MS: lesson in minimalism

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 check up. 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 check up, 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.

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 girl 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.


© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner are strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


18 thoughts on “MS: lesson in minimalism

  1. I was just diagnosed in the beginning of March. I am grateful to God and my family for all that they do. My husband joined this MS blog first. He emailed me your words which are helping me learn that there are other individuals who are beginning a new life. That is how I have I have to view my diagnosis (as I cry). I’m back to work after 45 days of rehab and 5 day of steroids while in the hospital. I’m taking things one day at a time. Thinking positive is hard at times but that God for you and all of the other individuals who blog. It makes it a little easier.

    1. So sorry to hear about your diagnosis and thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Hopefully you will find some peace in the madness of your diagnosis and that you can rely on others to help you out. Support is so important. Look after yourself x

    1. Thank you so much James! I am glad you found it inspirational! Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

  2. Billie, I’m just now seeing this post! I’ve been following your blog but have had a busy week, so I somehow missed this. I’m so glad I went back through my blog reading list. This is a another wonderful post! :)

  3. As a person living with MS, I concur with your words on living as best you can, looking after yourself , and finding and enjoying new things in life! MS does not define you! It is certainly true that one re-evaluates what is important in life, and that, to me, is people and creativity…Excellent posts, I shall be reading more of your blog.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. It might take a while before getting into a kind of MS-rut but once you get used to meds etc, life indeed will look a lot brighter than it did. Take care!

      1. Oh, don’t worry, I’m an old hand at this…have loads of self-worked out interventions to make life easier…and in general, I manage my life. Trouble is, it’s easy to get complacent, then woops! Overdo things, set back again, but at least you say to yourself ‘I’ve got out of this before’ and you know you will. Patience (not a word I used to be too familiar with) is the key…And cheerfulness, curiosity.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear this, I hope your family will be able to make sense of it somehow. Feel free to mail whenever, or to check for posts on MS. I try to blog honest posts about life. Take care!

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