Local author doesn't let MS stop her dreams

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By Janet Robb

TELL CITY - When Carolyn Reynolds was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in March of 1997, she didn't know it would lead her to become a published author and editor of an online magazine.

At that time, Reynolds said the diagnosis was "out of left field" and she didn't know where she'd be because she didn't know much about MS. Reynolds and her husband, Roger, didn't even find out the correct diagnosis until five years after symptoms started to show.

"It was a process of elimination," she said about her doctor visits. "Then one day the doctor came in and told us he had good news and that at least it wasn't fatal."

MS is a chronic neurological disease that affects the central nervous system. Reynolds experiences numbing and jerking sensations in her legs, which she calls "dancing without music," so she must use a walker to get around. At first she said she was self-conscious, especially the first time watching her young granddaughter. But when Reynolds had to get up, she told her granddaughter she was going to do her dance and her granddaughter followed, dancing also.

"Kids know exactly how to make you know it's not all so bad," Reynolds said, smiling.

Soon after the diagnosis, Reynolds, who only had nine years of teaching under her belt, had to take a medical retirement from her job with the Tell City-Troy School Corp. An English, literature and history teacher, she said she became "bored out of my mind sitting around." So she turned to the Internet to seek more information about multiple sclerosis and found a chat room for people who had the disease or knew others who did.

"Within a few weeks I met a lot of incredible people," she said, and in 1999 she got an idea. "I met a lot of smart people and thought it would be interesting if they pulled together and wrote."

Reynolds wanted to find a way to involve her friends who helped her through her retirement and to understand the disease. So with the help of a friend, she created the online magazine "MS MuSings." A monthly publication, she receives articles from across the globe including London, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Found at www.msmusings.com, she said she doesn't limit content to just people with MS. Anyone can write, she said adding the site contains anything from news about MS to poems and short stories.

"A lot of good things have come out of the magazine," Reynolds added, including new friends and a larger support group for each other. One of those things was Reynolds' book, "Battling the MonSter Within."

Even though the Web site kept her busy with editing, she started to get restless and had another thought. She had written eight years' worth of poems and short stories for the Web site and wondered if she had enough to make a book.

After sorting through her writings she came up with a little fewer than 100 poems and more than 30 short stories to have published. She looked online for publishers and found PublishAmerica.

Before her diagnosis, she had submitted short stories for publication to other companies and some were published, some not, so she didn't know if this time would be different. She told herself, "I can try" and the publishing company picked up her book.

"I'm really proud of it," she said, adding her poetry is from the heart and the stories are from her imagination. "Some of the poems deal with feelings of what the disease does to your life and how it affects me personally."

One of her favorite series of stories she wrote features two angels, Gabriel and Raphael who look after characters. "Often you don't realize they're angels until the story starts to unfold," she said.

Another favorite came from Reynolds' own personal wish for her grandfather and son to meet, since they are very much alike. But, because of her grandfather's death, they never did.

She had always told her students she would publish a book and that dream was finally a reality.

"I hope that people will read and realize how important it is to keep your dreams," Reynolds said of what she wants people to get from her book. "If not, life might not be what it could be. Even though I have a disability, I'm still a dreamer."