Stories to Inspire
My Life as a Glorious Violinist with MS
By Candace Giles
It was as if my life had taken a turn for the worst. But at the same time, in my mind, could things get any worse than what they already were? This was my train of thought in 1998.
I lost my mom in 1989 at the age of 9, and with my parents being divorced since I was 3, my dad had been out of my life for many years. My grandparents raised me through high school. I graduated in 1997 from Henry Ford High School with honors, but sadly, my grandmother wasn’t able to watch me walk across the stage due to her having cancer. This was a disappointment for me, because she was a great influence in my life in helping me develop into the young lady that I had become.
I began college at Oakland University (and later transferred to Eastern Michigan University, where I got my degree in Communication in 2004). I had been struggling with a Major in Music because I am gifted in ear instead of sight-reading music, and in college, I needed to be proficient at the latter.
In 1998, while living in the college dorms, I decided to go sledding with my Resident Assistant and others from my dorm floor. Tragically, I had a bad accident while riding on an inner tube, hitting my head straight forward into a tree. I was sent to the hospital and suddenly I was having all kinds of tests. Luckily, I had distant cousins who were able to come get me during that semester. They were told by the doctor that there were signs of MS – which were showing through the spinal tap and MRI – but as it turned out, I wouldn’t show signs of MS physically until a later time in my life.
Fast forward to 2010. I was out of school and working as a sales representative at a department store. It was a really busy job, but I enjoyed helping customers. And at the age of 30, I was getting married.
What I thought would be a wonderful experience in all, became instead the feeling that the world was crashing in on me all at once. The MS flared up at work, with dizziness and tremors, followed by a bladder infection, stiffness, and what felt like “numbness in my bones.” The stress from my marriage also didn’t help, and I became very depressed.
I was taking several medications to treat the symptoms of my MS, but they were not working and made me feel like I was just existing rather than living. It became overwhelming sometimes because all I did was sleep, eat, and take medicine. I would get so sad because some days I could barely play my violin – something I had done my entire life since I was 5 years old at the Martin Luther King Child Care Center.
I always had a love for music, and playing the violin kept me sane. It enabled me to cope with all the deaths I had in my family and losing the people who were so close to me. Eventually, I gave up on the medicine and resigned myself to whatever health issues I would encounter. This began a new journey of hope and faith for me.
Thankfully, I was able to experience joy and I had no symptoms for about two years. Sadly, the stress in my marriage only worsened, which had a negative effect on my health, so I decided to get divorced. I had no idea of where I was going to live, or how I was going to eat, and was even homeless for a while, but different people took me in as their own, and I was okay until I got back on my feet.
I eventually worked another job at a daycare center, but that was it for me – my doctor said I could never work again. I had fallen on ice while on the job and my MS flared up again. Once the relapse subsided, I began physical therapy for eight months to learn how to walk again. I decided to do things in the manner of the holistic way and made my gift of playing my violin work for me.
Currently, it is a struggle some days just to get up instead of sleeping in. When I can, I go to the gym to do water exercises. Some days I just work out at home, but I have learned how to give myself space and breaks. I continue to do the natural route for symptoms, such as drinking plenty of water, resting when needed, eating right, and taking vitamins. This seems to work better for me. I am also able to play my violin for others and my MS doesn’t restrict me as much anymore.
This brings me to my latest accomplishment! While at the gym doing water exercises, I was talking with some fellow gym members, who asked me what I did. When I said that I was a violinist, they asked for my card. Turns out that one of the individuals works for the governor of Michigan, and he passed along my card to those in the governor’s office who were preparing for Juneteenth. Soon after, I was contacted to perform, and on June 19, 2022, I proudly performed publicly for the governor of Michigan and many others.
I now believe – and would love to share with any MS friend or family – that you can do anything you put your mind to. Don’t let this disease overcome you; you must always strive to overcome MS!
Violinist Candace Giles had the honor of performing for the governor of Michigan as part of the state’s recognition of Juneteenth 2022. For anyone who is not familiar, Juneteenth is a federal holiday acknowledging when the last of the slaves in the United States were freed. Although the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in the Confederate States in 1863, those living in Texas did not hear about the proclamation until Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 – two years later. This important day in history was and continues to be celebrated with prayer, food, music, and dance.