My rant today has to do with certain, seemingly well intentioned news articles. They often contain an embedded message that reinforces a myth about the nature of MS and those who suffer with it, that aggravates many of those who suffer from MS and their caregivers.
Such stories usually include something like, "Jane, who was diagnosed with MS, is such an inspiration. She runs 2 marathons a year, swims 5 miles each day, and lifts weights every day and teaches a weekly zumba class. She really shows what you can accomplish in spite of MS.’’
As a longtime caregiver for my wife who has MS, I can't tell you how many times my wife and I have fielded well meaning comments from friends and colleagues, who've read the article about " Jane" or some other MS Superwoman or Superman, and they'll say things that imply that if my wife "would only set her mind to it, like "Jane" did in the article" or if she'd only "be more of a fighter", she'd be able to accomplish more with her life.
As those of us who deal with MS in real time know, MS occurs with varying degrees of severity, advances at varied rates, and causes symptoms that range from numbness to debilitating fatigue to cognitive impairment, to the inability walk, see, hear, speak or swallow. The ability to run marathons and conduct zumba classes are often the first things an MS patient loses 😀
Knowing that these comments come from well intentioned people, I try to diplomatically suggest that the symptoms of an individual's case of MS are usually the limiting factors in their lives, not the individual's attitude or willingness to fight the symptoms. I guess it's part of our culture to embrace the whole Protestant work ethic/rugged individualism thing, that says that anybody can do anything, if they'd only put their mind to it. That would be great, If only it were true!