Editor's Note: Heather and I have been friends for more than five years. We ate dinner at En Lai Wednesday night and discussed her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. The MS walk begins at 9 a.m. at Dellwood Park in Lockport on Sunday.
When you meet Heather Frelichowski, you may notice a couple things. She has a smile that lights up her face. She has a sense of style that is part bohemian, part I-don’t-care-what-you-think, part theater geek. You may notice that she really likes her shoes and her purses.
When Frelichowski met up with me for dinner on Wednesday, she was wearing a pink bandana with cupcakes on it. That was covering the peach fuzz that is growing back on her head, but she is basically bald. You may notice that about her too. She and I ate at En Lai, which Patch will review on May 7.
Frelichowski is fighting cancer, avoids gluten because she is a diagnosed celiac and occasionally drops things or falls because she has Multiple Sclerosis.
Frelichowski was diagnosed with MS in 2009 after she had tingling and numbness in her extremeties.
“It was gradual, it would be like one day my little finger would be numb and the next day it would be fine,” she said.
She finally decided to go to the doctor when the numbness got a little more serious.
“The final decision was when I stepped down and I could not feel the floor underneath me when I was walking,” Frelichowski said. “That sucked.”
She fell down that day. After three MRIs and four lumbar punctures, she was diagnosed with MS.
Frelichowski has relapsing-remitting MS, which is characterized by periods of relapse and periods of MS attacks.
Frelichowski is the parent to two boys under the age of 10. She works two jobs outside the home. And she volunteers in her husband’s unit – 501st Legion, Midwest Garrison.
She is coping with her symptoms, from MS, cancer, chemo and celiac disease with one mantra – one day at a time.
“You never know exactly if you’re going to be fine the next day or if you’re not going to be able to walk, or if your hand is going to be numb or if you are going to go to pick up something and it will slip right out of your fingers and it will shatter all over your floor,” she said.
She has a positive attitude about the whole thing.
“Whatever comes, comes; Bring it on,” she said. “What has gotten me through that and the other medical issues I have got going on are my friends. “
That does not mean, however, that she does not have days that do not get her down. When that happens, she shuts herself in her darkened bedroom, curls up on the king-sized bed and puts on whatever funny programs she can find.
Her experience with chronic illness has given her a unique perspective, one that she hopes others will listen to.
“I’m hoping people realize that in an instant, their perfectly, healthy, normal lives can drastically alter in an extreme way and that they should enjoy what they have while they have it,” she said. “Embrace what you have and the time you have left to do it.”