Me Before MS
Getting lost in a good book
Reading has always been something I’ve loved. I love getting lost in a good book and putting myself in the places of the characters. It frees me in a way nothing else can of life’s everyday burdens and allows me time to dream and just be. Reading has always been a good escape for me from the real world, but life gets busy and I don’t always have the time and energy to read like I once did. However, lately I’ve started reading again and it’s been so good for my soul. One of the most recent books I read was, Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes. Disclaimer: If you haven’t read this book or the sequel, After You, you may want to stop here because I’m going to be talking about the books, and don’t want to spoil them for anyone! I’m not going to tell you every detail of each book, but I want to give you a backstory and tell you some parts that really stuck with me.
Me Before You
Me Before You is about an ordinary girl (Louisa Clark) who takes a desperately needed job working as a caretaker for a quadriplegic (Will Traynor). Will Traynor was once an extremely wealthy overachiever who had a passion to live life to the fullest. He was an avid adventure/thrill seeker who loved to travel the world. He was known for his career as a successful business executive and he knew a thing or two about sweeping all of the women off of their feet. Until, one day that all changed, and he was hit by a motorcycle while he was getting into a taxi. This accident ultimately left Will almost completely paralyzed and in need of care at all times. Now his life is filled with countless doctor’s appointments and constant pain and suffering. As you can imagine, Will soon is exhausted by this new life and tells his parents that he can no longer live this way. He can’t keep living knowing the amazing life he once held, and how things will never be the same for him. He lets them know that he would like to be taken to Switzerland so that a doctor can assist him with taking his own life. While the decision comes as a complete shock to his parents, they feel like they have no choice but to agree with him…that is, on one condition. Will has to give them six months before he goes through with it.
That’s when Louisa Clark comes in. She’s a quirky, happy girl they hire on to help give Will 24 hour care, but they also hope that by having someone so cheerful and pleasant around, that it will eventually change Will’s mind about wanting to die. Now here is where the spoilers begin, if you intend on reading the book and don’t want to know the ending, I suggest stopping here! Long story short, Will and Louisa form an unexpected bond and a love for one another. But, unfortunately, in the end, it’s not enough for Will to want to continue on with his life. The pain and the agony of his condition and the mental turmoil that come with it make him realize that he would rather end his life than to continue living always yearning for the life he once had. The ending devastated me! I could not imagine being in a position like that to where you would rather die than continue living knowing you may not have a lot of physical capabilities, but you still had a full life filled with love and adoration. However, I know in some cases people do lose hope like that, and sometimes they just need someone to tell them it’s all going to be ok and to remind them all they have that’s worth continuing on for.
Every day is scary and new
While I didn’t fully understand Will’s decision in the end, in a weird way I felt connected to his character in this book. Being diagnosed with MS hit me much like the taxi hit him; out of nowhere and without warning. I didn’t know how my life would be on the other side of diagnosis, and the pain and suffering that came with it is so much more some days than I could have ever expected. The depression, the anxiety. Every day you wake up is scary and new. It’s a whole new world to grasp all on its own. It also reminded me of the paralysis that can come with MS. Just like his accident came suddenly, the progression of MS and the paralysis that can affect us can come on suddenly too. One day you wake up walking and moving about freely, and the next day you wake up not being able to make your own legs function.
It gave me a better understanding
While I have thankfully not had to experience that for myself and pray I never do, I couldn’t help but think of all of those that do have to face that on a daily basis. It gave me a slight sense of what that reality must be like, and I feel like it gave me a better understanding of why some people who live with paralysis must feel; the hopeless feelings and emotions that can come with all of it. Will is miserable in the book. He can’t feed himself much less bathe or even go to the restroom on his own. To go from someone so physically active and independent one day to waking up the next completely dependent on someone else for even your most intimate needs has to be heartbreaking and exhausting; humiliating, even.
It isn't just a book
Most read these books thinking, oh it’s just a book or this could never happen to me. However, on my side looking in, reading this a part of me couldn’t help but think that something like this (although, probably not to this extreme) very well could be my reality one day. It’s also a very similar reality to people in the Multiple Sclerosis community. To those people, this isn’t just a book, its everyday life. Life isn’t always kind, sometimes it’s downright mean. Sometimes it steals us of our capable bodies, our joy, our hope and even our purpose. I know at one time I felt that it was doing exactly that to me. And in those hopeless moments, we can either allow it to drag us down in the dirt with it or we can climb up through the mud and grime and find that silver lining.
This is where I want to jump forward and begin talking about the sequel, After You. In the first book, Louisa opens up to Will and tells him a part of her life that she has never opened up to anyone else about. And, in the sequel she finds when conversing with another character, that her story might be what this person needs to open up about the difficulties in their life. Here is the quote that really stood out to me,
“Whatever it is that happened, even if you don’t want to tell me, you need to understand that he (he being Will Traynor) was right. These last weeks, months, don’t have to be the thing that defines you. Even from the little I know of you, I know absolutely that you are bright and funny and kind and smart, and that if you can get yourself past whatever this is, you have an amazing future ahead.”
A wake-up call
All I could think after reading that quote was, “wow”. Things out of my control have happened to me, and they’ve happened to us all. To many of us reading this, that thing is MS, and how we allow it to affect our lives. Sometimes the thought of what has happened to us is fleeting and dark. It hangs over every day like a dark cloud, and we allow it to color the things that we do, where we go and even what we are capable of. I know I don’t want that for my future, and I don’t want it for your future either. So, to me, there’s only one response we must give to those nasty things and circumstances that are thrown into our life unexpectedly. And, I found this response in another quote from the book. ”You live. And you throw yourself into everything and try not to think about the bruises.” This quote just slaps me in the face every time I read it, like the biggest wake-up call! I feel it’s important to keep this thought in my head often. When life is hard, when the pain hits, when I can’t see the hope in the process, this is what I will now tell myself to do in those unsure moments.
MS doesn't define you
I urge everyone reading this article to remember these quotes. Print this out or write them down somewhere so you have them available on those bad days. Remember that this life with MS and all of its symptoms isn’t what defines you. MS doesn’t define me, and it doesn’t define you. Each and every one of us has qualities that make us unique, that make us who we are. Embrace those. Hold onto them and remind yourself of all you’re capable of when you’re down. But most of all live. Live for each moment, good and bad. Take the bad with a grain of salt and cling to the good. Try not to think about the bruises. Those bruises may hurt and turn your life black and blue, but they’re giving you strength too. They’re showing you that you’re gifted in more ways than you know. That you’re tough, you’re mighty and you’re downright amazing! Don’t forget it. Because, in my opinion, even on the darkest of days there is still the hope of a brighter future ahead! Life may not ever be like what it once was or what we imagined after MS, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be beautiful. I’m going to live my life like I would have before MS, before the craziness ensued. It might be different than what I pictured, but it’s still living, breathing life and for that I’m grateful and I have the key to open the door to my own amazing future ahead.
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