The Unbreakable Yolanda Davis

A Journey Through MS and Advocacy 


Ask Yolanda Davis her grounding philosophy on life, and she’ll tell you, “Be the light that lights another light.”

Ask anybody around her whether she actually exemplifies that philosophy, and they’ll likely tell you, quite emphatically, “Yes!”

She’s a force of nature, an unstoppable spirit with a story that resonates with millions of others around the country.
March Is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month
Davis was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2020. Because March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, the Lakeland resident has made it her mission to raise awareness for the challenges this disease presents. In doing so, she’s also been able to demonstrate how it’s made her stronger.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling, autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. In MS, the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective covering of nerve fibers, or myelin, leading to inflammation and damage to the nerve cells.

This damage can disrupt the flow of information within the brain, as well as between the brain and the rest of the body. It leads to a whole host of symptoms, which differ dramatically among those who experience the condition.

Common symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness, impaired coordination, numbness or tingling, vision problems, and cognitive changes.
Diagnosis and the Aftermath
For Davis, it was the ambiguity of those symptoms that made it challenging for doctors to deliver an accurate diagnosis. She was healthy — or so it seemed. She ate the right food, did the right amount of exercise, and was incredibly active at her job and within her community.

“Overall, I was healthy. Even the doctors were telling me I was healthy.”

But in August 2020, she woke up in a bed on the hospital’s neurology floor after she decided to drive her car to Walmart.

“It was like a scary Friday the 13th movie,” she says. The only thing she remembers about the incident? Blinking lights. She later found out that she had lost consciousness and then her car had collided with a tree. She never made it to WalMart.

Since her diagnosis that fateful day in 2020, she’s experienced everything from tremors to seizures and even a stroke. There are times when the entire left side of her body won’t move. Not one to sugarcoat things, she admits that some days are tough.

What keeps her going is the people — most specifically, her three children. “They are my everything,” she says. “When I have a relapse, every nerve in my body hurts. When I’m up, I’m up, and when I’m down, I’m down.”

According to Davis, her strength lies in keeping her head up and working hard to encourage other people. “That’s what God has me here for.”
Outreach and Advocacy
Recently, Davis was featured on the “Unbreakable” podcast, where she talked about her experiences and encouraged others to advocate for themselves as well. She likes to stay busy, but most importantly, she likes to stay positive.

Although she refuses to take pain medications to help her deal with the symptoms of her MS, she tends to rely on something else to get her through: her spirituality.

“I love doing motivational speaking,” she says. “Writing keeps my mind off the pain.”

Her goal is to host a spiritual spoken word show in March to commemorate Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. “It’s going to be so hype,” she says. “God gave me a gift. When I walk in a room, if you’re down, you’re about to be up.”

That hype is definitely needed. It’s estimated that more than 2.8 million people around the world have MS, according to the National MS Society, about a million of whom are living in the United States. And it’s likely that these estimates don’t reflect the true number of people affected by this debilitating disease.

It’s not clear what causes it, but most people are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 50. It’s also more common in women, which is one reason why Davis has felt a calling to be an outspoken advocate for others who might be living with MS.

In 2012, she was part of a movement for abused women and at-risk kids. “People still walk around with the Unbreakable wristbands and shirts,” she says, referring to the events. “My goal is to encourage people.”

With her advocacy and outreach — not to mention her unrelentingly positive spirit — that’s just what she’s doing.

Currently there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, though there are treatments (such as corticosteroids) that are used to mitigate some of its symptoms.

However, if a cure is developed, you can bet Davis will be first in line to receive it and to push others to advocate for their own health, too.

After all, she promises, “I’m going to live to be 100 and some years old.”

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