My name is Melissa Cook. Most people would describe me as a type A, overachiever though being on medical disability has toned that down to the point that recently a doctor actually described me as borderline type A to which my husband and I both laughed. I love life and laugh often. I am known for my smile and determination to be happy. I believe in family, charity, hope, faith, humor, and integrity. I am driven, generous, trustworthy, and trusting. And sometimes, I’m even funny. I live my life optimistically believing each day is a gift and attempt to achieve my full potential, whatever that might be at the time.
I was born in Michigan and spent my childhood years in MoTown (Detroit area) during the 1970s. Yes, that was an exciting time! In 1979, my mother moved my sister and I to Tucson, Arizona where I spent middle school and two years of high school running around the desert. I returned to Michigan for my final year of high school. Overachievement began early for me. I finished high school in three years.
I married Elgin Cook at the tender age of nineteen. We had three children in less than three years. We were kids raising babies and toddlers while going to school full-time. Elgin became a teacher in 1990 and went on to complete a masters in curriculum in 1993. We spent our early years in South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. I finished a degree in composite social science for pre-law. Wyoming was a lawyer saturated state with only 1 out of 74 graduates gaining employment in law by Christmas. Despite my lifelong dream of becoming a lawyer, I returned to college and earned a second bachelors degree in secondary education. In 1995, I accepted my first teaching position and we moved our children to Nelson Lagoon, Alaska in the Aleutians East Borough School District.
Teaching was my love and I never thought of doing anything else with my life after having my own classroom. In my first year of teaching, I began to have symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Little did I know, MS was going to change the course of my career and life. At first, I thought I might not be able to work. Determination in me refused to give up. I went on to earn a masters degree in educational technology and became an adjunct instructor for the University of Alaska while working as a full-time teacher. Language and cognitive issues directed me on a new path and I left the classroom for school administration – believing this would be less stressful and more flexible. Can you hear the laughing in the background? In 2007, I earned a second masters degree in school administration after three years of working in the administrative field. Joke was on me, just as I was ready to enter the next phase of my career as a superintendent of schools, devastating MS symptoms caused me to take a year off in 2008-09 and ultimately accept medical disability on May 1, 2011.
Life has a funny way of working out. As a person who would love to head off to work each day, I find myself sleeping the additional hours my body needs to function. The drive in me is considerably lower but is still there. We’ve all heard the saying, “When life gives you lemons make lemonade,” so small in comparison to my past endeavors, my lemonade has become MSsymptoms.me. #MS #multiplesclerosis – Melissa Cook, 2013
January 29, 2020 – I worked on this blog for a few years until I came across research stating the high probability of relapsing-remitting MS becoming progressive MS. It was then that I realized MS was not alway apart of my everyday life, so why was I making it by blogging every day? I had learned disability was not a bundle of sick days and began living life on my terms. I became an EMR in 2014 and an EMT in 2016 and volunteered for our local ambulance in Thorne Bay, Alaska.
In 2016, we retired and left Alaska returning to our home in Wyoming. There I began my book, ALASKA Bush Life: A Woman’s Story of 20 Years on the 56th Parallel. In the three and a half years of retirement Elgin and I have built our home ourselves, worked on my book, handled the affairs of our parents after their passing, spent some time traveling, and I have volunteered for the local fire department. We go Jeeping at least once a week.
I hope 2020 proves to be an eventful year for us with release of my new book. I am also beginning the second book in the ALASKA Bush Life series, Cost of the Catch. It is my goal to educate all those who want to learn about what life is actually like in bush Alaska. You can read more about my books on my author site: www.MelissaCook.us.
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