When you see Natalie Carda in her home town of Beresford, dribbling down the basketball court at the University of South Dakota, or coming straight towards you in life, you’ll see one common characteristic – determination.
Carda grew up in South Dakota with her Mom, older brother, and her basketball coach Father. “I’ve been playing basketball since I can remember”, says Carda. She has always felt comfortable as she stepped onto the court and excelled in basketball. With a head of steam she stepped into college life with excitement and ease. She was not prepared, though, to step in to a new role; the one that life handed her.
In her Freshman year in college Carda started feeling numbness in the top part of her body. “I have a bad back so I just thought it had something to do with that. You know, anything to explain why it was happening, then it went away so it wasn’t really a big deal.” She continued explaining that it only happened twice that year and it went away so everything must be fine.
The next year, as she was getting up out of her bed she fell, landing hard enough to jar her back. That incident, again, was explained away by back problems. At the beginning of this, her Junior year, her back tightened up and her entire right side went numb. Carda’s Trainer was concerned that more was wrong than her back and had her see a Doctor, who was concerned that these were signs of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). He promptly did an MRI which showed lesions on her brain and sent her to a Neurologist who confirmed the diagnosis. Carda remembers, “I didn’t really know what MS was. I had heard of MS and knew that it wasn’t very good.” She talked herself into thinking it was just another little problem and denied the diagnosis. When her Neurologist explained he was 100% sure it was MS then she wanted to know more about what MS was.
"It was scary at first but when I learned more about
how it wasn’t as scary as everyone thought it was,
it was a lot easier to take."
Her team mates did not say much to her about the diagnosis. They did not know what to ask her because they did not know what it was or how she would react. “They did not want to reveal that they were ‘freaking out’ so I wouldn’t ‘freak out’.” she explained. “You get nervous about things you don’t know about and we didn’t know anything about MS.”
There were more questions than answers. Carda’s Mom has done a lot of research since Natalie was diagnosed and participated in different educational options provided by the MS Society. Information is power and the more they know about and understand what MS is the easier it is to deal with. Her Mom has done a lot to learn as much as they can about it. Carda and the entire basketball team were invited to attend a presentation by the MS Society that will help answer some of the questions they have, and some they may be afraid to think about or ask
As far as her basketball career Carda explained, “At first, with the new medication, I would get very tired – I wanted to sleep all day. I essentially had MS in my Freshman and Sophomore year and played right through it so it really doesn’t seem much different now. I haven’t really seen a dramatic affect on basketball at all.”
Carda was not sure what she wanted to major in but since being diagnosed with MS she has focused in on Nursing, specializing in Neurology. “I think getting MS was a sign that I should go into Nursing and help other people.” Her future has come into focus also. “I see this as a life perspective change.” She wants to live life to the fullest and help people understand more about the disease. “It doesn’t have to change everything that you do. I thought basketball was going to be over and it’s not and I plan on achieving the other things in life like getting married and having kids.”
The positive attitude this 21 year old has seems to be contagious. She is surrounded by people who also have a positive attitude and they help her get through tough times. Her Dad, with the Coach inside him, continues to tell her to ‘get back out there and keep playing hard’. “I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me, at all”, said Carda
With her positive attitude, being surrounded by family and friends, and strong determination this young athlete will learn how to play the new ‘game’ and win. For further information about achieving in spite of having MS click here. You will find up-to-date information about MS and others who inspire to achieve.