Faces of Multiple Sclerosis: Titusville Woman Lives for the Good Days

| March 23, 2019

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – For one local woman, dealing with multiple sclerosis means living for the good days.

Carrie Peeples Sellen grew up in the Titusville area and attended Venango Technology Center and Titusville High School, graduating in 2014 and then becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant.

Just two years later, everything changed when she woke up one morning and realized her vision was off.

“I thought it was because I was tired because I wasn’t sleeping well because I had a migraine for over a week, but as the day went on it got worse by evening I could hardly see at all,” Sellen told exploreVenango.com.

Sellen went to multiple doctors and hospitals, but everyone told her they could find nothing wrong. It was an ophthalmologist who finally sent her for an MRI, which led to the discovery of lesions on her brain and spine. Additional bloodwork confirmed her diagnosis: multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis, which affects 2.5 million people worldwide, including 400,000 in the United States alone, is a potentially disabling disease of the central nervous system. It occurs when an individual’s immune system attacks the myelin, which is the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers, as well as the nerve fibers themselves.

The doctors soon discovered Sellen had already had MS longer than even she realized.

“Over the summer before that, I went numb from the waist down, and I thought it was because I started taking melatonin, but it turns out that was my MS.”

While multiple sclerosis may be a daunting diagnosis, Sellens says at first she was just glad to finally have a diagnosis that made sense.

“I was kinda relieved when I found out because I knew it wasn’t just in my head like everyone kept telling me.”

However, her relief at having answers was still tinged with fear.

“I was scared of what that meant for the future and if I would ever see again. I was worried about what that meant for my job and my relationship with my husband, at that time finance, because that was a lot to put on someone just starting out. I honestly didn’t know at the time of it was life-threatening or what,” noted Sellen.

“When I was diagnosed, they told me there was a chance that I wouldn’t get my sight back because it took so long to get the diagnosis and to get me on a treatment to try and reverse the damage done. Luckily, I got it back, but every time I’m tired stressed or hot, anything like that, I lose it again.”

Her condition has had a major impact on her life since her diagnosis.

Sellen had to give up her job last year because of how much work she was missing due to flare-ups, vision issues, and having to take time to go for intravenous therapy treatments. She’s had to travel back and forth to Erie for treatments for up to a week at a time, all while dealing with flare-ups.

“I wake up never knowing if I’ll be able to see that day or not. I also fall a lot. So, I depended on my family a lot because if I can’t see, I go to my mom’s for the day while my husband works, so she can help me with my son and other stuff like cooking. I don’t know how I’d ever do it without them.”

Sellen also has issues with her hands, which makes opening anything, even her son’s bottles, difficult, and also sometimes makes her grip falter, causing her to drop things.

Currently, Sellen goes to physical therapy three times per week. She uses a cooling vest to help stave off flare-ups related to heat in the summer and has had to learn to pace herself in everyday tasks.

“Otherwise, I’ll pay for it the next day,” she noted. “I have to always remind my self just because I did it yesterday doesn’t mean I’ll be able to do it tomorrow.”

According to Sellen, living for the good days is one way she helps focus her energy; nevertheless, she’s still always reminded of her condition because of the injections she has to give herself.

“But, it could always be worse,” she said.

One of the things Sellens would like to more people to understand is that conditions like MS are often “invisible” to the casual observer.

“Just because someone doesn’t look sick on the outside doesn’t mean that their body isn’t fighting its own war on the inside. Never judge someone, because you can never understand what a person with MS truly goes through unless you live it, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

“If you know someone with MS, try not to judge them and remember, just because someone is young doesn’t mean they can’t be ‘that sick.’ Just be there for them if they need help even if it is just to listen while they vent.”

(This is the third article of a series of articles in honor of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month.)

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