7.21.2017

The Importance of Pretty: Beauty and MS

Lisa Dryer and Tori Davies-Wompey are on a mission to bring beauty back to women with multiple sclerosis. Not that it went anywhere. It’s just been hiding. 

From the moment of diagnosis, people with MS learn about what they stand to lose. The list of physical symptoms is too long and too depressing to detail here, and anyway, lots has already been written about this.

What the pamphlets and WebMD don’t tell you, is how this disease can erode your self-perception, your self-image. MS can be a straight-up, joy-sucking Dementor, and vain as this might sound to those who’ve never had to think about it, MS can steal your beauty.    

Wait, what? MS can wreck your pretty?

MS takes and takes, and while it can’t actually turn you into a human gargoyle, it can make you think you’re one, and that’s just as bad. Tori Davies-Wompey, one of the women behind #MSbeautiful, says “I think MS steals so much from us. Our jobs, our abilities, our roles as daughters, wives, mothers, whatever it was that you did before that you can't do now”. That’s a heavy list. But why stop there? Maybe you’ve had to give up heels. Maybe you’re covered in injection welts and bruises, maybe steroids have taken over your face. 

Maybe you’ve peed your pants

Any one of these things can make it hard to recognize your inner goddess let alone celebrate her. 

Founder, Lisa Dryer was mid-relapse and struggling with these issues when she knew something had to change. With the help and encouragement of professional photographer and close friend, Al Murin,  #MSbeautiful was born.

Cool hashtag, but what exactly is #MSbeautiful?

#MSbeautiful is an event that brings women together for a no-cost day of pampering and glamour, complete with hair, make-up, and even swag bags. The events are an opportunity for women to support each other, reclaim themselves, and raise self-esteem. Each event culminates in a professional photo-shoot. They've already held successful events in Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin, with Colorado on deck. Lisa's goal is to be in every state and here's hoping that eventually #MSbeautiful extends past the US border.  

So, Lisa and Tori have MS? Why are they doing this?

Lisa and Tori seem to know that in helping others we help ourselves and when Al Murin passed away unexpectedly last year, Lisa became passionate about continuing the mission they had started together. Tori says her work with #MSbeautiful is rewarding, that it gives her a sense of purpose. Says Lisa, “Looking at happy people makes me happier...But making people happy is even better. Giving people a little bit of fairy tale in their day. Amazing.”

Ok, but like, does lipstick cure MS?

If this superficial need to feel pretty is beneath you, then congratulations, you’re better than me. And if you’re pretty without makeup, well, bless your heart. Go forth and multiply. Personally, I believe more in blow-outs and bronzer than in actual, natural beauty, but Lisa (she really is better than me), believes everyone is inherently beautiful; that the things that make us beautiful extend beyond the surface and include “creativity, talent, smarts…what make you you”. She isn't afraid to go on camera looking undone. She says women need to see that side of it too. It's not about being an idealized version of yourself. It's about how you feel. 

Knowing a bit of glam can’t fix broken self-esteem, let alone cure MS, Lisa’s vision is to provide at least one amazing day, where we can escape a bit. And it’s working. Tori says “feeling pretty…makes me feel just a little bit human again”. Are we seriously gonna deny her her humanity? Get this girl to a MAC counter. 






Wait. Are you saying disability can be beautiful?

One #MSbeautiful participant had this to say “As a woman with Multiple Sclerosis, it is very rare to feel beautiful, or as the center of attention for the way that I look. I am no stranger to getting stared at. Generally, I try to ignore people who look at my walking device, such as my walker or cane.”

Lisa and Tori know this is bullshit. Society has told us a bunch of lies about disability. In a disease where one has little control, claiming one’s beauty is about taking control back. #MSbeautiful is about being empowered to say: 

I’m worth this. I deserve to be here. I deserve to be seen.  

Are Lisa and Tori #changing the world?

Positive examples of disability in media are few and far between. Disability is underrepresented, misrepresented or just plain ignored and women with chronic illnesses like MS are left to conclude that disability, visible or invisible, isn’t part of the conversation, isn’t relevant. Simply put, isn’t beautiful. Lisa and Tori are calling this out and replacing the void with awesome images of real women in all stages of MS.  

When Tori talks about how using a walker, and sometimes wheelchair, messed with her idea of herself, it clicks for me. Tori’s a babe. Tori uses walkers and wheelchairs. Me too. If Tori can be kick-ass, it reminds me that, so can I. 

Seeing her beauty helps me see mine 

and I realize just how powerful this campaign is. When women are empowered, it’s contagious. We need to see ourselves reflected back.

Swag bags and paparazzi? I want in.

These ladies want you to know that disability does not disqualify you from being beautiful. Join the #MSbeautiful Facebook group. Start using the hashtag on your selfies. If you want to participate in an event in your town, look for info on their FB page. 

Hold up. I’m a dude. Can I come too?

