BY JORDAN GIBBONS
About a month before Cambria Heights resident Chanel Norton’s 21st birthday, she noticed her 20-20 vision started to become dim and eventually she was seeing double.
Two weeks later, she was sitting at church next to her father and her sight became so cloudy she could not see.
“I started crying,” she said and then told her father that she couldn’t see.
The next day they went to the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai. Norton was not that worried until she saw the doctor’s reaction.
“I wasn’t that concerned until I saw the urgency on the doctor’s face when I couldn’t see the big E on the vision test,” she said.
Norton returned to the hospital the next day and received an MRI that revealed lesions on her brain. She then met with a neuro-ophthalmologist who informed her that she had multiple sclerosis.
“I remember hearing about Montel Williams having it and that’s probably the only thing I knew about it,” she said. “My mom was crying her eyes out and all I wanted to know is that I’d be able to see again.”
After two days of receiving steroids, her vision came back.
Now, at the age of 27, Norton is doing her part to raise awareness and money to find a cure for multiple sclerosis by participating in the Walk MS 2015 NYC at Pier 26 in Manhattan on April 19. This is the third time she is walking and the second time with her group comprised of about 15 family members and friends.
Norton raises money by posting on Facebook and her sister fundraises at her high school in Long Island.
Since then, Norton said she has suffered from optic neuritis – loss of vision – a few other times and more recently persistent daily headaches.
“I’ve had a great, great days and really horrible days,” she said. “Sometimes it can seem like I don’t have MS at all, but then there were times where I got numbness in my legs when I was driving.”
She goes to an infusion center every few weeks to get medication treatment, which has made her symptoms less prevalent.
Norton has relapsing-remitting MS, which has episodes of inflammatory activity with new or worsening symptoms. Relapses are followed by remission, during which the disease does not progress. Overall, MS is a disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.
She has learned how to deal with some of the symptoms of MS by writing notes to herself to avoid the forgetfulness associated with the disease. Fatigue is also something that affects her consistently.
But Norton is living her life just like anyone else, attending SUNY Old Westbury, where she is a senior, majoring in sociology and is also a social work minor.
“Just having the MS slowed everything down, but I realize once I do too much that’s when I end up going to the hospital, because stress kind of takes over,” she said. “So I just take it easy, couple classes at a time and one day I’ll get my degree.”
She said she wants to go be a social worker to help work on child welfare since she loves children
“I try not to let it take over and hamper my life,” Norton said. “I don’t want to be that sad person walking around.”
For more information on Walk MS 2015 NYC, contact (212) 463-9791 or email walkMS@msnyc.org.
Reach Jordan Gibbons at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jgibbons2.