I recently got my hands on the summer’s must-have accessory that is sure to make everyone else jealous- a cast on my right arm! I can’t wait to see what sort of interesting tan lines await as the summer winds down and my arm is freed from its tomb. Not to mention a cast in 90+ degree heat is just what every MSer covets! But despite its obvious disadvantages and poor timing, my injury is a minor bump in the road. After all, this is the first time a doctor has diagnosed me with a curable issue! However, temporarily losing the use of my dominant hand has brought some familiar frustrations back. There is nothing like an abrupt disruption in your normal life to point out how important the little things we do each day are. Whether it’s a relapse or a broken bone, unexpected obstacles can jeopardize your sense of self and wellbeing. Suddenly simple tasks like writing and cutting my food are the sources of intense frustration, but this is not the first time I have run into this scenario. MS has ensured that I am a seasoned veteran when it comes to dealing with the unexpected.
Prioritize your health
After being diagnosed with MS I took a hard look at my life and my workaholic tendencies, and tried to prioritize my health and wellness instead. I did my best to work a little less, and enjoy the little things more. I love hiking, playing the piano, cooking, reading, and enjoying quality time with the people I love. These seemingly little fragments of my day-to-day life add up to be a huge part of my identity. They give my life meaning and color and each one has shaped me in some way. Most days they bring me joy, but they can also be the source of frustration and despair. Even though these activities keep me centered and bring me happiness, I really never realized how much I depended on them emotionally, until they no longer came easily.
One of my first MS symptoms was right hand weakness and numbness and I have never wanted to play music or hold my husband’s hand more. Another relapse left me with foot drop that made hiking, and even just standing on my tippy toes nearly impossible (believe me, that is a serious problem for a short girl!). My family has found out firsthand that a cook with a dulled sense of taste is not the best at seasoning food, but boy she try her best to compensate for a perceived lack of flavor with salt and lemon zest! Needing someone to step in and help me with tasks that typically come naturally, or not being able to do them at all has been one of the most difficult aspect of life with MS that I have been forced to accept. The ability to see, move, feel, touch, and taste are things most people will never have to go without, but they are all things MS has threatened to take away.
Enjoy the things you love
I realize that these little things are not life-or-death issues, and just take a little creative adaptation. Slowly but surely I’ve worked through and overcome each obstacle, and I have emerged out the other side a better, stronger, more driven person as a result. Adapting and finding purpose in our challenges is crucial, especially when living with MS… or while spending the summer in a cast. You truly don’t appreciate some things until they are gone, but some days I just wish there weren’t so many goodbyes. I feel like I have come to terms with the big issues like pain, spasticity, medication side effects, and relapses, but the little losses are the ones that creep in and catch me off guard. It certainly does not help to dwell on life before MS, so I try to focus on finding ways to keep enjoying the things I love. Often times I get even more fulfillment out of each one, now that I no longer have the luxury of taking it all for granted. After all, the little things make the fight worthwhile, and the victories that much sweeter.