#MSbeautiful – An Awakening

On April 15th, 2016, I participated in the first photo shoot for a series of shoots yet to come for MS Beautiful with my best friend, Carolyn Palmer.  This unique, national campaign to spread MS awareness is in the beginning stages, but is starting to gain momentum and attention.  A calendar and roster of participants and additional photographers around the country is being compiled as we speak.  The purpose of MS Beautiful is to feature women with MS (via group and individual shots), to empower them, and showcase the natural beauty they exude…not the disease they have.  Words cannot express how wonderful my experience was.IMG_5961

The excitement and anxiety leading up to the day of the photo shoot was palpable for both me and Carolyn, but we embraced it with no preconceived expectation of what the end result would reveal.  The day of the shoot was stressful as I discovered nothing “feminine” in my closet would fit me anymore.  Over the years, my appearance and my clothes have become somewhat androgynous and more about comfort – not fashion.  I’ve lost touch of what it’s like to FEEL beautiful…or even comfortable as a woman.  Baggy t-shirts, sweatpants, ball caps, and flip flops tend to be my “go to” attire.  Rarely, do I take time to style my hair, wear makeup, jewelry, or even wear a bra.  MS, age, and stress have changed my looks and the way I physically present myself, yet I’ve come to accept some changes and ignore many of these flaws due to the passing of time and habit.

Something inside me told me everything would be ok, to take a breath, relax, and to just be ME.  So, I showered, styled my hair and put on full makeup for the first time in months.  Then I put on my black cowboy boots, jeans, a white top with a flowing black wrap, some silver jewelry, and gathered my collection of cowboy hats to take with me (I love my hats).  This was the attire I was most comfortable wearing and felt it would work, both in presentation and in functionality.  I actually felt good and started to get excited as I waited for Carolyn and Al Murin (our amazing photographer) to arrive at my house.  Once they arrived, we all piled into my car and took off for our chosen photo locale, White Rock Lake.

First, we chose to stop for a quick lunch to get acquainted and discuss ideas for the shoot.  Maybe it was the margarita Carolyn and I had with lunch, but the calm, relaxed tone was now set and we were ready.  The shoot went smoothly, nature cooperated and all was fun…from what I remember.  The events of that day are a bit blurry in my mind now, but what I remember most was the INCREDIBLE FEELING!  Waves of emotion caught me by surprise.  My breath was taken away as I perused the proofs stored in Al’s camera.  I melted into tears – happy tears and gratitude for everything which took place on that spring day at the lake.IMG_6015

Where did these feelings and emotions come from?  Well, I loved being able to do this shoot with my best friend, but it was Al who truly made the magic happen.  Effortlessly, he was able transform me, my mood, and my overall presence through the power of his expertise and camera lens.  He knew how and where to find the perfect shot without forced poses or facial expressions.   The beauty came from within and is reflected truthfully in the photos.  There is no photo-shop, no filters, or false portrayals…we were just us.  Sure, Carolyn and I stammered and stumbled a bit that day, but we were too busy having fun to notice.  There was no reminder, no thought of MS that day.  We were beautiful women, not a disease.  I am grateful and honored to be a part of this national movement and am excited to watch this special project evolve.  Let’s keep the ball rolling, spread the word, and get others involved!  I’m looking forward to seeing pictures and reading the personal stories by oIMG_6027ther women who have experienced what it means to be MS Beautiful.

Author: Mary

ABOUT MARY ~ I am a "late-blooming" writer from Texas who specializes in creative writing/poetry. I have a background in music, the performing arts, and enjoyed 14 years in sales/marketing & as a special events planner in the private club industry. I am a 1990 graduate from The University of North Texas who started off as a music major (voice), but I wasn't "feeling" it was the right fit. So, I took a break, changed directions & graduated with a B.S. in Hotel/Restaurant Management. I was an athletic, healthy young woman who also displayed an unfortunate pattern in the men I chose in life (life lessons indeed!). After a brief marriage in the early 1990's, I decided to focus on my career, yet 5 years later I met hubby #2. So, with more maturity & high hopes for success, I married again & became a full time stepmother of two. Along with several rewarding events & fond memories came more challenges, yet I maintained a fun, successful career in the food and beverage industry until 2001. Life...as I knew it changed when I received the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Looking back, I must have been in denial or a state of confused shock as to how dramatically my life would actually change. I attempted to work a few more years after diagnosis, but I was becoming more unpredictable, forgetful, & lost - my job performance was never quite right anymore. You see, this disease affects everyone different. I went through relapses & other issues, but my mobility was intact - then. Unless you REALLY know me, I was then & continue to be labeled an "invisible symptom" case. My MS enjoys messing with my brain, & many other body functions. Anxiety, mood changes, nerve pain, heat & fatigue are debilitating - quite an uphill battle especially when stress is involved. A few more "in denial" years went by & I dealt with this vile invasion of my "internal room-mate". My husband couldn't understand, nor could he handle my ever increasing health issues - he hated every part of it (I don't really blame him for that). But, he avoided being around me when I was suffering - he {didn't sign on for this & I sure didn't look sick}. He was embarrassed as to how my MS affected his lifestyle. So, divorce and other challenges came into play in 2009. Those were painful, rough days. I know now I was suffering from a nervous breakdown. Not yet had I thought to seek the help of a professional therapist to help me cope or to help purge the noisy voices & chaos inside my head, so I began to purge through writing. WRITING saved me! I attempted to compose little songs & dove into playing piano again - I even taught myself a little acoustic guitar & it felt good...soothing. I had found a form of therapy which enabled me to breathe again; a healing tool that didn't require a prescription. This journey to reinvent myself actually seemed plausible via my artsy background & new creative outlets. I've become a student again & the benefits of turning off our "auto pilot switch" & instead focusing on learning new, foreign things & activities is priceless. This "rewiring" of the brain is called Neuroplasticity. Writing (primarily poetry) & music has filled me with a POWERFUL passion, purpose, & endless possibility. This may sound odd, but I'm grateful for the tough times! There's this gift called "resilience" - my MS & other life struggles have gifted this to me. A gift which forced me to find "me" & to focus on the important things in life...to laugh, live selflessly with compassion & passion. Find me on: 🔸Twitter: @pettigrew66, @MSpals, @MSpalsPoets 🔸Facebook: MaryPettigrew48 🔸LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/mary-pettigrew-1b582330 🔸Instagram: 🔸https://www.mspals.org Acknowledgments and Press ~ • Two of my early poems were published in the U.K. in book compilations of poetry: ~The Summer of Sport: Forward Poetry 2012 ~ Poetry Rivals Collection 2013 • Featured in 2 articles in The National Multiple Sclerosis Society's 'Momentum Magazine' ~ 2013 = art therapy & MS ~ 2015 = connecting via social media • My work has been featured/published in various book compilations, blogs, websites, as well as other multimedia platforms including: www.pajamadaze.com www.disabled-world.com www.HealthCentral.com www.MyCounterpane.com www.MS&MeRadio/TBI Network Something On Our Minds (SOOM): funds The Accelerated Cure Project "Twitter Q&A" - A Writers Experience (details forthcoming) • Creator & Co-founder of MSpals: a global organization (2014)

4 thoughts on “#MSbeautiful – An Awakening”

  1. This was a very inspirational post, Mary! I’m so glad that you’re not gonna let MS stand in your way of living life to the fullest and achieving your dreams! And this is for anyone and everyone who goes through something. Be strong, keep your head up, and keep moving forward. Keep doing what you’re doing as a role model!

    Liked by 1 person

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