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The women of WeAreILLmatic portray a powerful MS community

by Brandie Jefferson

 Victoria Reese
Victoria Reese has created a community where women living with MS can learn about the disease, ask questions, give advice and meet people who face similar challenges. Photo by Joseph Gray
Victoria Reese gets things done.
When she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 25, a few months after moving to Los Angeles, she returned home to Detroit for a week, “to deal,” she says, then headed back to California.
When working for someone else didn’t allow her to flex her creative and entrepreneurial muscles, she went into business for herself, starting her own brand management company, Victor Group LA.
“If I can’t flex my muscles,” she says, “you’re not going to see me shine.”
And when she didn’t see many people who looked like her in campaigns and organizations that support people with MS, she started her own, launching WeAreILLmatic with the blessing of the music superstar from whose album the campaign’s name is derived—legendary rapper Nas.

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WeAreILLmatic has morphed into a community where young black women living with MS can learn about the disease, ask questions, give advice and meet people who face similar challenges.
“If I know about a problem,” Reese says, “maybe I can help solve it.”
A lack of research
In 2012, Reese had a problem of her own. She visited her primary care physician after experiencing numbness in her legs. “The doctor said, ‘It’s your job. You’re stressed.’” Then came the migraines and facial paralysis. Maybe it was depression, her doctor said. Reese was prescribed antidepressants. The diagnosis, however, just didn’t seem right.
She was referred to a neurologist, and later that same year Reese was diagnosed with MS.
“I started to do my own research and didn’t see many [scholarly] articles about black people with MS and the ones I found were outdated,” she says. Brochures insisted that MS was a disease found most often in young women of northern European descent, and imagery often reflected that. “I thought, ‘Am I that rare?’ I didn’t see anything specifically geared toward me.”      
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Thursday, 09 July 2020

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