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Winning: My Battle with MS

I’ll let Jennifer tell you about her MS diagnosis, but here’s a little bit about what happened to me in December 1999 … and it still is happening.

I didn’t actually cry when I first learned that the cause of the issues I was having was, “… most likely Multiple Sclerosis.”

Nope. Didn’t cry.

I was fearless as I talked on the phone with my primary care physician who called me at work on Friday, Dec. 17, 1999, to share the radiologist’s report with me.

The call that changed everything

“Multiple Sclerosis, huh?” I asked. “Yeah, I sort of had a sense that was a possibility. What’s that? No, I’ll be fine. OK. I’ll call the neurologist you’re recommending for an appointment to review the report and confirm a diagnosis. Yes, I have his number written down. Thank you again for doing all of this testing to see why my hands, feet and chest are so numb. Merry Christmas to you too. Goodbye.”

I thought to myself, “So brave, Dan. So brave.” I hung up the phone, got up from my chair and closed my office door.

Then I sobbed.

MS is a forever sort of deal

Multiple Sclerosis. This isn’t like a common cold. MS is a forever sort of deal. It isn’t ever going away. That is, until they find a cure.

And it’s a progressive disease. Progressive. It’s perpetually attacking my body. Intermittently. Continually. Uncontrollably. Always ready to pounce with or without warning. And now I have it, and I did nothing to get it.

MS just chose me.

I’m not sure how long I bawled or what halted my hysterics that day. Somehow I continued to work until 5 p.m., and finally drove home, ate a grilled cheese sandwich, cried a little more, and went to sleep.

I was still the same person

I woke up the following morning infused with an intricate sense of calm, peace, urgency and optimism.

Nothing about me was different. Absolutely nothing. I may have MS, but I truly was the same person I was the previous day when I got the call that temporarily shattered my world.

And it was on this day after – on December 18, 1999 — that I determined how I was going to handle this unwanted invader. I started trash talking MS.

Me vs. MS

MS? You chose me. But from this day forward: I. Own. You.

And so began the competition.

It’s me vs. the disease. I’d like to think the odds are in my favor, and here’s why.

I’m the captain of my team, and the great thing is I’m not facing this fight alone. I have a strong team of people behind me, everyone from my family to friends, caregivers, medical professionals and more.  These are the people who give me strength and encouragement.

Support from my team

And I can choose who is and isn’t on my team. I call the shots and can add people who will help me to win, and I am free to cut those who are holding me back from staying in the game.

Like football has quarters and baseball has innings, I have days with MS. Depending on the day or symptom, I’ve developed different strategies for taking an offensive or defensive stand against MS.

I refuse to give in

Some days, everything goes as planned, while other days I need to shoot from the hip (no disease-modifying therapy pun intended) and make up a new play to counterattack what the disease fires at me.

Sure, the disease has the power to take away some of my abilities, friends, independence and sense of security. But I refuse to give into it and let it take away my spirit, enthusiasm, determination and sense of hope.

I’ve been engaged in this fight for nearly 6,500 days, and I know in my heart that I am winning.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • 11Little
    1 year ago

    This is the first time I’ve read about someone tackling their MS as I am opposing mine. Before my diagnosis in 1986 I was an athlete (hall of fame in my high.school and college) and a coach for over a decade. I too received the news while home.from work eating lunch. When the phone rang it was the neurologist telling me the spinal tap confirmed I had MS. I went back to school and assigned reading and.questions for my class. I then got on the internet and knew it to be true. I had little time to feel sorry about it. That night I refereed city league basketball and I was angry. When friends asked me what was up I told them to shut up and play ball.
    My wife was a great partner. After some serious consideration we were determined to get on with our life plans. We had two children and decided to have two more. I had one boy and three girls. I promised myself to walk them down the aisle on their wedding day. One down and two to go. I continued to teach and retired in 2009. Like you MS is my opponent but I am ready for the game. I figured my competitive spirit will not let me not enjoy my life. I have five grandchildren now and I intend to stay active for them. My choice of treatment is mental toughness. Never give up and never give in. After all the mantra for MS seems to be the treatment MAY or MAY NOT help. There is no MAY or MAY NOT in my competitive world. Be strong

  • Dan and Jennifer Digmann moderator author
    12 months ago

    BAM! You rock it, @11little! You now are MY inspiration. Indeed, doesn’t it make it easier to be determined and put up a fight when it’s turned into a competition? You truly are winning! As you said, “There is no MAY or MAY NOT in my competitive world.” Stay competitive!

