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)


Excuses: Ever played the MS card?

Is there an MS card that allows anyone with multiple sclerosis to duck out of unappealing tasks or events with impunity? Do you ever cite MS as an excuse, simply to get out of doing something you just plain don’t want to do?

  • “Rats. I’ll have to miss the toddler’s birthday party. I’m having an MS flare-up.”
  • “Gee, I’d be happy to help you move out of your apartment. But it’s a bad MS day for me.”
  • “You want me to babysit for your four kids for the whole weekend? Well, I certainly would, if I weren’t facing a bad MS spell.”
  • “Can you fold the laundry this time? MS is knocking me down right now.”
  • “Try the ropes course? Not with MS, I won’t.”
  • “If I didn’t have MS, I would love to chaperone the all-school field trip to the three-ring circus.”

Or have you ever pointed to MS to soften the blow, if you somehow performed below your own (or others’) expectations?

  • “My painting (or craft project, or whatever) would have turned out better, if I wasn’t battling MS symptoms today.”
  • “I would have biked (or run or swum or whatever) a whole lot faster, if MS wasn’t dragging me down just now.”
  • “What? I didn’t pick up everything on the shopping list? It’s that MS fog again.”
  •  “Oops. I dropped the ball again. Stupid MS.”
  • “I failed the audition because of MS.”
  • “There I go, tripping over my own toes again. It’s the MS.”

It’s OK. We’re among friends here. We get it.

Often, MS legitimately bears the blame for our skips and our shortcomings. Exacerbations and symptom flare-ups can set us on the proverbial back burner for a bit.

Maybe we bow out of something at the last minute. We feel terrible about canceling, but we honestly feel terrible.

Perhaps we move slower, become clumsier, shuffle along, stumble around, or forget things. MS can actually do that to us.

But sometimes … just once in a while … do we bring up MS as an alibi or an easy out?

OK, I’ve done it. (I’d bet most of us have.) Sometimes I just haven’t felt like attending or exerting. I might not be stuck in the middle of a full-scale MS relapse. But I can’t seem to muster the wherewithal to show up. Is that so wrong? Is that even unfair?

Wait a sec. Maybe that lack of energy, motivation, and oomph has something to do with MS after all. That means it might be an honest reason and not a cop-out at all.

We’re not bluffing.

Seriously, I’ve been accused of using the supposed MS card countless times by folks who have no clue what life with multiple sclerosis is all about. They’re disappointed or angry and want someone to blame, so they call foul.

  • “You sure don’t seem sick to me.”
  • “C’mon, if you really wanted to join us, you would.”
  • “Plea-ase! We really need your help. You can do this, if you mean it.”
  • “How can you be tired? You went to bed early last night.”
  • “Don’t come calling, when you need my help.”
  •  “Hey, you can always rest tomorrow instead.”
  •  “You’re just faking, aren’t you?”
  • “But it’s your turn to pitch in.”

Oh, boy. Sounds like some jokers are a few cards short of a deck, right? (Sorry, I had to go there.)

MS is not some special wild card that gives us a pass for stuff we don’t want to do.

A chronic medical condition is not a rationalization for non-participation or disappointing accomplishments. It doesn’t leapfrog us out of our less-than-stellar achievements. If you’re a card-carrying MSer (like me), you don’t need that kind of license, anyway.

Most of us try to be above-board about MS. Deal us in. We want to ante up and push our own limits - whenever we can.

You bet we do.

Still, the writing is already on the wall. We’re gonna miss gatherings. We’re gonna skip plenty of extra projects. We’re gonna go a little slower. We might even reel a bit. Some days, it’s gonna take every ace in the deck for us to get up and get through it.

And even doing all that requires us to play our cards just right. And that doesn’t include the legendary MS card – just the cards we’ve been dealt.

 Adapted from public domain artwork and photo

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