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Kaycee Leonnig

HEROES > Kaycee Leonnig

BAMS Hero,

October 2009

While listening to the radio years ago, I remember hearing a country western singer make the quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I knew this singer, loved his music, and was interested in his words as he had been diagnosed with a disease I wasn’t too familiar with at that time. The singer was Clay Walker and the disease was MS. Little did I know that soon I would be on a similar journey as Clay. In fact, while none of our stories are exactly the same, aren’t all of us with this disease on a similar path? I would never have chosen this journey in my life. But, I can honestly say after six years of being on it, there are so many positive things it has brought me.

I am so grateful for the husband and children I have. They are the #1 supporters in my life. Last November, my husband and I were asked to represent the state of Idaho at the National MS Convention in Chicago. With him by my side, I looked around the room filled with nearly 1,000 people, and I thought to myself, “We have this disease that so many are working on to find a cure!” Last spring, my son wrote an essay in a contest and won 2nd place. He wrote, “... years ago my mom got a disease called MS. That has been hard on us because she can’t get stressed. Nobody can replace my mom because she is so loving and kind ... ” My oldest daughter was President for her school’s National Junior Honor Society. She organized a fundraiser to sell “Go Green” bags and raised $800 for the National MS Walk. My youngest daughter often watches my shot in the morning to let me know when it is finished. Blessed I am.

So much purpose comes from my Advocate duties. I thoroughly enjoy talking to those that need a shoulder to lean on in their journey. I know if I didn’t have this disease, I would never have had the opportunity to visit with these people. My husband and I attended the Advocate Forum in Denver in July. What a nice surprise to have Clay Walker show up! Listening to his stories about MS, I realized, famous or not, we are all on that similar path. We can certainly all relate to each other on a level that is sometimes difficult for others to understand. He led the entire audience in an acoustic version of “Lean On Me.” Isn’t that what we all do? And, how lucky we are if we have those in our lives to lean on.

I often tell those I talk to about my “recipe” for doing well. Six years with MS and I can say that it is a nuisance at times, but I am so grateful it is manageable. I start out my day administering my therapy. My motto is, “A shot a day helps keep the MS away!” I exercise doing Pilates, Yoga, and walking up to five times a week. I try and keep low stress. And, I try to get enough sleep. Eating well is important. I have a strong faith which has grown in challenging times. A positive attitude makes a huge difference. If my attitude slips, my symptoms increase. I think that these are all healthy life choices anyhow.

I know many would find it strange to say, “I have MS and my life is good.” But, mine is. I have so many positives in my life that I try to focus on. The bad will wear you down if you let it. Life IS a journey, not a destination. I would say that while challenging at times, my life with MS has been and continues to be an amazing journey.