Clarion County Native Boosts MS Awareness Through Sharing Personal Experiences

orangePORTSMOUTH, Virginia (EYT) – Clarion County native Katie Collett has been wearing a lot of orange this week as news anchor at WAVY-TV and WVBT FOX43 as part of MS Awareness Week March 2-8. (See exploreClarion.com’s interview below.)

She is no stranger to MS, having been diagnosed with the disease with no cure and has committed herself to helping people understand Multiple Sclerosis.

She shared her experiences this week on a WAVY-TV talk show.

“Orange is the color of awareness for this disease that I just happen to have,” said Collett. “I was diagnosed with the disease three years ago, 15 days before my one year wedding anniversary, and if you ever want to find out if you married the right person, find out you have a disease that has no cure.”

Still happily married, Collett explains how she dealt with the disease and emphasizes it is not the same for everyone.

“It started off when I lost my vision in my right eye, and I could no longer see,” continued Collett. “For about 14 months, I could not see out of my right eye working here at WAVY. Eventually it was diagnosed as optic neuritis. One in five people that has optic neurosis has Multiple Sclerosis; I’m one of the lucky five I guess. It was one of those things that at first I thought that this was it, my life was over, and I had a disease with no cure. It was the exact opposite, at least that’s the way I took it.”

She decided that the MS was going to make her appreciate life even more, and she wanted to help people understand about Multiple Sclerosis.

“When people hear MS, they automatically think wheelchair; I know that’s what I did. That’s not how it is, and it’s different for everybody. My one symptom – and I have a couple of others – is that I had lost the vision in my eye, but I’ve had it back for 15 months.”

“People don’t realize is that it’s different for everybody. Some people do lose mobility, some people lose the ability to talk, some lose the ability to see or hear, some have excruciating pain in their legs and their arms.”

MS also can go away and then come back again. Some people have the symptoms two or three months or for 14 months like Collett had. It can go away and give people a bit of a reprieve.

“It is different for everyone, but it can be managed, and life can still be really good.”

She also advises people to not ignore their bodies if something is wrong.

More information is available at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (http://www.nationalmssociety.org).

In 2007 Katie joined the WAVY/FOX 43 news team. Prior to becoming the AM anchor, Katie anchored the WAVY News 10 and FOX43 weekend newscasts. She previously worked as an anchor at WJAC-TV in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and as a full-time freelance producer at COX Broadcasting in Washington, D.C.

Katie is a native of the Lucinda area and a 1999 graduate of North Clarion High School. She graduated from Edinboro University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication.

exploreClarion.com had an opportunity to interview her; here are the questions and answers:

How long have you been diagnosed with MS?

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis three years ago. I got the news 15 days before my one year wedding anniversary. You find out very quickly if you married the right person when you have to tell them you have been diagnosed with an incurable disease. (Spoiler Alert: I married the right person).

Does it impact your job as a TV news anchor?

Rarely, if ever, has MS affected my job. The only time I really had trouble was during the first 14 months of my diagnosis when I lost my vision in my right eye. Bright lights and computer screens would REALLY exacerbate my eye issue. So imagine trying to anchor a newscast with bright lights shining in your face and eyes while reading off of a teleprompter and having to do things on social media. It was tricky, but no one had any clue!

I am one of the lucky ones in that aspect. My MS is still very mild. It was caught early and my treatment is going well. There are many people who have more severe MS and they are either very limited in what they can do at work, or they can’t work at all.

Has it impacted on your personal life?

MS has impacted my personal life, but not in a negative way. When friends and family found out I had the disease, they all rallied around me (called, sent cards, texted, prayed) and made it clear I am loved and supported. It made my ties to so many people even tighter.

What type of steps did you take or recommend other people take when confronted by the prospect of MS?

  1. Number one is advice from my neurologist: STAY OFF THE INTERNET. When I was diagnosed I went straight to the Internet…the land of all things negative. Had I believed what I read, my life would be a miserable thing and I would be deteriorating quickly. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I am thriving and doing very well. I have had my vision back for 15 months and I feel great. If you go on the Internet, check out the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and check out your local chapter. The organization presents the facts in the proper way. You won’t be thinking worst-case scenario after reading its information.
  2. Number two: If you are diagnosed, realize life is not over. Many people live very long and good lives with the disease.
  3. Number three: Stay positive. Some days may be harder than others to stay upbeat, and it’s okay to feel down for a day or two, but don’t let gloom consume you. It is imperative that you try to find the positive things in life and keep moving forward.
  4. Number four: A sense of humor is key. Learn to laugh. Learn to joke. It’s like free medicine.

How do you help raise the level of MS awareness?

The answer to this question is different for everyone. Some people are not able to be vocal about their illness for fear it could negatively impact their jobs or the lives of there loved ones.

I am fortunate that I work at a place that supports me in every way. As a matter of fact, my television station knew I had MS when they promoted me to the morning anchor position. So, because of that I am not afraid to talk about the disease.

For me, personally, I believe you can’t find a cure if you’re quiet…and so I am not quiet. I talk to as many people as I can about Multiple Sclerosis. I educate them. I let them know it’s not just the “wheelchair disease.” My symptom is that I go blind in one eye, others have mobility issues, others have vocal issues, others have excruciating pain, many of us suffer from severe fatigue at times, some of us cannot properly control our body temperature, so going outside in very hot temperatures can cause a problem (perhaps a symptom flare up). There are so many things that people do not know about MS. A simple conversation is a good way to educate.

There is no cure for this disease. It’s my mission to do what I can to help find one, but I choose to do that with a smile on my face even if some days I hurt inside.


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