It’s official. I am now a card carrying member of the club. And that reality bites. There’s no avoiding some things, no matter how much we might try.
I often write to people newly diagnosed with MS – ‘welcome to the club that no one wants to join but everyone is welcome.‘ It’s something I started writing back in 2008, shortly after my heart attack, and it’s a phrase that has carried on in that first patient forum for women survivors of heart problems that I settled into.
Then I was diagnosed with MS, and awarded another membership card. I would like to go to someplace in my head that doesn’t think about Multiple Sclerosis and forget that I am a member of this club. That’s hard to do when just about every step I take reminds me that I’m sharing this body with this miserable disease. But when I am quiet and doing something requiring my brain power and not my walking strength, I can ignore that MS membership and do some impressive things. I’ve been mentally carrying these two membership cards with me for a few years now.
The mailman delivered my 3rd membership card this week, and it was even laminated to protect it from any tears I might shed as I read this latest lifetime membership. Just like the earlier two memberships, this is definitely not one I was asking for or even had thought much about until it happened.
Without any clinical exams, tests or even apparently conscious thought, the state of Ohio unceremoniously bestowed on me my next lifetime club membership.… I received my Golden Buckeye Card, that official membership to the senior citizens club of my home state, Ohio. It is sent to everyone who is a resident here when they reach the age of 60. I hadn’t thought much about this until I opened the envelope and the shiny new membership card slipped out.
This card is meant to be my golden ticket to discounts for drugs, restaurants and retail stores. But once again my words sound in my head – welcome to the club no one wants to belong to. Aging, I know, is inevitable and the alternative to aging is not a good choice either, so I try to look at this in a positive light but it still bites. How did I suddenly find myself to be 60 years old?
The Heart and MS clubs don’t have written rules - just guidelines, but the Buckeye card does. I started reading from their website and see I am not to be ‘defined by my age but inspired by it.’ I read this and scoffed out loud and thought immediately of that other club motto I also find less than credible – ‘I may have MS but it doesn’t have me.’
The state tries to convince me there is power in being a Golden Buckeye and I can maintain that power by doing the following:-
- Eating well and exercising regularly
- Participating in athletic activity or competitions
- Learning new information or mastering new skills
- Planning for your future needs and preferences
- Much more!
This also reads to me like the list of things we are urged to do to stay ahead of our MS – exercise often, watch our diet, be a smart patient and learn all we can about MS. The heart club follows that same pattern as well.
As for the much more! - I will leave that to your imagination. I know I can come up with ‘much more’ that applies to aging and chronic disease, and a lot of it is not to be repeated in public. The alternative to turning into a Golden Buckeye is much worse, so I guess I should welcome this newest membership.
Honestly, having lost too many dear family members and friends who died much too young, I embrace each birthday as a celebration that I am still here. But really, did I need to add one more membership card as a reminder?
Wishing you well,
How well do people around you understand MS?