No. #MSbeautiful is about women empowering women in a safe space. And while we know you need to feel pretty too, we’re sure you understand. Men are also affected by MS and many have faced similar issues, but this particular project is just for the ladies. So, sorry guys. You’ll have to get your own thing. Might I suggest #MSdudeiful?

Until next time, stay pretty, Trippers.

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7.07.2017

Mad Diary of an MS Relapse. Steroids Made Me Do It.

In an attempt to calm down my MS I’ve been riding a rollercoaster of steroid-induced psychosis these last few days. 

Warning:  This is some Girl, Interrupted, peek into my brain on drugs, shit. You don’t need to call any hotlines. I dipped my toes in crazy for a few days but I’m fine now. Just, read at your own risk.


Dear Diary, Shit's about to get weird. 

Day 1

Get up early, put on a cute hat, get coffee and head to the hospital. There’s a slight chance my incurable disease could see some relief, so today’s a good day. 

Steroids are hard, but this time’s gonna be different. This time, I’m gonna be the perfect patient. I’ll wear pink pyjamas to match my pink, puffy, face and it’ll be adorable. I’ll be like, guys, I’m so sorry if I freak out and try to destroy you when the drugs hit me, but really, I know everything’s gonna be fine and everyone will be like, Wow, she’s got her shit together. Look at how awesome she did. High five!

Day 2

My infusion nurse arrives at my home and asks if anyone else is around that could unhook my IV so she won’t have to come back. I tell her to ask the dog and she looks at me like I’m the unreasonable one. When she does come back she offers to take my vitals and flush my vein “if I want”. 

By midnight, my tummy hurts and my bones ache but I don’t complain because it’s worth it. 

The paltry AF sleep aid I was given barely makes my eyelids heavy, but I decide to embrace it and get shit done. Write the best blog ever, read all the things, learn to speak Russian. It’s like I’m on speed, but with no down-side. 

Day 3 

Look in the mirror and decide my pie-face makes me look younger, because I’m a glass half-full kinda girl. 

So far no benefit from the steroids and that’s making me anxious, but there’s still time. 

It’s my last infusion and my lazy nurse asks me if I’m comfortable taking out my own IV. Again, I refer her to the dog. 

Day 4 (morning)

Infusions are over and I’m not tethered to a pole anymore. I could shower, but I don’t. I mean, I feel okay, but not shower-okay

In fact, I’m a bit dizzy and I realize I’m weaker than I was pre-steroids. Not a good sign. 

Give myself a quick sponge bath and get a ride to the salon for a blow-out so I won’t have to lift my own arms to dry my own hair. I tell myself the worst is over.

Spoiler: No it’s not.

Day 4 (afternoon)

Appreciate the feeling of clean hair for 7 minutes and then crush my blow-out by going directly back to bed for 5 1/2 hours. 

Wake up and feel sad it’s still light out. 

Cancel plans for a rooftop hang with my Ginger Bestie and her BF.

Day 5 (morning)

Wake up and realize I can’t move my right leg. Panic a little.

Text The Banker, who got up hours before me and is in the next room, to come and help. He kisses me good morning (it’s lunchtime) and then patiently bends and straightens my leg until it feels limber enough for me to use it.

Step on the scale and wonder how it’s possible to have gained 6 lbs overnight when all I ate was saltines and half a banana. 

Cancel plans to attend Canada Day BBQ with more besties and my sweet godsons. 

Experience increased feelings of FOMO. 

Day 5 (afternoon) 

Make coffee. Pour it down the drain because prednisone makes everything taste like poison. 

Decide steroids have not helped and that I’m ready for my Make-A-Wish.

Feel too sad to think of any good wishes. 

Scan Spotify for a playlist that will match my mood. Find nothing in the genre of Devastating Illness Ennui. Briefly consider one called All the Feels before deciding that anyone who uses this phrase should die.

Day 6 (morning) 

Accidentally knock over a bag of garbage and decide not to pick it up. Ever.

Decide I hate everything, throw out half my stuff and then wonder what I can buy to make myself feel better.  

Cancel plans to attend a holiday BBQ in the ‘burbs. 

Make a note to stop making plans. 

FOMO's at an all-time high.

Day 6 (evening) 

The Banker is hiding in the storage locker with the dog asking Siri if Werewolf/Vampire rules apply to Solu-medrol Beast People. 

After holding back tears and trying to suppress a full-on meltdown all day, decide that confronting the loss of mobility is actually a pretty reasonable excuse for a meltdown. 

Call my parents and try to get them to meltdown too. Meltdowns for everyone! 

Day 7

Congratulate myself for not being a drug addict or an actual alcoholic because it’s really tempting to not wanna feel any of this. 

Decide extreme sadness is not sustainable and brainstorm ways to pull myself out of this hole. 

Download a meditation app. Don’t open it. 

Decide to feel grateful that my tummy hurts less than it did yesterday, that my coffee no longer tastes like arsenic, and that I still, probably, have friends and a husband, somehow. 

Allow myself to grieve what I’m losing. Know that somehow, I will come to terms with this fucking nightmare. 

Make plans for the weekend and keep going. 


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