Woman who hid her MS diagnosis for 25 years to speak at Utah MS event

A woman who hid her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis for 25 years will speak to a large MS fund raising luncheon Saturday in Salt Lake City.

The “Women on the Move Luncheon” has a 19-year history of bringing together professionals from across the Wasatch Front to raise funds for MS research, programs and services.

Rachel Padgett is Director of Corporate Relations for a nonprofit organization in Seattle. Today she walks with her cane with dignity, tells her story with confidence and says she does have MS, but MS does not have her.

“I was diagnosed while relatively young,” she said Wednesday. “My first symptoms happened at 18 or 19. As my disease progressed, I had a series of really unfortunate and unpleasant experiences with what I thought were friends who weren’t supportive of my having an illness. I got shamed by that.

“I just decided at 19 years of age that I knew best and I decided not to tell people.”

Over the years, dealing with the disease, she realized she needed help, although she feared in telling others she would become weak.

“I thought they would see me differently. It was a devastating and very dark, dark time in my life. But when I started to tell my truth, instead of feeling weak and disempowered, I felt strong. And I felt powerful and empowered.”

That’s when she realized how much of her energy and emotion she had been using to continue the lie.

“From that point on, I felt like I had been set free. Now I tell my story as often as I can to as many people as I can. There truly is a lot of shame with this disease. I hope by telling my story others will feel empowered to tell theirs.”

Saturday’s event at the Grand America Hotel, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., is expected to raise close to $200,000. It will conclude with a fashion show featuring models who are either living with MS or walking in honor of someone living with MS.

More information is available at www.nationalmssociety.org

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