OGDEN — When Kami Johnson-Holley was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007 as a Fremont High School senior, she was told that staying active would help her deal with the disease.
The star basketball and softball player took the advice to heart, first by winning a scholarship to play basketball at Western Wyoming Community College for two years and now by completing her second year as a utility player for Weber State University’s softball team.
In a Standard-Examiner story on Johnson-Holley written when she was first diagnosed, she said she was determined to not be depressed about the diagnosis.
“Why be sad when I can’t do anything about it?” she figured.
WSU softball coach Tina Johnson said Johnson-Holley is the opposite of sad.
“She is incredibly energetic, very positive and, always when something happens, wanting to get better.”
Coach Johnson (who is no relation) said the disease has not affected Johnson-Holley’s performance on the field.
“Honestly, I forget (about the MS), because it doesn’t seem to have a huge impact. I’m sure it does, but she never shows that it does.”
Since being diagnosed, Johnson-Holley has made sure to control the disease with a daily shot and listening to her body while participating in the intense workouts and games of college sports.
The hardest part of dealing with the disease, she said, was moving away from home.
“I haven’t had any problems with it since I’ve been diagnosed. I’m very grateful for that, and I think a lot of that has to do with how active I’ve been and living a healthy lifestyle.”
After graduating from Wyoming with an associate degree, Johnson-Holley decided to move closer to home. Her mom suggested that she walk on to one of the Weber State teams, so she chose softball.
Johnson-Holley didn’t tell the coaches that she had MS until she made the team. She earned a scholarship this year and makes sure that the disease is not an excuse or something that qualifies her abilities.
“In high school, everybody knew. I felt like I got babied a bit, especially in basketball and in softball. They’d say, ‘Oh, Kami, you can sit out a bit.’ So I told myself I’m not going to tell anyone,” she said.
“I didn’t want to have it as a crutch or something like that. Being able to perform and have coaches know I’m fine is a big thing for me.”
Johnson-Holley hopes to start a family someday with her husband, Ryan Holley, and begin a career in teaching or wellness coaching when she graduates at the end of this month with a degree in health promotion.
She believes her college playing experience has helped prepare her for whatever life and MS bring.
“I really like the fact that I’ve been able to work in a team environment. It’s helping to prepare me for my future and being able to work through things,” Johnson-Holley said.
“I feel lucky because I’m ahead of the game because of my time here at Weber.”