Kicking MS to the Curb steps out of the box of multiple sclerosis with determination and humor. The MS journey brings challenges and concerns, stumbles and successes, triumphs and trouncings. We celebrate races run and battles won. And we stumble, reel and rise to try again.
Throughout, the orange thread traces our dogged determination to continue placing one foot in front of the other for as long as possible - until we win, until healing comes, or until the medical miracle is found.
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)
Horsing around with MS: Slaying dragons or simply draggin'?
Multiple sclerosis is often likened to a wild beast, familiarly
tagged as the MS MonSter. This title seems somehow fitting for a chronic
medical condition that sporadically challenges those it has afflicted.
Sometimes we succumb to the MonSter’s onslaught, at least
for a spell. Often, it smacks us to the ground, singeing us with its fiery
breath before raging off to gloat for a while.
What are some of the dragon’s favorite ploys?
Any experienced MSer can recognize the fiery flashes of symptom
flare-ups. We know when our energy fails, vision blurs, limbs turn numb,
balance vanishes, muscles spasm, pain increases, or basic bodily functions go
awry. That much is obvious to us.
Some of his ambushes are more intangible. How often does the
MS MonSter stomp into our daily lives to load us up with anxiety, confusion, disappointment,
discouragement, dread, fear, frustration, or other weapons that leave us
shaken, frozen, or unsteady?
Look for the victories!
Occasionally we win those battles. Once in a while, we find
the strength to stand our ground, collect our wits, hold up our shields, and
attack the dragon head-on with our proverbial swords.
Celebrating such wins is not aimed at diminishing the valiant
efforts of those who fight the MS MonSter bravely, but find themselves charred
and beaten and crumpled by his senseless violence. All too often, no matter how
hard we slug it out against the MS dragon, we collapse in the dust and wonder
how that happened. It sure wasn’t a lack of determination. We’ve got that in
We’ve all been there.
At the same time, when any of us are able to score a few
points against this dreaded beast, it can raise our spirits to trumpet the good
news. Maybe it even offers hope to the rest of us, when we hear of such
When one MSer kicks the dragon to the curb, even for a
while, we can all take heart. The war isn’t over yet.
Right now, I’m facing off against the dragon in a multi-year
battle that has largely sidelined me from horseback riding, which has been a
long-time favorite pursuit. He’s lobbed vertigo, limb numbness, muscle spasms, foot
tingles, crippling exhaustion, distractibility, exaggerated startle reflex, and loss of balance in my path. He’s added a
whopping portion of dread of possibly repeating a devastating (and nearly
life-threatening) accident that occurred a few years ago.
More than a few MSers have benefited from horseback riding
therapy. Not me.
It’s been a genuine struggle. Mostly, it’s been
heartbreaking to lose the desire to saddle up and ride. I cannot count the
number of times I gathered up my gumption, drove to the stables, fetched my
horse from the pasture, and saddled up to ride – only to step down within
moments after finding MS symptoms accentuated while mounted. (It’s one thing to
stay upright on one’s own feet during a flare-up. Keeping centered atop a
moving creature with a mind of his or her own is another matter altogether.)
Sometimes I haven’t climbed aboard at all.
Honestly, I’m not sure which has been worse: riding poorly,
not riding at all, or fielding all sorts of comments and criticisms from those
who thought I was merely wimping out. I don’t have those crazy, young,
wanna-kill-me horses anymore. I have a sensible and willing mount. It’s not
about all that.
Non-MSers don’t have a clue what the dragon can do.
It’s not like the MS warrior can wave a feather (like Dumbo)
and instantly take flight again. This stuff is much more real than that.
For a while, I seriously pondered stepping away from
equestrian pursuits altogether. I sought other ways to regain activity and
build fitness. During my too-long period of watching the horse world from the
sidelines, I took up walking … then jogging … then running. I’ve joyfully (and
exhaustedly) crossed the finish lines of a few half marathons and more 5K races
and trail runs than I can count. I'm slow, but I go. And I refuse to stop.
Take that, dragon.
In the meantime, I have reunited with a patient and understanding
equestrian trainer, who also enjoys running. She gets it. And she has worked painstakingly to
comprehend the ever-changing and unpredictable ins and outs of my MS journey,
which is a tall order. Without warning, our lessons may be cut sharply short,
or they may stretch considerably longer, depending on my ability to hold off
the MS MonSter on a given day.
Together we’ve refused to accept defeat.
Finally, things are changing! After several months of MS
battles, I seem to be on an upswing. I’m feeling better. My strength is
returning. And I am saddling up, every chance I get.
I know the MS MonSter is likely to launch another attack at
some point. He’ll lash out with his tail and try to land me on my butt.
But not today. For now, we’re bouncing along boldly and
blissfully – at last!
At this very moment (although I know it can change), I feel
like a dragon-slayer. Remind me next week, will you?