Hasina Roach struggles to fold her son’s beige uniform pants. They’ve been hanging on a clothes line because her dryer is broken.
It’s the little things like folding clothes, lifting her son and forming sentences that frustrate her the most.
“It used to be so much easier,” she said as she sat down to relieve her feet, which were starting to go numb from standing too long.
Only a year and a half ago, Roach was a seemingly healthy young woman with a master’s degree in family and marriage therapy and working at a mental health hospital earning more than $50,000 annually.
Now, after her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 2012, there are mornings when Roach, 32, can barely get out of bed. She needs a walker now to help pull herself up to get to the bathroom, where there are no bars.
Roach depends on her son’s father to cover the bills at their three-bedroom Lauderdale Lakes home. But his paycheck barely covers the basics, including food, insurance and the mortgage. She has applied for disability benefits, but the process has been long, difficult and frustrating, she says.
She hates the feeling of not having her own money to run to Subway to get a sandwich or take her son Gianni for ice cream. She never thought she’d have to choose between cable or air conditioning, or stocking the refrigerator versus buying gasoline for her car.
“It’s been so hard,” said Roach, who finds herself sometimes bargaining with God for one pain-free month. “It’s hard to think about the future.”
This holiday season, Roach is hoping to get help fixing up her house, including window work and sturdier front doors.
She also hopes for a new clothes dryer so that she doesn’t have to hang her son’s clothes out on the line, and a desk to eventually set up an in-home therapy business.
“My goal is to get back on my feet and be able to help people,” said Roach.
She first noticed something was wrong in April 2012 after she became pregnant with her second child. Her vision changed, and everything was blurry, Colors were dull, and she saw spots.
That same month, she miscarried. And shortly after that, a close friend was killed in a car accident.
Later in the year, she was diagnosed with MS, a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system.
“It was very tough time,” she said. “They say bad things happen in threes.”
But she picked herself up and began navigating her life with MS. In February, she lost her job after the disease progressed.
Tanya Dannibale, the program coordinator for The National MS Society, South Florida Chapter, who nominated Roach for the Wish Book program, said the disease presents itself differently in every case.
“She was a strong, independent woman who was always helping others and all of a sudden that changed,” said Dannibale. Despite Roach’s struggles, she still volunteers with the organization. “She’s always the one who gives help, not gets help.”
Roach’s day starts at about 5:30 a.m. Despite chronic pain, she gets Gianni ready for preschool, making him breakfast and getting him to the bus by 6:15 a.m. In between, she takes her 14 daily supplements.
She worries about her son, who is in a special program at the school. While he says a few words, Gianni has difficulty holding a conversation. She hopes to get him into speech therapy. In addition, she hopes for educational tools, including books and computer programs that will help him develop his language skills.
Lately, she hasn’t been able to do much, other than wait for hours to see a doctor at a clinic. Getting there can be a challenge. It is difficult for her to get into the 2001 Honda Accord because it is so low. And the car, with almost 200,000 miles, sometimes doesn’t work.
On good days, she volunteers at Christian Life Center or the MS Society. She tries to stay active and clean the house, which is furnished with second-hand items.
A salon chair sits in the garage, a constant reminder that she is no longer able to do people’s hair — a sideline that she loved to do.
When it rains, water seeps in through the cracks in her living room. A sliding glass door doesn’t fit properly. There is no back splash for the oven and — after burglars broke into the place right after the home was purchased — the front door is no longer secure.
But Roach said she tries not to feel sorry for herself. Instead, she focuses on her son. But for Roach, the best gift would be her health.
“The ultimate wish would be for someone to find a cure for MS,” she said. “Then I would be able to work again.”