Early in 2012, Aba Kifle started to encounter odd physical symptoms that would surface for two or three weeks at a time before subsiding. First, she experienced double-vision. After that, her tongue went numb. Then her entire face - a feeling she compared with the tingling sensation one experiences when a foot falls asleep. "Only it lasts for days," she said.

Early in 2012, Aba Kifle started to encounter odd physical symptoms that would surface for two or three weeks at a time before subsiding. First, she experienced double-vision. After that, her tongue went numb. Then her entire face - a feeling she compared with the tingling sensation one experiences when a foot falls asleep. "Only it lasts for days," she said.

Following extensive testing that included blood work, a spinal tap and multiple MRIs, doctors diagnosed Kifle, 28, with multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information between the body and brain.

"I was definitely depressed for a very long time, although I didn't realize it until after the fact," said Kifle. "I started to be miserable at work, and a couple months after I was diagnosed, I quit my job. Then my brother passed away a month later. Every single time I had a relapse, I could name the specific thing in my life that was going on."

Rather than focusing on the illness, Kifle attempted to distract herself with work. She helped her sisters launch the Short North-located Kifle Shoe Boutique, which has since closed up shop (the siblings are now looking for a space elsewhere in the city), started a new job in corporate training and kicked off "Look Up," an annual MS fundraiser, now in its third year, that has raised more than $5000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. This year's event takes place Saturday, April 2 at Made & Co. Gallery, and features a performance from electronic hip-hop duo PM+ and an MS-inspired art exhibition by musician and visual artist King Vada.

"I plan on doing [the benefit] as long as there's no cure," Kifle said.

Kifle's diagnosis shifted both her big-picture priorities - "It made me realize how short life can be," she said - and smaller, everyday concerns like her diet. To help control the disease, she takes a daily pill and monitors what she eats, keeping as close to paleo as possible (a heavy focus on meat, fish, veggies and fruit in lieu of grains and processed foods). "Although of course I have cheat days," she said. As a result of these efforts, Kifle hasn't suffered a relapse since June 2014.

Growing up the youngest of six children on the city's West Side, Kifle needed to be tough, developing a thick skin even her disease hasn't been able to penetrate.

"Everyone says, 'Oh, you were the youngest. You were spoiled!' And, no, I wasn't, because my siblings raised me, so I was tortured, actually," she said. "If I was crying they were laughing at me."

Kifle inherited this strength from her folks, who immigrated to the United States from East Africa in the midst of hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia, walking across the border and navigating a refugee camp with three children (the three youngest, including Aba, were later born stateside).

"It was crazy the stories we would hear about them walking - walking! - from one country to another," she said. "Walking over dehydrated bodies, trying to make it to that refugee camp just so they could hopefully come to the U.S.

"I interviewed my mom [for a college project] and I was like, 'What?' I had no idea, because there's a language barrier still. It sounds weird saying this out loud, but I don't know the [Eritrean] language and she doesn't speak English well, so we can't really communicate. I could never tell her about my day when I got home, and things of that sort. I knew how tough she was just from the way she raised me, but that's when I learned just how strong she is."

Those close to Kifle would use similar language to describe her (in fact, many have - just check out the short documentary on her MS diagnosis posted to YouTube), and she approaches her dealings with multiple sclerosis with a tough-mindedness that can be traced back through her bloodlines.

"My neurologist, his uncle had MS, and he says it's a different world now. We have new treatments, and there are things they can do to help you lead a better life," she said. "I want to live, and live a normal life, as long as possible."

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Aba Kifle

Age: 28

Day job: corporate training

Hometown: Columbus

Current neighborhood: Downtown

Currently listening to: Rihanna "There's one specific song [on Anti] I keep replaying: 'Work.'"

Playing favorites:

Favorite restaurant in Columbus: Lindey's

Favorite movie: "Bridesmaids"

Favorite TV show: "The Walking Dead" and "Game of Thrones"

What hidden-gem business would you like to see in Alive's Best of Columbus? Upper Cup "I love that place; it's like where everybody knows your name."