Real Life

REAL LIFE: Multiple sclerosis didn't stop me from having two dream weddings

All I wanted was to make Emily my wife, but it didn't come without obstacles.

By As told to Take 5

Naomi Keast, 29, Brisbane, Qld shares her amazing real life story;

Swaying in time to the music, I looked across at the other girl on the dance floor and felt my heart flutter.
Emily, 17, and I had first met when we started high school, but we'd recently grown closer.
I trusted her enough to reveal that I was a lesbian.
"I'm confused about my sexuality," she confessed to me, "but I don't know how my parents will take it."
Now, here we were at a mate's party dancing without a care in the world.
As the Tracey Chapman song Fast Car started playing, we edged closer.
"I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone," Tracey crooned.
Emily and I locked eyes.
Before I knew it, we were kissing in front of a roomful of classmates and strangers and I was too happy to care what anyone thought.
We didn't speak much afterwards, which was awkward. I wondered if Emily really did like me, or if the booze had just given her some Dutch courage.
But the next morning she sent me a text.
'I can't stop thinking about last night,' it read.
I felt the same.
When we returned to school the following week, we were the talk of the town – and not in a good way.
Boys wouldn't leave us alone, calling us 'dykes' and other cruel names.
Emily (left) and I during high school
I'd already come out to my parents a year earlier and they were supportive. But Emily was still in the closet, and the bullying really got to her.
"Remember this quote," I told her.
"'Follow your heart. Even though it's on the left – it's always right.'"
We were determined not to let the bullies get the best of us, even though it meant losing some friends.
A year later, we finished school and moved in together.
I was studying teaching at uni, while Emily was training to be a nurse.
Everything was going well but just before my 21st, I started feeling ill.
My right leg went completely numb until I could barely walk.
"Babe, you need to see someone about it," Emily said.
I was stunned when the doctor suggested I get tested for multiple sclerosis, a condition that attacks the nervous system.
"It can't be that serious," I said, refusing tests.
But when my condition got so bad I could hardly walk, I eventually relented.
To my surprise, there were lesions growing on my spinal cord.
No wonder I was having such a hard time walking!
To treat it, I had to be pumped full of steroids, which brought most of the feeling and movement back.
I hoped that was the end of it but not long after, my left foot went numb.
Tests revealed more lesions on my spinal cord, and this time it showed they were also on my brain.
"I really do have MS," I choked to Emily.
Tests revealed more lesions on my spinal cord, and this time it showed they were also on my brain.
Doctors warned of the unpredictability of the disease and how I may even end up in a wheelchair.
I'd led such an active life, playing soccer every chance I got and being on my feet all day teaching kids.
Most of all, I'd been planning on proposing to Emily.
My sickness had taught me just how precious each moment really was, so I decided to follow my heart.
One night, when we were having dinner, I put down my knife and fork and looked deep into Emily's eyes.
"Do you want to be with me forever?" I asked.
"Of course," she beamed.
The thought of tying the knot with my sweetheart gave me the strength to push on.
Sometimes the pain got so bad that I needed to go to hospital, but Emily was never far from my side.
She helped give me the medication I needed and for a while I could do things like I always had.
"We've come so far," she said. "I want us to have a baby."
I hadn't imagined becoming a mum at 23, but I knew I wanted to spend my life with Emily.
So we set about finding a sperm donor.
Our first wedding day
During her pregnancy, Emily had terrible morning sickness.
"I'm the one who's meant to be sick!" I joked, enjoying being able to help her for once.
Being there for the birth of our son, Jhett, was the happiest day of my life.
But my MS continued to wreak havoc.
I even had to cut back to part-time work because I was bed-ridden.
My mum found out about a charity called My Wedding Wish, which organised free weddings for those who were ill, and suggested we apply.
"No, I'm not dying!" I said.
Despite same-sex marriage not being legal yet, eventually, Emily and I decided to go ahead with it and were thrilled when My Wedding Wish started planning our big day.
Emily and me with our kids Rhett, and Peyton, on our second wedding day.
Jhett was 18 months and accompanied us down the aisle where we said our vows.
I felt like the luckiest woman in the world.
Later that night, we had our first dance to She Keeps Me Warm by Mary Lambert.
Hearing the lyrics, "She says I smell like safety and home," I fought back tears remembering mine and Emily's first kiss.
Since that night when we were teenagers, she'd become not just my partner but my best-friend and carer.
Our second ceremony was perfect
"If I didn't have you, most days I wouldn't bother," I said.
"You're so special to me," Emily told me.
We've since gone on to have another child, Peyton, and we also got married again once the same-sex marriage bill was passed in Australia.
While MS has tipped my world upside-down, I'm determined not to let it beat me.

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