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Inspiring Conversations with Latoya Johnson of MS Scents Candle

Today we’d like to introduce you to Latoya Johnson.

Hi Latoya, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
In 2016, I purchased my first candle-making kit. I only had intentions to learn to make candles so that I could spend less money on Bath & Body Works.

Never would I imagine that 5 years later, I would be the owner of a candle company with candle making being my way of coping with Multiple Sclerosis. 2018 was a very stressful year for me.

I had just completed a 3-year trainee program at my job, I then had to complete a 4-month detail in Atlanta, GA for that program (May/August). Being a single mom leaving my son at home while I chased my career aspirations was completely stressful, but I knew the sacrifice had to be made. This detail was stressful to me, I took work home and was heavily relied on for my expertise.

A week before the detail ended I woke up with no feeling on the left side of my face! I was concerned but had a lot of unexpected things happen to me in 2018 pertaining to my health, I said a prayer and went back to sleep with hopes that I would wake up okay. That didn’t happen, I woke up still feeling the same way my left side of my face completely numb, I opted out of not staying at work a full day to go to the emergency room.

It was clearly a full moon that day it took about 10 hours for a physician to come see me, and he took a look at my charts and walked into my room, and said “I see you’re having issues with your auto-immune disease? Is it MS or Lupus?” I yelled neither, I don’t have a disease! He said he was very familiar with auto-immune diseases and wanted to do some blood work and take an MRI because he was quite sure my issues were related to one of them.

I said yes, after testing I was told I had three active lesions on my brain and it was suggested that I had multiple sclerosis. I was advised to follow up with a neurologist when I returned home. It took about 2 months for me to find someone who would take the time to help me figure out why I was having issues with Trigeminal Neuralgia, numbness in my legs, and Vertigo.

Finally, in November of 2018 with 6 active lesions on my brain, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). After I was diagnosed I was lost and spiraled into a dark place. My MS was active which caused me to have multiple flare-ups, I had to have about 3 different IV steroid infusion sessions to help calm the flare. My weight ballooned because of the steroids and me being depressed from not understanding my new disease diagnosis.

It took about 9 months for me to decide to fight back because I was tired of feeling weak and defeated by Multiple Sclerosis. I changed my mindset and most importantly my outlook on the disease. I didn’t have to let it defeat me, I researched the disease-modifying therapies my neurologist recommended for me. I researched how diet and what you eat affect people with auto-immune diseases.

I started to make small changes to my diet until I found my way wanting to practice a ketogenic lifestyle. It was very similar to the autoimmune protocol diet and I frankly just wanted to see if I could eliminate all the foods that made my disease worse. I successfully transitioned fully into a keto lifestyle losing a total of 105 lbs. I promised myself that every day if I woke up with the ability to walk, I would walk.

I started out walking less than a mile to walking at least 3 miles per day. This new lifestyle gave me hope that with the changes I made, I could live a close to normal life with MS. In 2020, I decided I not only wanted to help myself live better with MS, but I wanted to advocate and help others. I started my LLC in 2020 with hopes of establishing a business that gave back to MS.

It took longer than anticipated but on World MS Day 2021 (May 30) I launched MS Scents Candle Co. dedicating 10% of every sale to The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. I learned of this foundation through the infusion center at my neurologist’s office, a patient said that MS Focus provided grants to help them get transportation to the doctor’s office. Its mission is in short “to improve the lives of people with MS.”

I knew this was the place I had to donate a percentage of my sales to.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The road of living with MS is never smooth, there is a notification system of when a flare-up is coming when you’ll be in pain, or even when the fatigue hits you.

MS is known as the snowflake disease because it affects everyone differently. I was diagnosed with Relapse Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS) so at any time my disease can go into a state of remission or due to stressors it can go into a state of relapse.

The key is trying to keep the stress low, taking your disease-modifying therapy, and practicing healthy habits. In 2021 I decided to change my disease-modifying therapy from a low efficacy injectable to a higher efficacy infusion drug Lemtrada. Lemtrada requires year 1 requiring (5) days of infusion and year 2 requiring (3) days of infusions, just the transition to a new drug and side effects have been a challenge for my body and lifestyle.

Also, being a first-time business owner hasn’t been an easy road either, 2021 was when things were starting to ease up from the effects of Covid-19, I had no idea if I’d survive starting a business when I witnessed so many not staying afloat. I believe so much in my brand, I’ve bootstrapped MS Scents Candle Co myself.

Any extra money I had went into the creation and development of my brand. While it’s not in a place where it can pay its own bills just yet, I have faith that soon it will be. No road is easy in my opinion, life isn’t always easy, but a little faith goes a long way.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
MS Scents Candle Co. is a candle company that sells candles and wax melts, we specialize in all things MS, so candle names and collection themes are branded around living positively with MS. Our goal is to provide comfort and encouragement to people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and those caring for loved ones with MS.

Our unique fragrance blends fused with essential oils; aromatherapy is known to promote relaxation, relieve stress and anxiety, and improve mood. Our products are vegan, cruelty-free, and phthalate-free and all our candles are handmade locally in Baltimore, Maryland.

We are dedicated to bringing awareness to MS one candle at a time. I’m most proud of our ability to give back and help others live better with MS. Our candles and wax melts will uplift you whether or not you live with MS.

I hope that my brand motivates others to push past obstacles, have a positive outlook on life, and find happiness even when times are dark. MS Scents Candle Co. is building a community of individuals living with MS that wants to help others living with MS.

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
MS Scents Candle Co. will grow so much in the next 5 years, where it will have the ability to give back to MULTIPLE causes that support MS. Continuing to bring awareness to the disease.

MS Scents Candle Co. will advocate more for individuals living with MS and lastly, be will be a brand name in home fragrance within the health and wellness community. We will be the brand that encourages others to give back to special causes.

MS Scents Candle Co. will grow into a space outside of my home, that employs other individuals living with MS. We will also teach others the craft of candle making with hopes that others will want to use it as a means of coping with any challenge that life throws at them.

Pricing:

  • 4 MS- $25.00 (Sample Collection of aromatherapy scents)
  • MS Together- $32.00 (MS Awareness Month Candle)
  • Made Strong- $15.00
  • Cure MS- $15.00
  • When Life Gives You Lemons- $40 (World MS Day- Anniversary Candle)

Contact Info:

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