Since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2018, Ashley Ratcliff has used her voice to lift up and support others with MS and other chronic conditions. Ashley published “Jesus Year: The First Year of the Rest of My Life After I Was Diagnosed With MS,” a self-help memoir about her MS diagnosis journey, in April 2021. Apart from being a bestselling author, communications professional, and speaker, Ashley is an advocate for those living with invisible illnesses. She’s the current director of communications and operations with We Are ILL (a patient advocacy organization on a mission to redefine what “sick” looks like for Black women living with MS). She’s also a member of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Black MS Community Engagement Advisory Committee.
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My name is Ashley Ratcliff. I was diagnosed with MS in March 2018. I know how isolating MS can be, and I realized that my vulnerability is someone else's validation. Facts about MS that I wish people knew is that it’s a snowflake disease. How it affects me does not reflect how it affects someone else. People like to give anecdotes about loved ones or people that they come across who have lived with MS and say that they had a good go of it or that they had a bad go of it.
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It’s not encouraging. That experience does not mean that that’s how my disease course will be, so I encourage people to not project or generalize about MS, because it truly is different for everyone. Secondly, MS was thought to be a disease that mostly young, white women got. Research is showing that Black women actually had a 47 percent increased likelihood of getting MS.
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My fellow MS warriors, do not let MS stop you. You have MS. MS does not have you. So let’s get it, guys. We’re in this together.