BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- After hiding her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis for 15 years, Maryland State Senator Lisa Gladden finally breaks her silence. Despite her condition, there is no stopping the public servant. Hailed by friends and the public as a "hero," she feels the truth was long overdue.
Mary Bubala reports Gladden's story will inspire others to look at people who have MS without seeing them as victims.
Rising to prominence in Annapolis over the past decade, meeting politicians like President Obama, State Senator Lisa Gladden was keeping a secret from everyone. She has MS, multiple sclerosis, a debilitating incurable disease.
"People ask me, 'Did you tell this person or that person?' I didn't tell anybody, no one. My mom, my mother," said Gladden. "I live a life where I'm a very open person and I think that once I shared, it not only helped other people, which is what I really, really wanted to do, it also freed me up too because then I didn't have to worry if someone found out."
In 1995, long before she was vice chair of an important Senate committee, Gladden got the shock of her life when her doctor told her she had MS. Multiple sclerosis is a disease that attacks the central nervous system and affects nearly half a million Americans.
For the first time she's ready to talk about it, hoping to inspire others.
When Gladden first found out she had MS, she was nervous. She did not want people to perceive her differently or treat her differently.
"I'm nervous about it right now," said Gladden. "It's very fearful to expose something very personal about your life and expect people to treat you the same. They just don't."
Medications make Gladden's MS manageable, but still she lives a life that would exhaust most people. She lives with and cares for her 80-year-old mother. Every morning she commutes from Baltimore to Annapolis with her rescue puppy in tow.
She does not fear what the disease will do to her long-term or if it may stop her career.
"Oh it could, it probably will. I mean what am I supposed to do? I can't stop it, I can't change life. I can't change anything about what's on the plate for life for me. All I can do is make the things I have in front of me the very best I can," said Gladden.
She wants others with MS to grab life and live everyday to the fullest.
"It was important to me that I shared it with people who were newly diagnosed, who were struggling and were trying to decide what to do," said Gladden.
A lot of people are not like Gladden. They worry about tomorrow instead of living today. Some consider her look on life extraordinary.
"I've lived an incredibly wonderful life and so I'm not going to regret it. And so if tomorrow MS catches me -- and I bet you it won't -- but if it catches me and I can't do anything else, I will have no regrets because I've done everything I ever wanted to do," said Gladden.
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