What MS Means to Me
The National MS Society defines multiple sclerosis as, “an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.” When you are diagnosed at fourteen, as I was, hearing that you have a disease with this definition can be quite terrifying. I think that is why it took me so long (eleven years) to be comfortable telling others that MS is what I deal with daily. It is hard to explain to others about something of this magnitude when you can barely come to grips with it yourself. Not only that, but it took me those eleven years to truly understand the disease that holds my body captive. Putting both your disease and yourself out there is difficult, and scary to say the least. Today, I believe the prime reason it took me so long to be at ease with openly telling others was because I didn’t want MS to define me-especially at such a young and naïve age. And, in all honesty, even though I can tell others, I STILL don’t want it to define me in any way, yet it does.
MS can mean different things to each person dealing with it. Whether you are the one facing it, a spouse, family member, or friend, coming face to face with a chronic illness is never easy. In this article, I want to tell you what MS means to me. I’ve known since being diagnosed that I never wanted having MS to change who I was or change my zest for life. My goal since diagnosis has been to turn the negative perspective about MS into something more positive. I want others to see that sure, I have MS, but that in no way makes me weak or sick. I am strong, I am capable, and even having a disease cannot stop me from living my life to the absolute fullest!
MS has meant several things to me since learning I had it as a young teenager. It once meant I was scared and in denial, that I felt I would be embarrassed or misunderstood if others found out. But today, MS means so much more to me than that. Just by looking at me or passing me on the street, you probably wouldn’t know the disease that I face. I am a young wife, and a momma to a beautiful baby boy. I am passionate about health and fitness, and I have a desire to help others. MS means more to me now than ever– in fact, in some ways I feel that MS has saved my life. Having a young family with MS has taught me to covet my health, and to do everything in my power to be the wife and mom I have always wanted to be. It has shown me that my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health are all of utmost importance and that I need to take care of each one of those daily! It may mean getting more rest than most, and skipping out on those late nights out with friends-but that’s OK! Living life with this disease has taught me not to judge a book by its cover-to see that others may be facing more than we could ever imagine behind their perfectly manicured hair and fancy clothes. It has taught me compassion and humility. It has most importantly, taught me that I have to offer myself that same grace and humility as a wife, mom, and person in general. I am only human, and I will have my bad days, but that doesn’t make me of any less worth. Having MS means learning to roll with what life gives me day in and day out. Multiple sclerosis can be tricky and unpredictable. Some days are absolutely wonderful and symptom free, while others are more difficult and my body feels riddled with symptoms. Learning to deal with my specific MS symptoms and create that perfect balance in life has been a learning process. Of course, I did not choose to have MS. I however have learned now, that I can choose to take my diagnosis and make it into something meaningful and beneficial to others. What I once thought was such a terrible part of my life, is now what I see as a blessing in disguise. I can take my story and my struggles and I can use them as something brighter than I ever imagined. MS can hurt and destroy a lot of lives, but my goal is to show others that having MS doesn’t have to mean you’re sick and incapable. But, instead MS can mean you are just as capable-if not more so- and you are a warrior! I want others with this illness to show the world that we can do everything else they can, but we do it on top of having an incurable neurological disease! Can you imagine how quickly the negativity that is associated with MS would be diminished if we all had that mindset?! We are fighters-STRONG-and though we may not always be as healthy as we wish, we still push through and don’t let what life gets us destroy our passion to live the lives we have always dreamed! MS can be tough, but in the end we can choose to be tougher! Some days our world may feel small and insignificant compared to that of others, but we can choose to turn that around and make our world bigger and better. Yes, I have MS, my body reminds me daily, but at the end of the day, having MS has taught me what life is all about. And, THAT, my friends, is why MS means so much more to me than I could have ever dreamed.