There’s no doubt that Danelle Umstead is a fighter. Throughout her life, the three-time Paralympian bronze medalist has overcome a slew of struggles — including living with vision loss caused by an inherited retinal disease (IRD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP).
In a recent interview with Closer Weekly, however, the beloved alpine skier, 47, opened up about her struggles with multiple sclerosis and how her life and motherhood has changed since being diagnosed with the disease in 2010.
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Our son just finished a week long hockey camp in Brainerd, Minnesota!🏒 They worked so hard on the ice, in the classroom and in the gym every day. We are super proud of him for taking on this challenge. I guess he learned that hard work pays off by watching his parents constantly train in their sport. – It’s so beautiful here, but we leave in morning for Boston. Stay tuned!✈️ #LiveYourImpossible
“As a mom, you find yourself trying to be stronger for your child, so I think it helped me in more ways,” Danelle, who shares her 12-year-old son Brocton with longtime husband and ski guide Rob Umstead, gushed exclusively to Closer Weekly.
The 53-time world cup medalist recalled the earlier days when she first was diagnosed with the disease nearly a decade ago. “Looking back, every time I got a shot, my son, in the beginning, I was getting medicine through shots and every time I wanted to cry, but my son would be sitting there and he’d be like, ‘What are you doing?'” she said. “And I’d be like, ‘Just being strong, breathe.'”
Danelle said exposing her little man to her MS treatments taught Brocton about being fearless. “To this day, my son every time he gets a shot, he’s like, ‘I’m just being strong, breathing,'” she sweetly explained. “I’m constantly trying to show my son a better life, and doing things and not finding excuses and finding new ways to be my personal best.”
Although the first-ever Dancing With the Stars blind contestant is doing all she can to be the best mom to Brocton, she said life with MS and IRDs, which are rare genetic eye conditions that involve the breakdown and loss of cells in the retina and cause vision loss, make it difficult no matter what.
“It is not easy — I’m blind, I can’t drive myself places, I can’t see the expressions on [Brocton’s] face, but we all learn how to communicate in a different way and through love and hugs and touch,” she explained. “He gets a six-second hug all the time from me and he can’t just run away. Let’s hold it in for six seconds. It’s super important.” Aww!
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❤️❤️❤️ Happy #nationallovingday I love these two so much. #lifeisbetterwithyou ❤️ . This 📸 was after our last dance on @dancingabc #dwts27 – I was so upset learning Artem and I were eliminated and all the votes didn’t show up (glitch in phone votes so they didn’t count them)😢 My heart was broken. At the time it seemed unfair and felt like they should have done a double elimination the following week. Anyways, these two loved me and supported me through every moment. Win or lose, they are my biggest fans. #nationallovingday
Luckily Danelle, who revealed her son has a possibility of losing his eyesight just like his mom, credited her family with being her rock during days when she’s feeling lousy. “[Rob’s] like, ‘Get up!’ But that’s good for me, I need that person to be like, ‘Get out of bed. Let’s go!'” she continued. “Having a community of people who love you, listening to them, that’s super huge for me.”
The brunette beauty added that she always makes sure her son and husband know how grateful she is for them. “Every time I go to bed, I’m thankful for what I do have, no what I don’t have,” Danelle told Closer. “And I wake up every morning and say what I’m thankful for. And I try to let the people that I know in my life that I’m thankful for them. I hope they know that.”
If you want to learn more about IRDs and how to better understand how rare eye disorders can be caused by an inherited gene mutation, Danelle wants you to visit EyeWantToKnow.