Model: Dawnia Baynes
BrightSide 365, founder
I was living in Atlanta in 2004 when I started feeling like I was walking sideways, but doctors couldn’t find anything wrong. In 2006, my body went numb from the chest down, so I went to the ER where I was referred to a neurologist. The neurologist ordered MRIs, and I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at the age of 26. This surprised me because I didn’t know I could be diagnosed so young. In 2013, I moved back to California and got involved with the MS Community in Los Angeles.
I’m an activist, fighting for the rights of people with MS and leading multiple self-help groups, like one for young people in their 20s to 40s and one for high school and college students. The youngsters are dearest to my heart, and they call me their “MS Mama.” Because of these experiences, I founded Brightside 365, a nonprofit focused on people aged 25 and under who are living with chronic illnesses.
This photo shows how I feel on the inside. The headpiece represents attacks on my myelin sheath. The wood around my legs is the stiffness I feel in my muscles, and the bricks are the weight I feel when I walk. Being diagnosed with MS is one of the biggest blessings of my life. It has opened my eyes to a world I wouldn’t have found on my own. And most days, I have a smile on my face looking for the bright side of every situation.
Photographer: Dious Clay