KENTWOOD, Mich. (March 30, 2014) – Ashleigh Marie Cooper-Looman’s life was in an exciting phase of transition.
After a difficult pregnancy, 24-year-old Ashleigh was a new mother and college senior who was moving into a home with her family.
But last summer she started to notice a problem: Ashleigh says she would fall unexpectedly and some of her reflexes were not responding. Then late last July, doctors gave her a diagnosis that changed her life.
“I was told that I would be in a wheelchair in five years, and just different things like that. That’s just my journey with MS. Other people I know who have had MS for 20 years, they’re doing great: they’re walking, they’re active,” said Ashleigh.
Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic, unpredictable disease that affects the central nervous system. According to the National MS Society, it can affect almost any function, especially vision, mobility and how you think.
“It was double vision, then partial blindness in my left eye, and it lasted for almost 12 weeks,” said Ashleigh.
“I’m a student at heart; I’m an advocate at heart. So I wanted to learn as much as I can and then just put it out there for people, to say this is what I’ve learned but go and research some more for yourself. We should be the experts on our diseases and on our health,” she said.
Ashleigh blogs about living with MS and researches it to make instructional videos, like how to give yourself an injection.
Ashleigh says MS is a day-to-day disease. For her, it’s normal to feel fatigued, and on harder days she uses a cane to walk. But looking toward the future, Ashleigh says she questions if she will be able to care for her daughter.
“I want to be a part of her life growing up and she’s only a year old. It just seems like it’s really, really aggressive for me,” explained Ashleigh.
Because she falls often lately, Ashleigh changed everyday things, like the way she plays with her one-year-old.
“We had the game-plan of maybe not picking her up as much, which is so hard because I want to hold my baby, I want to walk around. But knowing that I could fall and that the right side of my body is so weak, I’m on the floor a lot with her a lot,” said Ashleigh.
Research shows there are 13 therapies for managing MS, but Ashleigh and her family are hopeful that raising awareness and funding could help find a cure.
“Medicine is moving so quickly that there’s a lot of hope still for us,” said Kevin Looman, Ashleigh’s husband.
For now “Team Ashleigh Marie” is raising money for the Grand Rapids Walk for MS this May 17.
“I think about the people who I’ve met in the hospital doing the different treatments I’ve done, who are in wheelchairs, who can’t walk right now, and I want to walk for those people,” said Ashleigh.
Her main goal: to show those living with MS who feel afraid and alone that there is support.