Whilst we typically connect an anniversary to a joyous occasion, receiving the life-changing diagnosis of MS and reflecting on the challenges that the disease can bring, can completely change this narrative.
For Adriana Condello, one of our Kiss Goodbye to MS Ambassadors, 2021 marks her 10-year anniversary since she was diagnosed with MS at only 26 years old. Adriana was thriving in her career as an accountant, loved socialising, and worked stressful 12-hour days whilst living on coffee – eagerly anticipating her next stage of life.
“The day I received my final results for CPA, the day I dreamed of finally, no more studying, no more exams, was the same day I received my results from the neurologist telling me I had MS.”
Only a fortnight prior to this day, Adriana thought she had pinched a nerve in her neck while being at the gym. Every time she moved her neck, she felt electric shocks in her feet. It was not until the day after her visit to the physiotherapist that it became clear her symptoms were due to something more severe. Adriana developed a numbness and tingling sensation throughout her entire torso, stretching from her neck down to her hips.
“It felt like there was an invisible elastic band wrapped around my body, which was continually tightening and making it hard to breathe.”
The next day, the numbness had spread to both her hands and Adriana no longer had any feeling or sensation in them. Following further testing with her GP and neurologist, Adriana was admitted to hospital and by the end of the week, she received confirmation that she had MS. This news sent Adriana through a wave of emotions.
“I lost interest in going to work and seeing friends. I lost motivation to get myself out of bed. Life stopped as I didn’t know how I was going to live with MS.”
After the initial shock and a deep grief for her old life, Adriana slowly started to move forward by switching her medication and making lifestyle changes. As a result, most symptoms faded except for the loss of sensation in her hands.
Adriana has since found a passion for MS research and is now an official Ambassador for MS Research Australia and Kiss Goodbye to MS. Her advocacy and fundraising work for MS research brings Adriana great fulfillment, however she had also always dreamt of starting a family – which, combined with the complexities of MS, can be challenging.
“I was scared for my future. MS had taken my career from me…what if it took motherhood away from me too?”
Not long after Adriana and her partner Mark were married, the couple started their journey to become parents. At the time, it was not recommended to fall pregnant while on medication, so Adriana made the brave decision to stop her treatment and risk a relapse to have a baby.
Six months later, Adriana fell pregnant. However, heartbreakingly due to fertility issues unrelated to MS, Adriana experienced four miscarriages over the next two years.
Adriana and Mark didn’t give up though! The couple went through two rounds of IVF and in 2016, they found out the exciting news – Adriana was pregnant…with twins! They had conceived another baby naturally whilst already being pregnant through IVF – a true miracle.
In July 2017, the pair welcomed their beautiful, long-awaited twins, Leo and Olivia.
“They were everything we could have hoped for and more and being chosen to be their mother was a gift.”
Following the birth of their miracle twins, Adriana decided to stay off medication to be able to breastfeed. Fortunately, she remained relapse free for the next few years despite her symptoms returning post pregnancy, and the couple went onto having another baby girl, Zoe, in December 2019 – completing their little family of five.
“My greatest achievement in life has been being a mother to Leo, Olivia and Zoe. They are my world, my reason for getting out of bed every morning as hard it may be some days.”
Earlier this year however, Adriana’s fatigue and numbness started to increase, and new symptoms started to appear, including bladder problems and numbness and tingling in her shoulder. An MRI scan sadly revealed more lesions on Adriana’s brain.
Therefore, Adriana is now more committed than ever to leave MS behind her. Last month, she decided to take on The May 50K to mark 10 years since her diagnosis. Adriana set herself an ambitious goal of running 100km and raising $10,000 for MS research, to continue to accelerate the research that might one day change her life completely.
“This is not a celebration, nor a commiseration, but more an acknowledgement of how far I have come in the past 10 years, and to show that on my best of days I will always fight and push and strive for a better future for me and my kids.”
How did she go? In true The May 50K spirit, Adriana left her limits behind and ran 73.71kms whilst raising $7,800 for MS research – an outstanding achievement. Adriana is continuing to strive for a better future for herself, her family, and the other 25,600 Australians living with MS.
“Since being diagnosed 10 years ago, a lot of positive developments have been made in the MS research world, and I know that with each development and step in the right direction, my life with MS is being changed for the better.”
Thank you Adriana. Your unwavering commitment to improve the lives of people living with MS is truly inspirational. We have no doubt that Leo, Olivia and Zoe will grow up to be strong, determined and resilient adults who will overcome any challenges they might face throughout life – just like their incredible mother.