A Journey with MS
“You have multiple sclerosis.” Each day in Canada a neurologist utters those oh-so-scary words, and three Canadians join a very special club with a courageous membership of hundreds of thousands world-wide. Three more Canadians — every single day.
According to the MS Society of Canada, “multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system — the brain and spinal cord. The disease attacks the protective myelin covering of the central nervous system, causing inflammation and often destroying the myelin in patches. In its most common form, MS has well defined attacks followed by complete or partial recovery. The severity of MS, progression and specific symptoms cannot be predicted at the time of diagnosis.”
The fastest growing neurological chronic condition of young people in Canada, MS symptoms range widely. Some suffer quietly with an ‘invisible’ illness and will often hear, “But you look so well.” Others live with aggressive, debilitating symptoms, losing their mobility and moving to a wheelchair or scooter within months of diagnosis.
Moreover, when someone gets MS, their whole family ‘gets’ MS. The repercussions of multiple sclerosis are felt through entire families, whether it’s a young child whose mom hasn’t the strength to carry them, or a teenager who can’t count on dad for a ride because he suffers from vertigo so severly he can’t stand. Or perhaps its effects are manifested in a weed-infested lawn where there’s no one strong enough to push a mower or pull weeds; or maybe children go to school hungry or unkempt because mom is too weak or tired to get out of bed.
For me personally, within three years of diagnosis, due to the disease’s progression, I left a successful business career and was moved to long-term disability.Over twenty years have passed since I heard those scary words, and I’ve learned a lot, both about MS and about life. Remarkably, these truths are pertinent to all humankind, regardless of circumstance or ability.
How to live an abundant live (with or without MS):
- Live each day to its fullest. Tomorrow is promised to no one.
- We are not alone! We can reach out to friends and family when we are feeling low. Most people are eager to help, especially those who love us.
- Everyone is entitled to a bad hair or gimpy leg day.
- When God closes a door, He really does open a window. New opportunities abound. We just have to be watching for them.
- Retirement is a frame of mind.
- We sometimes cannot control our circumstances, but we can control how we respond to those circumstances. We are responsible for our ‘response’ ability – the ability to respond positively and kindly.
- Everyone needs a passion! If you’ve found yours, work it, cling to it, live for it. If you haven’t found your passion yet, be passionate in searching for it!
- It’s never too late to learn something new. Try to learn something new every day. In a year, if nothing else, you will have 365 new bits of trivia tucked in the recesses of your brain for future reference.
- Life sometimes hands us lemons. Don’t settle on making lemonade. Bake an entire lemon meringue pie. Put new dreams in place and then set realistic, achievable goals to get there.
For me, I returned to a passion I had in high school–writing. A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis was a blessing in disguise. While I lost much in retiring thirty years early from a promising career, I have gained much too. I was home to raise my children. I was able to focus on preserving my health. I have learned new skills and have applied them to reaching out to the world through the written word. I have been able, through the support of the MS Society of Canada, to reach out to others who live with MS, to bring a message of hope. As an MS Ambassador, I am able to meet with members of all levels of government to advocate on behalf of the disabled within our society.
Living with MS doesn’t have to be a mess.
** Thank you to Terry and Alex for the use of their slogan, “MS doesn’t have to be a Mess.”