autoimmune, inflammatory disorder in which a person’s own immune system attacks the optic nerves and spinal cord.
“It’s an orphan disease, meaning it’s very rare,” she said. “What distinguishes it from MS is that Devic’s Disease sufferers develop lesions on their brain stem, whereas MS patients do not. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to appreciate life and its beauty, because once that particular lesion develops, you could go at any point. Once it hits the brain stem ... it’s too late.
Martinez is an adamant participant in the Walk MS: Dallas, and has been the last three years.
“I’m disappointed in myself this year because I haven’t had time to do much fund-raising due to my husband’s health,” she said. “The last two years I’ve been one of the top 100 fund raisers, but I’m not going to be able to do that this year.”
This year the walk is set to take place at 8 a.m. on March 31 in Addison Circle Park.
“This walk helps fund research on not only MS, but on Devic’s Disease as well,” said Martinez. “I walk and raise funds because in my heart I know that if they continue to help fund the Devic’s Disease study and find a treatment, that if the government will step forward, if one pharmaceutical company will take the loss, that it could be a cure for thousands of people with MS. That’s why I walk and I walk with that prayer in mind.”
During the 2011 Walk MS: Dallas, Martinez had to have support on both sides to keep her on her feet, but regardless she finished the 5K walk and will do so again this year.
“I pray that people will learn to have some sort of blessing and let go of their anger, because if you let go of that anger, you can spread the message easier. You can teach more because you’re willing to learn more. You can accept it with an open heart and mind and when you do that, you can then teach it with an open heart and mind.”
It is Martinez’ hope that when she leaves this world she will leave it having made an impact on others who suffer with MS and Devic’s.
“This disease has taught me many blessings,” said Martinez. “Through it, I taught my daughter to slow down and notice the beauty around her and you know what ... she listened. It taught me to slow down and notice my dragonflies, the blooms on the trees and the beauty in people’s hearts. When it’s my time to go, I’ll take my flight on the wings of a dragonfly and my daughter will know I’m safe and happy and no longer in pain.”