MSAA: Publications - The Motivator: Spring 2008 - Stories to Inspire
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Home > MSAA Publications > The Motivator > The Motivator: Spring 2008 > Stories to Inspire
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Stories to Inspire

Strength, Courage, and Wisdom

By Dr. Valecia D. Barber

Photo of Dr. Valecia Barber & her Mother Dr. Valecia Barber, left, with her mother, Mary.

I am a living testimony to how all trials and tribulations can be overcome through prayer, encouragement, motivation, and the will to succeed. In the summer of 1988, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) while in my junior year of Pharmacy school at Florida A &M University (FAMU). Never knowing what was going on with me, I suffered through many obstacles and wanted to give up many times. As I look back, I realized that God was holding my hands the whole time.

While in undergraduate school, I struggled to walk around campus during my daily activities and attending classes. It became increasingly difficult for me to keep my balance. The left side of my face and my tongue became completely numb. One day, I saw a TV commercial that said MS was a terribly debilitating illness, and the commercial mentioned the signs and symptoms associated with the disease. I can remember thinking to myself, this is so sad and I felt sorry for the individuals who would be facing this dreadful illness. I never knew this was happening to me.

During the latter part of the same year, I was a bridesmaid in my sister's wedding. This was supposed to be a happy and joyous occasion for all involved. However, when it was my turn to walk down the aisle, I could not put one foot in front of the other. As two hundred well wishers waited anxiously for me to enter the sanctuary, I felt hot and flushed, as if I had no lower extremities.

After this traumatic event, my mother and I decided it was time for me to seek medical attention. I went to several physicians and finally a neurologist sent me for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which ruled conclusively that I had MS. Under the suggestion of my physician, I changed my major from pharmacy to something less stressful.

What motivated me to go forward were a strong family and a will to succeed! I had remembered an Abnormal Psychology class, where the professor told the class of his struggles to become a medical doctor. He was allergic to formaldehyde, so he had to change his major; he became a doctor of psychology. This was a sign to me that I could become a doctor also. I continued to pursue my studies and later I graduated in the summer of 1991 from FAMU, with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in sociology.

I felt a need to stay in the helping profession, although several well-meaning individuals tried to discourage me, saying that I could not go on to get a graduate degree because of the difficultly of pursuing a master's degree. They felt I would not be able to perform because of the stress of the disease. However, I did not listen to those naysayers. Instead, I kept focused, pursuing and receiving a master's of science degree in human growth and development in 1995 from Troy State University.

A few years later, the learning bug kept biting and I had a strong desire to continue my education by completing another advanced degree. After checking out local universities and talking to professors, I decided to pursue my PhD. During my course of study, I ran into all sorts of obstacles and challenges that could have easily derailed my course.

For example, I was in and out of the hospital, and I discovered that the disease was progressing. One of the biggest problems I faced was my optic neuritis, which began worsening from all of the reading that a doctoral degree requires. Here is the wonderful part of my story. God made the seemingly intangible, tangible! Through the prayers of my mother, Mary Barber, her diligence, tireless support, encouragement, and the support of other family and friends, I was able to work through the entire process. Together we conquered a major obstacle, the completion of a PhD! These individuals knew my desire to achieve and willingness to never, ever give up.

I graduated in 2005 with a PhD in counseling from Barry University. Presently, I work as a psychotherapist counseling individuals both with and without disabilities. I am also a motivational speaker. My life is a testimony to all individuals who are living with MS, as well as others who are experiencing adversities. I never would have made it without God in my life. My words of wisdom are, "Do not let your loss make you lost. Stay motivated and find the strength, courage, and wisdom that already exist within you to help you succeed. "


Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2013 11:13