Living with M.S.

"Living with M.S. is sort of like training for a long race. The harder you try, and the longer you keep at it, the stronger you become.
Eventually, looking back, you may be amazed at the power you possessed, even when you had no idea it was within your reach." (Linda Ann Nickerson)

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Friday

Maybe MS has taught me something, after all.



I think some lessons have to be earned to be learned. Living with MS, I have been surprised to find this troublesome condition can be a tutor at times.

Here’s an example.

Yesterday, I caught up with a long-time friend. We haven’t chatted (beyond quick greetings) in quite a stretch. As we talked, she revealed that her husband has been living with Parkinson’s Disease for close to 10 years.

I had no idea.

He appears to cope extremely well. He continues to remain active in all sorts of athletic and hobby pursuits, while running his own busy business.

In a past life, so to speak (as in pre-MS), I might have said something well-meaning, but dumb, like “Really? He seems so healthy.”

But, having lived with multiple sclerosis for many years, I have learned the hard way that such comments only serve to negate or push away the tough reality that anyone with an invisible illness lives out all the time.

Seriously, the guy looks great.

He manages to juggle his chronic illness with a seemingly healthy life and an extremely positive attitude. Still, that doesn’t mean he isn’t sick. It doesn’t change the fact that he and his family face disease-related difficulties daily.

Now I get it. So I responded differently to my friend.

“I am sorry to hear that. Tell me how he is doing,” I said.

My friend began to relate some of the struggles and successes her husband has had, battling Parkinson’s Disease. As she talked, I hoped she would carry home a lighter burden (at least for that day). At the same time, I learned a lot about the condition and how it is affecting their lives.

Sure, Parkinson’s Disease and MS are two very different animals, even if they both attack the central nervous system. But anyone living with a chronic medical condition has the opportunity to learn empathy and understanding for others dealing with such lifelong challenges.

Had MS not taught me what an invisible disease feels like – and how it feels to hear folks unwittingly denying the warrior’s struggle – I might never have learned this lesson. Instead, I might have responded to my friend’s revelation of her husband’s disease with a simple pat answer. And maybe she wouldn’t have shared their story with me.

So maybe MS has taught me something, after all. And perhaps it still will.

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