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Smiling Despite the Unpredictability of MS

“Smile though your heart is aching, smile even though it’s breaking. When there are clouds in the sky you’ll get by.” ~ Charlie Chaplin

The diagnosis was determined

The diagnosis was determined. The family surrounded you while they tried to lovingly tell you that you have this illness called multiple sclerosis. It has no cause or cure. They watch you carefully, waiting for your response. Hoping you won’t fall apart.  Wanting to hold you close.

And you smile

Hit with an exacerbation weeks after giving birth

As days turn into months, you and your spouse begin to plan a family. You give birth to a beautiful, healthy child, and breathe a sigh of relief that he has ten beautiful fingers and toes. Weeks later you are hit with an exacerbation, forcing you to reach out for help with your newborn as you try to manage the myriad of side effects that comes with steroids.

And you smile.

Choosing to become a stay-at-home mom

You choose to stay home, raising your child by becoming active in the PTA, arranging school activities, helping with homework and lovingly parent as you battle the daily difficulties of living with an autoimmune disease.

And you smile.

“If you smile through your fear and sorrow, smile and maybe tomorrow, you’ll see the sun come shining through, for you.”

Held back by chronic fatigue

Your child is growing up and becomes a bright, self-assured young man. You decide it’s time for your own career. That choice is your passion, but even passions must be properly managed if you have MS. The daily fatigue that envelops you is the one that holds you back from doing everything you want to do. Napping, resting and taking it easy are not in everyone’s vocabulary, but they are a necessity in yours.

And you smile.

Longing for the day when MS will be a distant memory

Life is delicious, and your thirst for it is what makes you tick. You want to do it all, see it all and live it all.  But some days are good ones and some are not. They are as unpredictable as your disease, and as much as you’ve made peace with having MS, you long for the day when having it will be a distant memory.

When you won’t need to plan one activity a day, or every other day. You won’t need to nap before you go out, or rest halfway through an outing. You won’t need to explain to people why you can’t keep up with them, why you need to cancel plans or why you can look good but not feel good.

And you smile.

We all have two choices

I choose to smile. When you think about it, it’s really very simple: we all have two choices. We can be angry and upset, focusing on what we can’t do, what we don’t have, and asking ourselves the question that will never be answered, “Why me?”

Or we can smile, focusing on what we can do, while reminding ourselves that, as Jon Kabat-Zinn famously said, “There is more right with you than wrong.”

I quite agree.

So I smile.

“Light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near.

That’s the time you must keep on trying,
Smile, what’s the use of crying.
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile-
If you just smile.” ~Charlie Chaplin

NOTE: Multiple sclerosis is different for everyone. The basis for this post is from life experience with my own MS during diagnosis, pregnancy, childbirth, and midlife.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Barbara
    6 years ago

    A smile has a mysterious magic. It is the
    sunshine that scatters the black clouds.
    It is the silent, shy invitation of lovers,
    the preserver of the young glow
    of the happy ones.
    And even the smile of a mirrored face can
    make a lonely day sing out a merry tune.
    written by Bergren.

  • wormmy96
    6 years ago

    Well all I do is be in a good mood & don’t let it bother me. Everyone says how are u always in a good mood. I tell them there is nothing to do about it & DR’s can’t. So I’m not going sit & worry about it or anything else.

    6 years ago

    A smile is a powerful tool in decreasing fear, anxiety and anger. A smile is the anti venom when you’ve been bitten by the poisonous fangs of life. A smile can be a cure that all the medicines in the world can’t accomplish. A smile is the manifestation of one’s character when the quality of one’s character is the only quality one possesses that will allow one to move from darkness into the light. A smile is the trait that every person suffering with MS should have in abundance.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    Well put, Bob. Thank you for sharing your words with us.

  • pamelajoy
    6 years ago

    absolutely agree:)))

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    So happy to hear it!

  • ThisBSMS
    6 years ago

    Hi, Cathy Chester.
    Show Must Go On is also the name of my MS Walk team! I guess you see how much I like it :). On a separate note, smiles help with mood. A lot of times it is not mood, then physical expression, which is a smile. A lot of times it is smiling, then that changes the mood to be more positive.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    Keep up the great work you are doing with yourself and all those around you! Marvelous..

  • north-star
    6 years ago

    I agree wholeheartedly with this post and the comments. Love the Charlie Chaplin song, also this one: “Let a smile be your umbrella on a rainy, rainy day”. It’s corny but true. We who have MS sometimes experience crazy “monsoon weather” for extended periods!

    In my experience, smiles are infectious, spreading not just to other people, but to me, too. It’s really difficult to rearrange my face some days but it’s always worth the effort 🙂 Love: “there is more right with you than wrong” words to live by!

  • ThisBSMS
    6 years ago

    Yes, “there is more right with you than wrong” I agree. I say something like that to everyone who thinks things are very bad. Just recently, one of my friends was very upset and she had a long list of reasons why she was (she doesn’t have MS by the way). None of those issues she had were related to health or for that matter impacting her quality of life, really. I told her to sit down and write all the great things she has and then on a separate paper write down all the negative things that she mentioned. I told her she will find more good things that bad things. I mentioned many things she already has, such as a healthy child, a good husband, good living conditions, and so on. She was silent and probably thought I am crazy!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    I am so glad you liked (and agreed with) my post, north-star. Smiling is so much more helpful than not smiling. It helps us and our inner selves as well. We WILL be happy!

  • ThisBSMS
    6 years ago

    You said it so well. Yes, I have the same positive philosophy. I can either smile or cry. I chose to smile. You chose to smile, which is great! And that Charlie Chaplin so has played in my head during many difficult times. Also, another great song that I can relate to is “Show must go on” by Queen.
    “….The show must go on
    Inside my heart is breaking
    My make-up may be flaking
    But my smile still stays on”

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    Ah, I love Queen, so thank you for reminding me of that powerful song, ThisBSMS!

    Let’s all keep smiling and never let MS win!

  • mario lobo
    6 years ago

    I care for my wife who has MS and she’s also a major league smiler. I’ve observed that smiling is contagious. When I’m pushing my wife in her wheelchair, she smiles at everyone. Just about everyone smiles back. Of course, they’re smiling at her, but I get the collateral smile effect! And when I see their smiles, it makes me smile. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me, “Your wife has such a beautiful smile. It brightens the room.” Your friends and family probably hear that same comment about you, Cathy!
    So instead of people feeling uncomfortable and awkward as people often do when they see someone in a wheelchair, when they see my wife, they feel happy, because her smile says that she’s happy.
    As I write this, I’m imagining that you’re smiling, and I’m now smiling too! Thanks for the 🙂

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    Do you have a camera around? Ha! I WAS smiling.

    What a fabulous story about your wife. Keep on smiling and we all will, too.

  • Marcia
    6 years ago

    I have the same philosophy, but it is so nice how eloquently you voiced what I go through. The hardest thing for me is my lack of a positive support system…I had to get a second opinion just so my husband would believe I have MS. I go to my appts alone, everything I do alone and I’m ridiculed by others if I can’t keep up, etc. I am so thankful to God that my symptoms are not so horrendous like others I’ve seen, but my journey is still fraught with negativity that shouldn’t be there…You had such an awesome and lovely way to express what so many of us endure. Hats off. 🙂

  • Lorraine
    6 years ago

    Thank for sharing these positive words. They truely express how I get through the day with my MS. Just smile!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    That’s marvelous, Lorraine!

  • Stephanie Buxhoeveden, RN, MSCN
    6 years ago

    Beautifully said, Cathy!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    Thank you so much, Stephanie!

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