The following article was published in The Motivator - MSAA’s magazine - Winter/Spring 2007.
I’d love to be able to say, in an upbeat, perky way that “I have MS, but it doesn’t have me-e-e-e.” But, I’d be lying. Multiple Sclerosis has a firm grasp on my family and myself. In some imposing ways, and in other almost imperceptible ways, MS has fingered itself into our lives.
Lest you, the reader, after having read the first paragraph, think, “Oh no, not another depressing MS story,” I want to share with you a heartening story.
I was not diagnosed after my first exacerbation 14 years ago. It was only one incident and I refused a lumbar puncture. Of course, 14 years ago, the ABC drugs were just emerging, so no treatment was encouraged.
Seven years later, my second exacerbation left me with a definitive diagnosis, a somewhat weakened body, aches, pains, a slight depression, and a great excuse for a part-time maid.
My concerned husband of 15 years mobilized and removed the most unnecessary stresses in my life. Working alongside my husband as his office manager, I was responsible for all the bookkeeping, which of course, included the reconciliation of bank statements.
I was also responsible for bank statements at home, and I was treasurer of two different investment clubs. I counted up all the bank statements I was reconciling and found the number to be over twelve. I was a busy woman. Immediately, my husband took over all of our finances at home, leaving me with only the office and investment clubs with which to deal. Very do-able.
Laundry became his domain. He even began doing the major food shopping once a week. After a long day at work, I would come home and collapse, yet he would come home and cook dinner.
Slowly, my husband…my hero…lifted away the extra and often, unnecessary, burdens I once shouldered.
Which is not to say, I am helpless. I still do plenty of my share of the housework; getting children ready for school, carpooling, planning parties, running an office, etc. After all, you still have to live your life.
They say, “The less you do, the less you can do.” As I found myself doing less and less, I found myself being less involved in my two childrens’ lives. No more hikes, no more throwing the ball around, no more school chaperoning trips, or kite flying. As I said, MS fingered its way into all of our lives.
If the less you do, the less you can do, then it only serves to prove the opposite is also true. The more you do, the more you can do. With that in mind, I began a carefully worked out exercise plan to slowly and painlessly get my legs and body back into reasonable shape. But, please understand, that for most of my adult life the “e-word” (exercise) was not a part of my vocabulary. In fact, if I ever spoke that word it was always in a whisper. The thought of following a regimen of any sort was something I found, frankly, nauseating.
After one year I would be facing an event, which I decided to use as a focus to achieve a new goal. I wanted to be able to dance at my childrens’ B’nai Mitzvah. My daughter and son were to celebrate their combined Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. It was to be a weekend-long event for family and friends. Beginning with the service, a major party for 150 guests and a Sunday brunch at our house, I knew I would not last if I did not start this workout regimen.
For nearly one year, I worked out two times a week. No, it wasn’t easy. But, each time I was on the treadmill, and a size 6 woman in leotards would pass me, I noticed I walked just a little faster and sweated just a little harder. I would never look like her, but I would, at the very least, look like a better me.
I began to notice a change in my body. My stomach was getting flatter, and my arms and legs were becoming stronger. I was actually capable of shopping again. The long walk from the overcrowded parking lot to the mall was no longer something I dreaded. My legs were becoming stronger. On the downside, if I did not work out, I found my legs began to hurt. Damned if you do…damned if you don’t.
I DID dance continually at the party. I DID last on my feet the entire weekend. Of course, there is a lot to be said for adrenaline.
When the last guest departed, I put my feet up and they stayed up for two days. I expected that. I even prepared for that.
But I made it through one of my family’s most important events in our lives. And happily, I was not sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else having fun. I was having a blast and bursting with pride in my family.
That was over 3 years ago. My visits to the gym became less and less. I was falling into the same old pattern. So, I have now set another goal. I plan on celebrating my 50th birthday in Hawaii with my wonderful husband. Every other morning, you will see me out for a brief walk to get my legs in shape. I understand there are a lot of nice shops in Hawaii.
Goal-setting has become my standard way of staying healthy. If I can just make it to the next goal, I feel proud and strong. Baby steps…one goal at a time.
Yes, I have MS and it really does have me-e-e-e. But, that’s okay, because my family and I have proven that we can handle it together.