Can I let you in on a little secret? It’s something meaningful and I’d like to share it with you.
Before getting all philanthropic and philosophical, having multiple sclerosis is not a nice thing. Or a happy thing. Not when you’ve just been diagnosed. It’s a long road to acceptance.
In between hearing ‘You have MS’ and saying to yourself, ‘You know what, I am OK with that’, you will find yourself falling over (sometimes literally), you will feel awful because of side effects of your medication, and you will sometimes curse at your body’s lack of accomplishments.
Being diagnosed is definitely something you never thought would happen to you.
But it did. And in doing so, you will find a new you, perhaps not functioning at a full 100% but definitely a person with new abilities, insights and lifestyle. You might not like it in the beginning but as you move on in life, you will find that perhaps your diagnosis was something that needed to happen to see what is really important in life. It is not an expensive new car, clothes, jewellery or an even more expensive house.
It’s health and acceptance, though flawed the best of times. You will meet people in electric wheelchairs when you go to hospital for your neurological checkup. You will see MS in all its demise, seeing people’s bodies decline day after day, hour after hour. Forget the car or house for now, check in with yourself and see what matters to you as a carrier of an imperfect brain or spinal cord. Family, friends, health and love are the most valuable things in life and even more so when you have MS.
Each time I have my neurological checkup, I return home carrying a lesson in minimalism and clear-headedness. Each and every time, I know that what is physically raging inside my body is only half of what other MSers in wheelchairs go through. So who am I to complain when I can still walk (wobbly, but still walking) and talk like there’s no tomorrow?
Last Monday was no different. The lesions lodged inside my brain may never leave, and I could be the one sitting in that very wheelchair in 15 years time, but on the other hand, I may stay mobile for the rest of my life and never have the steep decline in health as in people with progressive MS.
I therefore owe it to myself to look after myself, to do the best I can for people in my environment and to try and keep my relapsing/remitting MS as stable as possible. Not a mean feat, that much I can tell you because with an immune system out of whack, it’s easier than easy to see symptoms return or worsen. So I eat and live healthy, be as happy as life will let me be and take care of others as well as myself. Raising awareness is an end result of all this: do well for others with MS, as they might be waging a bigger war than I am.
I saw young girls in the neurology clinic on Monday, teens waiting to grow up fast, hoping for love and money, for health and fun times. I saw their worried parents looking at them, wondering if their girls will be condemned to a life of medication and physical pain. Too young to be diagnosed, too old not to understand what is happening to them.
Acceptance seems easier when you’re young, so for them and their family, I hope they will find meaning in the circus that is their diagnosis. For people a bit older than this, you will find a way of living that will suit you. Stumble and fall, but always get back up, for yourself and for others.
While I was waiting for my neurologist, I heard ‘Hall of Fame’ by The Script on the radio. The lyrics fitted fifteen other MSers sitting in their own hall waiting to see their neurologist, each MSer a champion in their own right, burning with the brightest flame and walking straight through hell with a smile. They inspire me to be a better person, to live a better life.
If I want Monday – and any other day I find myself in my GP’s waiting room or in hospital – to mean anything, it is to fight, learn and enjoy life. And do well by others.
And the little secret I told you about at the beginning of this post?
Strength and honour.
Simplicity and abilities, no matter what.
Having MS can be something worthwhile and rewarding. Just don’t let it go to waste.
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