I started making a list of some things I’ve done since I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. When I showed the list to my husband and told him I wanted to post it on my blog he said, these are cool things but make sure it doesn’t seem like you are trying to brag. Then I was worried; of course that wasn’t my intent.
So I thought about why I was making the list. I realized that I made it because I’m proud of myself. After I was diagnosed with MS I spent two years struggling with depression while trying to come to terms with my situation. It was the most difficult time in my life. I’m so grateful that I made it out of that dark place.
The purpose of this list is two-fold. For me, because I can be my harshest critic. I sometimes feel like I should be able to do anything and it’s hard at times to cope with my limitations. This list shows me that I’ve done some awesome things despite living with MS. The second is for others. I want everyone with MS to know that they can live a happy and fulfilling life. I want others to stay out of the dark place and live with me in the light.
So here goes. Since I was diagnosed with MS I’ve…
Graduated from college three times
Lived on my own
Got a dog
Found several jobs
Received a promotion at work
Swam in the ocean
Traveled to other countries
Adopted two cats
Rode in a helicopter
Visited four national parks
Traveled alone for business and pleasure
Moved to two different states
Bought a house
Saw a humpback whale in Mexico
Jumped off a boat into a lake
Watched the sun rise and set in the Grand Canyon
(This spot reserved for the future)
Today is my five-year wedding anniversary. I knew my husband in high school, but we didn’t date then. We had a class together, but weren’t really friends either. I saw him for the first time after high school in 2006 at a concert. He was with friends of mine from high school that I had recently reconnected with. Several months later we saw each other again at a party and decided to go out.
Dating for people with Multiple Sclerosis is not easy. At this point I had been living with MS for nearly eight years, but it was still awkward to disclose MS in a dating situation. I thought this would be much easier because he certainly already knew that I had MS. News of my disease had traveled quickly through circles of friends, old and new, and acquaintances so I assumed word had reached him as well. Although I wasn’t sure exactly what he knew. I had learned that news of illness spreads through groups much like the game telephone. Not long after being diagnosed, I ran into a friend from high school that had heard I was dying. At that time in my life I was quite depressed and I felt like I was.
Turned out the news hadn’t found my future husband. He had missed the rumor mill while living down south for a while and no one had brought it up to him after we reconnected. So I spent some time explaining MS to him on our first date. My symptoms were still hard to notice, but I was at the point that I couldn’t walk long distances without taking breaks. So I told him to do some Internet research and let me know if he was still interested. At the time he didn’t seem too alarmed.
He later told me that what he thought I had was Scoliosis. We all know what that is, at least in my generation since we all got tested for it in elementary school. It wasn’t the first or last time someone heard Scoliosis when I said Multiple Sclerosis. Not everyone knows what MS is, so I think they sometimes connect it with something more familiar. When he looked it up and realized what I have is much different, he told me it scared the crap out of him. Lucky for me, it didn’t scare him enough to stop seeing me and we were married a year later.
My husband is so many people to me. He’s my lover, my best friend, and he’s my caregiver. I know that he’s an extraordinary man and I’m always thankful for the love, companionship, and support he gives me. He’s willing to take on the challenges of MS by my side. We connected at a point when I had come to a good place in my life after going through depression, and spending years trying to figure out how to live life with MS. And despite the qualities in myself, put there by MS, that I disliked and wished away almost every night; I felt deserving of love. I’m thankful for that. Otherwise I would have missed out on the best gift life has given me.