I’ve been dancing since I was three years old, and when I placed fourth on So You Think You Can Dance season four, my career really took off. A few years later, at the age of 23 (I’m now 33), I was touring with the SYTYCD national tour as an all-star, performing in arenas across America, but something didn’t feel right. I was constantly worn out. Since I was out as soon as we boarded the bus, it became a running joke among the other dancers that they would always say to me, “Good night, Grandma!” Other symptoms started to appear gradually, including numbness in my legs and the bizarre electrical sensation of shocks running down my spine when I put my chin on my chest. I initially believed I had hurt my back because I had heard that numbness could result from a back injury.
A professional dancer simply learns to persevere.
Although I was aware that something was wrong, a professional dancer just learns to push through. I continued dancing even though I occasionally lost feeling in my legs because could still move them.Firmly believe it was a case of mind over matter, but I now wonder if I could have persisted if I had known what was really going on at the time.Completed the 40-city tour while dealing with all these strange symptoms, performing 10 dances per night, six nights per week!
I finally received the test I required.
After a few months, my symptoms subsided. Nearly a year later, after finishing up a few other dance gigs, I went to the doctor to get checked out. He referred me to a New York neurosurgeon who performed an MRI and discovered lesions in my brain and plaque in my spinal cord. All of those symptoms of tingling, numbness, fatigue, and brain fog turned out to be signs of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
I wasn’t completely shocked by the diagnosis: It took until she was around 60 years old for my grandmother, who passed away in 2020, to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis because she was very traditional and disliked visiting the doctor. Could this be the same thing? a voice in the back of my head asked when I first started having my own symptoms. When my doctor told me I had MS, the first thing I asked him was, “What does this mean for my dancing?” He advised me to keep moving and dancing, and I thought that was the best course of action. In a strange way, I was both anxious about my future and relieved that I finally had some sort of direction. Many people, including my grandmother, go for a very long time without receiving a diagnosis.
How my life is right now?
I adhere to a regimen that includes taking medication, working out frequently, and eating a healthy diet that I developed with the help of my medical team. Thankfully, my symptoms have subsided; at the moment, fatigue is my main concern, and I also experience brain fog when I’m extremely tired.
So many wonderful things have occurred in my life since my diagnosis. My toddler, who keeps me on my toes, and I met and wed our husband, Jonah. My husband makes the joke that I used to say “yes” to everything and now I’m a “no” person, but I’ve continued my dance career and have appeared on VH1’s Hit the Floor and Grease Live! However, I have to act in my best interests as a dancer, a wife, and a mother. Now, I carefully schedule my activities so that I can take breaks in between them. Working with MS and my brother-in-law, actor Ben Platt, in Harmony is one thing that has grown to be very important to me. We perform voice and movement exercises in videos that are meant to help people with multiple sclerosis manage their symptoms. The exercises are overseen by board-certified music therapists. Although music has always played a significant role in my life, I’ve never used it in this particular way, and it’s truly a one-of-a-kind and special thing.
“Going forward is so crucial.”
Continue moving forward and resist letting MS define who you are, in my opinion. Finding out about your illness and making connections with people going through a similar experience is such a powerful thing. I frequently speak with people who have just received a diagnosis, and I reassure them that everything will be fine. MS is just a new normal; it’s not the end.
What is lupus multiplex?
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord and affects almost 1 million people in the United States. According to Carolina Ionete, M.D., director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at UMass Memorial Medical Center, MS is typically identified between the ages of 20 and 50, and it starts with the immune system attacking the myelin, which serves as insulation for the area of each brain cell that transmits electrical impulses to the rest of the body. According to Dr. Ionete, who also notes that MS is a very complex disease with both genetic and environmental factors at play, women are about three times more likely than men to develop the disease.
While symptoms of relapsing-remitting MS can come and go, with periods of partial or full recovery, those of progressive MS gradually worsen over time. While there is no known treatment for MS, there are powerful drugs and therapies that can slow the progression of the condition and reduce symptoms. According to Dr. Ionete, “I have a lot of young patients who are doing fantastically, who can keep their jobs, have families, and lead normal lives.” Although there has been significant advancement in the field, getting treatment as soon as possible is crucial.
Typical early symptoms of MS
- Numbness in the face, body, arms, or legs A squeezing sensation around the torso
- Fatigue and brain fog
- Stiffness or muscle spasms in the legs
- Vision problems
- Dizziness or the feeling that the room is spinning
- Weakness and trouble walking
- Depression; sudden mood swings