TONGANOXIE, Kan. -- A Tonganoxie woman is 2014’s Mrs. Kansas. She's now using her title to promote self-advocacy and to raise awareness of a brain disorder that nearly took her life.
Underneath the crown is a scar that reminds Donna Hoegler of a year-long battle she almost lost.
“The second they told me it that I had probable MS, something inside me told me I didn't,” Hoegler said.
The 2014 Mrs. Kansas Winner actually had Arnold-Chiari Malformation. It's a brain disorder commonly mistaken for multiple sclerosis.
“My brain is coming down into my neck at an angle and it's pushing my spine into my throat, and it was hanging me from inside out,” she said.
She said it took doctors almost a year to correctly diagnose her. There's no cure for Chiari, only pain management. Hoegler says she can't feel the left side of her body. This ordeal has made her stronger and she's using her experience to help others.
“If I was that close to dying, if I hadn't pushed the doctors to keep looking deeper and deeper, I wouldn't be here,” she said. “I want people to listen to themselves and no one can tell you how you feel. You're the only one who knows how you feel. So be a self-advocate and tell them.”
As Mrs. Kansas, she hopes to use her title to push for self-advocacy. After winning her crown, she moves on to the Mrs. America pageant.