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Choose You

By: Kyle "Rescue" Wagner

As First Descents alumna Bria “Remix” Price knows all too well, when you get a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, the decisions that need to be made start coming at you, and they come very fast.

“What is this thing that you have now? What does it mean? What are your treatment options? How will you pay for them? How will you fit them into your life? What will you tell people? What will they think? How much can you care about what other people think? What’s most important?”

As she starts listing them one by one, it feels like she might not stop. But then she pauses. “And, of course, how do you want to live from now on?”

Remix MS diagnosis

Remix, who is originally from the Atlanta metro area and still calls the South her home, was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS – a form of the disease where symptoms generally follow a recurring cycle of getting worse, followed by periods of recovery – at the age of 28 in July 2021. “I had moved back home with my mom in 2019,” she says. “Mom really wanted to go to Hilton Head, and we were having so much fun, but I kept tripping on the beach. Like, on sand. I kept blaming it on other things, was it my period, or was I just tired? But I kept saying, ‘I’m fine, I’m just clumsy.’”

But then she returned home and knew something wasn’t right. “I felt sick, and I don’t ever say that I want to go to the doctor, but this time I said, listen, I have to go to the urgent care, because I went to stand up, and I could not feel my arms and legs,” she says. “It was terrifying.”

They called an ambulance. When she and her mom got to the ER – this was at the peak of the Delta strain during the pandemic – Remix had to go in alone, and her mom had to stay in the parking lot. By the time the doctors had decided that maybe Remix had more than a cold, they had unsuccessfully attempted a spinal tap, and by then her mom was pretending to be sick so she could be inside with her daughter. The medical team decided Remix needed to see a neurological team, and so they transferred her to another hospital – which promptly found “24 or 25 lesions on my brain and seven on my spine, and five were active, so I’d had it for a while,” Remix explains.

She has now been managing her MS with infusions every six months, and she’s saving up for an infusion jacket. “I want a pretty one, with the zipper,” she says. “I love that they give you a warm jacket, but I’m heat-sensitive, my hands still tingle, and I want something that I can still take off that’s not too heavy. See, this is part of that thing where you have to decide what’s important to you.”

Remix discovered First Descents when she decided to be open about her diagnosis on social media, and that led to her reconnecting with a former college classmate who also was dealing with MS and had recently been on an FD program “She reached out and shared her experience with First Descents and told me this was the opportunity of a lifetime,” Remix says. “She told me, you have to do this for yourself.”

‘Will this mean that I’m choosing me?’

When she first looked at the program options, though, she confesses that it wasn’t the idea of an unfamiliar outdoor adventure that gave her the most pause. “I wasn’t nervous about the activity,” she shares. “I was nervous about being a Black woman in spaces that looked like it was going to be a lot of White folks.”

Remix explains that it was not just about race – it was about being seen as who she really is as a person.

“Not only are you dealing with all of these emotions and the changes that have happened in your body with a diagnosis like this, and also what you still don’t know is going to happen, there’s just so much uncertainty,” she adds. “I was afraid because I didn’t know if I was going to be understood and seen. I already know what I have to do to stand up for myself, and so the question was, do I want to do that on a trip that’s supposed to be relaxing, and asking myself, ‘What comfort will I have there in that space?’”

MS diagnosis Remix

Ultimately, she decided to go for it, and picked a kayaking trip in Buena Vista, Colorado, in August 2023. “I admit, I was relieved when there was another Black woman on the trip, and at that moment I knew that this community with me is my community that I can bring my full self to as a Black woman thriving though MS,” Remix says. She was relieved that her fears turned out to be unfounded, and her favorite part of the program wound up being what she now calls “my squad.”

“The thing that I would say to somebody who is trying to decide whether to join an FD program is, take a moment and say, ‘If I do this, will this mean that I’m choosing me?’” Remix says. “And if it means choosing you, then do it.”

Her nickname – chosen by one of her most cherished members of that squad – was an evolution of sorts. It ties in with her epiphany about the person she had been pre-diagnosis and the person she became after it – and also after her FD experience. “I started out as Mixtape,” she laughs. “It started with my love of music, and then it shifted to who I was becoming because of these great people around me. Bria was being ‘remixed.’”

Music wound up being a crucial part of her squad’s whole experience. “Every day, I asked my squad, ‘What song represents your day on the water today?’” Remix shares. “And that song got put on a playlist.” In fact, the playlist, aptly titled “Wet Exit,” is one they share willingly with the FD community HERE.

“Honestly, we didn’t even realize how tight we all were until later, but every morning we would get up and go our separate ways and do our things all morning, but then at the end of the day, we would find that we were all doing our stretching together, and then we would be stargazing together at night,” Remix says. “And as the week went on, we were cheering each other on more and more.”

remix ms diagnosis

In the middle of the week, Remix received a phone call that a beloved teacher of hers growing up had passed away. “That was my hardest day on the river, for sure,” she says. “I know it was because I see some of the pictures, I look miserable, but I like that it’s an epic picture of me going through the water. I kept flipping over. I was the first one that had to get saved on the water, and then I had bruises on my legs and was just kind of beat up inside and out. But everyone was checking in on me, and I was checking in on them, and we didn’t see it as it was about me, it was about us. Like, how are we all doing? How are we supporting each other?”

When Remix returned home, she found herself reflecting on what she had learned about herself and this “new Bria,” and she began reaching out to others who might be in similar spaces, including an Atlanta-based Black women’s MS patient advocacy group called We Are ILL, and connecting with other thriving Black women living life through joy.

“It’s so cliché to say, but my experience with FD was one of the most eye-opening and life-changing, and I just needed it,” she says. “I had such a roller coaster of emotions, and I learned a lot about myself. For instance, I’m a control freak, and I did not know how much until I was on that water and the wind was just blowing me away, and I was not dealing. So I had to figure out how to deal with that. And I did, but first I had to learn how to say out loud how I’m feeling. That I’m not going to have control, but I can lean into it or not, but that I have the choice.”

What’s next for Remix? “Well, one thing I took away from my First Descents experience is that I need to be in Colorado once a year, and so I want to go back,” she says. “So, I’m working on making that happen. Because I definitely choose me!”

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