“I had no idea what MS was”: Tallahassee woman recalls stunning diagnosis

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 6:10 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Natasha Acoff remembers it like it was yesterday.

She woke up on Easter morning in 2014, and the whole left side of her body was numb. She knew the next day something was terribly wrong.

“I got up and headed to work, and I’m traveling through the airports like … something is not right. Something is not right,” she recalled.

Acoff went to the emergency room as soon as her plane landed in New Jersey.

“By the end of the night, they could tell me 99% sure I had MS, and I was terrified because, at that point, I had no clue what MS was,” Acoff said. “I’m in my hotel room bawling, crying, thinking it’s a death sentence.”

Acoff has been coping with MS and bouts of numbness - even one episode of temporary paralysis - in the eight years since.

“I think the most extreme case I’ve had is numbness from my chest down to my feet,” Acoff said.

The IT consultant and mother of two young boys is one of more than 150 people expected to attend a virtual luncheon this Thursday, September 22nd.

“Together for a Cure” helps the North Florida Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society raise money for research and support services.

The luncheon is in its 24th year. It has been virtual for the past three years due to the pandemic, but North Florida Chapter President Heidi Katz says donations have soared as friends and families from across the state and the country join the event. Proceeds this year could top $50,000.

Attending the luncheon is free, but people must register to receive the link, Katz said.

MS Luncheon Tallahassee Link

Acoff plans to watch the luncheon with her family and friends Thursday.

“I tell people you don’t know about MS until you know about MS,” Acoff said. “It’s one of those autoimmune diseases that not a lot of people hear about it because it’s an invisible disease. If you look at a person standing next to you, they may have MS, and you would never know it because they don’t have any physical disabilities.”

Acoff says she wants to share her story to help others who may be battling MS and may not know it. She says as she looks back on a history of migraines, Bell’s Palsy, and optic neuritis, she wonders if it was MS all along.

“I would say listen to your body and talk to your physicians. Make sure they are aware of any symptoms that you’re experiencing,” Acoff said.

Acoff says as the working mother of two boys, ages 3 and 5, her greatest challenges in coping with MS are avoiding stress and getting enough rest.

“Fatigue is one of the large symptoms of MS patients,” she said, “so just making sure I’m factoring in some self-care for myself so that I can be there for my children and for my family.”