LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, a time to shed light on the progressive, often debilitating disease.
A Louisville man is sharing his journey with MS and overcoming depression to go on and achieve big things.
In early 2012, Owen Mercer was living the life of a care-free bachelor. Work was his life when he wasn't with friends and family. "I didn't have much to concern myself with other than myself," said Mercer.
But that all changed with a fall that left him unable to move. Doctors confirmed he had multiple sclerosis.
"One of the few times in my life that I've ever literally had the breath knocked out of me, unable to speak," said Mercer.
MS is a chronic, typically progressive disease that attacks the central nervous system. Some people experience fatigue and numbness while more severe cases like Mercer's can cause paralysis, vision loss, and diminished brain function. After his diagnosis, it didn't take long for his symptoms to worsen.
"My body was like hey alright, it's happened so now we're just going to be horrible," he said.
In just three months, Mercer went from walking normally to using a cane, to using a walker and eventually using a wheelchair at times. It became too much for him to handle. "I got into a very dark place and I got very depressed," Mercer said.
Mercer says the darkness took over his life for nearly a year, but eventually he was able to claw his way out by turning to education. "It helped to be able to quiet the noise of the depression. It helped to take away some of the pain," said Mercer.
In the six years since his diagnosis, he's received his Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees, most recently earning a Master's Degree in Safety, Security and Emergency Management from Eastern Kentucky University. Once a college dropout, he's now graduating with honors. Mercer's doctor, neurologist Roy Meckler with Norton Neuroscience Institute credits his success to positivity.
"He's just become upbeat and I'm a firm believer of mind and brain and working together. And that if you are optimistic, rather than being overwhelmed, you actually do better. It's not that you think you're better, you are better," said Dr. Meckler.
As for as the progression of his MS, disease-modifying therapy and infusions have slowed the symptoms. Mercer also sought support from the Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center.
"I learned very quickly that there was no way I could do it on my own," said Mercer.
With his degree now complete and much needed support, Mercer is looking forward to getting back into the workforce and has a positive outlook on the future ahead.
"This is not the end. It's not the end of your life. This is simply a change in lanes and now you've got a different destination that you need to head to," Mercer said.
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