#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 ~ Mary is a patient advocate for MS, chronic illness & disabilities. She is a freelance writer from Texas who enjoys exploring a variety of different styles & genres, however her deep passion for creative writing (poetry, essay, narrative interview & non-fiction) remains unwavering & purposeful. Mary's personal & professional background is an eclectic compilation consisting of the fine arts, civil rights advocacy, fundraising with 15 years in sales/marketing & event planning in the private club industry. Mary is a 1990 graduate from The University of North Texas with a B.S. in Hotel/Restaurant Management. In 2001, Mary was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Within a few years, health issues forced her to resign from the career she loved. As her marriage began to crumble, Mary was keenly aware of the emotional & mental crisis firmly taking hold. Eventually, she sought the help of a professional therapist which helped her learn the important coping skills needed to tame/calm mood disorders & to encourage healthy ways in which to purge the noisy chaos inside the brain. This loss of reality, normalcy, & PURPOSE needed to be reinvented, renewed & rewritten...NOW! The divorce & all related proceedings lasted an unfathomable six years, yet it was the therapy, communities & her writing which kept her most grounded. Each poem a cathartic purge, each word a therapeutic tool meant for healing & to inspire resilience. Blindsided by this newfound purpose & passion, Mary continues writing & exploring a plethora of multimedia outlets to this day. Her writing, networking & advocacy projects target the MS, chronic illness & disability communities. Her interactive presence can be seen throughout social media. Although MS is the primary community in which she advocates, Mary enjoys playing an active role in other patient communities (bloggers, writers, music, live chats, special events, & many more. One of the key messages Mary continues to emphasize is how chronic illness can affect everyone differently. MS is a prime example in that we are not a "one size fits all." This disease called MS is a conundrum in every which way. To this day, research continues, yet we still don't know the root cause for MS, yet current findings now show "risk factors" for the disease. MS can morph as it sees fit to do so. Unpredictably, silently, sometimes relentlessly this MS becomes an uninvited, unwanted "internal room-mate." Mary's overall background & her desire to discover herself & new creative outlets was a plus. A renewed student for life, Mary continues to explore the unknown - Once you switch off your "auto pilot" it's amazing what you can see & do. Place focus on learning, consume new information & participate in activities uncharted or foreign (The science of Neuroplasticity). All of this is most DEFINITELY a work in progress, but remember to focus most on the important things in life. Laugh out loud & live selflessly with compassion, purpose & unbridled passion. Connect with Mary at: 🔸Twitter: @pettigrew66, @MSpals 🔸Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Mary.patriciapettigrew 🔸LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/maryppettigrew 🔸Instagram: 🔸https://www.mspals.wordpress.com Acknowledgments and Press ~ UPDATES TO COME * Creator & Co-founder of MSpals: A Global Organization (2014 - present) * Administrator & contributing author of content, posts, & interviews: MSpals blog: https:/:www.mspals.wordpress.com ~ The Summer of Sport: Forward Poetry 2012 ~ Poetry Rivals Collection 2013 ~ Something On Our Minds Vol.III ~ Something On Our Minds Vol IV. Interviews: National Multiple Sclerosis Society's "Momentum Magazine" ~ 2013 = Art Therapy & MS ~ 2015 = Connecting Via Social Media Other works also featured on a variety of blogs, websites, videos, 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 iConquerMS/The Accelerated Cure Project WEGO Health - Patient Leader HealtheVoices - Patient Leader MS Focus - Monthly contributor

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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