A diagnosis pushed this former ‘gym rat’ to pursue new dreams — and inspire others along the way

·3 min read

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. Read more personal stories about people living with the autoimmune disease on Yahoo Lifestyle.

Reporting by Jacquie Cosgrove

Luis Lemus used to spend his days climbing utility poles for his job with a phone company. Now, he’s in a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis.

“I’m just one example of how one day I could be climbing the utility pole and now I’m in a chair,” the 32-year-old college student tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Multiple sclerosis (also known as MS) is a chronic and usually progressive autoimmune disease that damages the sheaths of the nerve cells in a person’s brain and spinal cord, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. People with MS have symptoms that include difficulty with balance, trouble walking, involuntary muscle spasms, fatigue, numbness and tingling, weakness, pain, cognitive changes and bladder and bowel issues. Some less common symptoms include speech problems, tremors, breathing issues, swallowing problems and seizures.

Prior to his MS diagnosis, Lemus says he could “do anything.” He explains, “I was a gym rat. I had a girlfriend. I was living a SoCal lifestyle.”

When he started his job with a phone company, Lemus says he would easily climb 18-foot poles. “But then I would stumble, and even then, I didn’t think much of it,” he says. Lemus had recently lost 100 pounds, and simply attributed his unsteadiness to weight loss.

But after Lemus displayed odd symptoms, his parents urged him to seek medical attention. Lemus’s mother, Blanca Rodriguez Lemus, took her son to see her foot doctor.

Finally, a diagnosis.

“He looked at me dead in the face and just said, ‘This is not a foot problem. You need to go to the ER,” Lemus recalls. Eventually, Lemus says, he was diagnosed with MS. “I had no prior knowledge of what it meant for me or my future.”

Despite the diagnosis, Lemus and his family were determined not to let multiple sclerosis keep him from pursuing his dreams. “With my mom, she had the mantra of every day is a blessing,” Lemus says. “He got diagnosed and I said, ‘Wherever you want to go, I take you,’” Rodriguez Lemus tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

A new beginning.

Lemus eventually decided to go back to school and study journalism. His father, Ramon Rodriguez Lemus, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he’s “proud” of his son. “I was happy. It was good for him. His mind is going to be busy,” he says.

Lemus, who is now an MS advocate, says his family is a “big part” of his success. “Without them, who knows where I’d be?”

Lemus is now a sports editor for his school paper at Cerritos College in California. “Writing... almost makes the disability disappear, as if it doesn’t exist,” he says. “My dream is to help people upon being diagnosed to show them that life doesn’t end at the diagnosis. It’s only your beginning.”