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Growth Begins with Disease

Every great fortune begins with a crime.  -–Honore de Balzac (1799 – 1850)

The crime in our case is being violated by multiple sclerosis. The great fortune it yields is an ever-expanding empathy.

MS has an upside?

I know that’s a provocative thing to say. You might be offended by any suggestion that MS has an upside. There are still moments when it offends me, but that’s usually if somebody says it that doesn’t have MS. At least I arrived at that judgment through first-hand experience. Maybe you want to punch me in the neck anyway. I’m okay with that. As long as it remains a wish.

Still, as debilitating as MS can be, it’s hard for me to see it as being a nihilistic disease. We are not diminished by it, not even to a fraction. Most of us cannot be reduced to our simplest terms by having MS. Those who come the closest we say a silent prayer for and hope their caregivers can hold it together long enough to push their boats away from the dock in the gentlest, most loving way when the end looms.

We’re still here

Few things will reduce us to rubble. The threat of apocalypse, whether personal or global, is enough to remind us that we are highly evolved animals with large brains, free will, and a conscience that clings to survival. Nihilism has never been achieved. Ethnic cleansing has been attempted but has not prevailed. Viruses and bacteria race up the food chain and drop us like flies from time to time. Yet we’re still here. Horror is relative. I grew up during the Cold War and the possibility of ducking for cover during 3rd grade Language Arts class. I lived to develop MS and fear an early demise. I lived through that, too. I’m tough to kill. That’s a real confidence-builder.

Nihilism is for Type A personalities. Bullies. Inferior communicators. Dullards that lack imagination. Sheep just following orders (autoimmune diseased cells fit nicely into that category). Old Testament gods that send a wall of water to annihilate those that don’t follow instructions very well. Rebels are SO exasperating in their contrariness. Ya just want to slap them. Or kill them.

We keep fighting

Yes, it’s positively biblical. The good fight we’re fighting as we live with MS pits our humanity against our basest nature. It follows the same script and with the same transitions found between the Old and New Testaments. Punishment in the Old, forgiveness in the New. Yahweh and Jesus. Bad cop, good cop. Scripture reads just like a procedural drama. LAW & ORDER: THE PREQUEL. Where the law triumphs, will justice be served? Stay tuned.

Arriving at peace and wisdom

And stay alerted to the channels in your head that govern your moods and life views. You might love MSNBC or FOX & Friends, but they tend to suppress our better angels. HALLMARK is kinder and gentler. PBS takes you to nature documentaries and folk concerts. You forgot that you could actually feel what you’re feeling. Once again, your heart opens up. You coo and your eyes tear up at the sight of a baby Orca being born. Laugh at a time-lapse video of a starfish stuffing its pie hole with clams. It is in those moments that we’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. Give a bear hug to the Orion Nebulae and thank it for being so sparkly in the winter night sky. That’s growth. When we regress to infancy and see the world for the first time, we’ve arrived at peace and wisdom.

So let’s buy the world a Coke and keep it company. It’s the only real thing worth doing.

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.


  • swampdoctor dave
    1 year ago

    Hello Kim, we have come a long way since we met in the hallway that day so many years ago! Once again, your article sparks a part of me that has grown since my MS seriously started to affect my way of life. Empathy is not something that many people are very good at practicing. Having MS should give all of us MS’ers plenty of practice at employing it, but how many of us do? Thanks again Kim for giving an important nudge to practice everyday.

  • Kim Dolce moderator author
    1 year ago

    Dave! So great to hear from you. I know you can embrace your inner hippie for old times’ sake. Peace.


  • potter
    1 year ago

    I totally agree with you on arriving at peace and wisdom, even people who don’t have MS can learn from this. My husband use to have our alarm radio set to a shock jock station, and then he would listen to it on the long drive to work and back. I noticed his personality was starting to change, I had read a article that bad influences on television and radio can adversely change you. One day I told him I would rather wake up to music that was fun and pleasant disc jockeys. He gave up listening to that station, he will still get hooked on different radio stations or television shows that are radical but tires of them easily. He is retiring this year, no more long drives to work. Yea!

  • Kim Dolce moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi potter,

    It’s a constant challenge for me to avoid reading/listening to political commentary. But I’m always glad when I do. We are all so capable of doing things differently, and with very little effort. Creatures of habit. It can save us or bury us. –Kim

  • dhortho1
    1 year ago

    Ms. Dolce,
    I haven’t always agreed with you but that is one piece of brilliant writing.


  • Kim Dolce moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks for the kind words, David. Hope you’re well. –Kim

  • eagle1967
    1 year ago

    In French I would say ‘les obstacles nous menent au foyer’, yes yes a bit pretensious but I live in Quebec, you mention Balzac and guess what? There are a few humans that don’t speak, how do you say? American. ‘Obstacles lead us home’. Kim Dolce your writing made me cry in my café latte. Uh thanks. You write well, and I am a smart-ass. Best kind of ass.
    About media, thank you for bringing it to my attention. You are right. I thought it was the Bacloven that was making me nuts. I realize now that perhaps it was the ‘Walking Dead’ binge of late that was largely responsible for the emotional rollercoaster I have been through of late.

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