Mallak Anani is a senior at the University of Michigan with hopes of one day working in politics or government. She spent the past semester interning in Washington, D.C., on a school-sponsored program.
A Michigan native, Anani was also a three-sport athlete in high school, starring in volleyball, basketball and track. She played libero for the volleyball team and drew interest from Division II schools, but had her heart on becoming a Wolverine.
"I do wish I had the opportunity to play volleyball at the college level, but playing for a D-1 school meant I needed to fit certain criteria and I, unfortunately, am not nearly as tall as most girls are on Division I volleyball teams," Anani said. "My coaches were connecting with Division II colleges, but I told them I wasn't interested because I was set on going to Michigan and wouldn't have traded that education for an athletic scholarship."
During her sophomore year at Michigan, Anani discovered that she has Multiple Sclerosis. She was just 18 at the time, and the early months after the diagnosis were grueling.
"I was taking a medication that my body rejected for the eight months that I was on it, leaving me sick for two to three days per week,” she said. “I had fevers of 103 degrees, nausea -- I was unable to move out of bed and felt hopeless. After my doctor realized my body was rejecting the medication, she switched meds, and now things are much better.”
Anani still experiences symptoms of numbness and pains in her head, plus blurred vision, dizziness and fatigue, among other unpredictable maladies.
But she has stayed active in her pursuit of studies and career path, in addition to carrying on the athletic commitment that drove her in high school.
Anani played varsity for multiple years on all three of her teams, winning MVP of the volleyball squad and earning a nomination in her hometown, Dearborn, as female athlete of the year. Her basketball coach also deemed her the team's best defensive player, and she won an all-city award in track.
Though the team element of her athletic experience has transitioned to more individual exercise -- and she had to give up the promising opportunity to play college volleyball -- Anani keeps up with her hoops and running.
"I play a lot of basketball at the gym and work out on cardio machines like the elliptical and stair master, use weight training machines and do bodyweight exercises,” she said.
Anani was also able, for the previous month, to observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which requires fasting for most of the day.
After the initial complications that accompanied her MS diagnosis, Anani considers her daily routine mostly normal again. She expressed particular gratitude to her father and older sister (one of many siblings) for guiding her through the valleys of a sometimes debilitating ailment.
If you're a pickup player at Michigan, watch out for Anani on the hardwood next year. Almost two years post-diagnosis, she's still taking both the girls and boys to school.