Katie Merrick, a 41-year-old mom of two from Downingtown, PA, has never been a stranger to multiple sclerosis (MS), a progressive autoimmune disease that disables the central nervous system by disrupting the flow of information in the brain. Growing up, her mom was diagnosed with MS and her best friend's mom also struggled with it. But because individuals with a relative who has MS still only have a three to five percent chance of being diagnosed themselves, Katie didn't think much about it throughout her 20s. Unfortunately, all that changed when her family moved from New Jersey to Texas when she was 33 years old.
"My response was, 'No, no, no. I don't have MS. My mother has MS.'"
"Within two or three days of the movers unpacking our stuff on June 28 or 29 in 2011, I started having pain in my eye that lasted a week or two," Katie told POPSUGAR. "Originally, I thought it was just really bad sinus pressure because I have seasonal allergies. I just thought that I was getting a sinus infection."
Despite having just moved across the country and knowing absolutely no one, Katie found an eye doctor and made an appointment. "I didn't know anybody yet," she explained. "So the kids, of course, were coming with me to the doctor while my husband Jason was working an hour and a half away in Dallas. After the doctor did an eye exam he told me I had optic neuritis."
Optic neuritis — inflammation that can damage the optic nerve — is often linked to MS. After breaking the news to her, the doctor recommended that Katie make an appointment with a neurologist ASAP.