    – Dan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • 11Little
    12 months ago

    Ok Dan
    My game is going strong. I look forward to having a teammate on my side with a competitive spirit. As far as I am concerned you MAY join my team and I will certainly support yours. Beat MS

  • anns7
    1 year ago

    You go, Dan! You and Jennifer make a winning team! You both are my inspiration! Ann S.

  • Dan and Jennifer Digmann moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks, Ann! And right back at you: You and Ray are a winning team that inspires Jennifer and me! We are grateful for your friendship, and we are so looking forward to hearing all about your recent trip 😉

    – Dan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • LuvMyDog
    1 year ago

    WOW. An eternal optimist?
    I was diagnosed with MS 37 years ago.
    I did pretty well for nearly 30 of those years, experiencing flare-up’s maybe three or four times a year and most, fairly mild.
    As I got older, experienced more. And now, at 72, I rarely feel well.
    My energy level is on a scale of 1 – 10, is usually maybe a 5 if I’m lucky.
    The heat and humidity knock every bit of energy out of me and make me so weak and miserable.
    I am someone who is a realist. I don’t live in a bubble and I don’t try to. I see things as they actually are, and not how I’d like them to be.
    I don’t believe there will be a cure found for this ugly disease anytime soon and I KNOW….I’m not winning!

  • Dan and Jennifer Digmann moderator author
    1 year ago

    I truly hear what you’re saying, LuvMyDog. And MS definitely is an incredibly ugly disease. It is a challenge each day, and that you’ve made it through 37 years tells me that you have a winning attitude! And I don’t know that I so much am an eternal optimist as I am one who believes things always could be worse. While this may make me sound somewhat pessimistic, it actually is what pushes me to be thankful for what I do (and don’t) have. I wish you all the best, and please keep in touch!

    – Dan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    1 year ago

    I am so sorry to hear you rarely feel well these days, @caninemom6142. I hope cooler days come soon and bring you some relief and energy. Thank you for checking in with us and please continue to do so anytime! We’re here for you. Warmest wishes, Shelby, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Mariella
    1 year ago

    Diagnosed on 2004. No one in my family had it before. My parents live oceans apart but I’m fine. Exercise helps me show MS who’s the boss of my body and stronger :). No closer relatives, but exercise, friends and Copaxone helps me with the journey. Thanks for your post. Loved reading it 😉

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    1 year ago

    Thank you for sharing what works for you, Mariella @sfhetp. Exercise can be so helpful! We appreciate you commenting and we’re here for you! Warmest wishes, Shelby, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Dan and Jennifer Digmann moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you so much for your feedback and for sharing your insights, Mariella! I like how you said, “show MS who’s the boss …” 🙂 Exercise truly does help with so many things, like fitness and mental well-being. And I, like so many others (whether or not they have MS) feel like I always could do more. Thanks for motivating me to make it happen.

    – Dan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Scalz
    1 year ago

    Hi, I was diagnosed with MS in 2010, and I shouldn’t have been surprised. My sister, at that time, had had MS for 20 years. Since then, two nephews have been diagnosed with it also. We all are related via the patriarch’s side of the family.

    Having previously been athletic, I continue to lift weights (48 years) and walk our dog daily. Both help as does a healthy diet and Copaxone three times a week.

    I read of a lot of people who have had MS for decades and have dealt with it. In can be done and I plan to fight it all the way. Why quit?

  • Dan and Jennifer Digmann moderator author
    1 year ago

    That’s a great attitude, Scalz! I need to take some inspiration from you and start lifting weights 🙂 Heck, even just do some stretching to keep our muscles loose. Do whatever we can to stay in the game, right? Wishing you and your family all the best as you collectively fight this disease.

    – Dan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • julieann
    1 year ago

    I am so glad you have good support. I have very little my mum is good but shes all i really have. Stay as well as possible. Love ja x

  • Dan and Jennifer Digmann moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks for commenting, julieann. It’s good to hear that you have the support of your mum, and always remember that you also have the support of so many others in the MS community! I echo your wishes when I also say to you to stay as well as possible.

    – Dan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • maxie
    1 year ago

    Dan, loved your comments. I was diagnosed in 2001 but clearly had earlier symptoms and yes, I am still an optimist most of the time. Sure, MS is so unpredictable but I refuse to make it all about this disease. I travel, I cook a lot, I exercise, I have fun. The biggest help is I have a very supportive husband and a great family. Would not be such a “cockeyed” optimistic without them behind me. Makes all the difference so I count my blessings every day.
    Wishing everyone the best.

  • Dan and Jennifer Digmann moderator author
    1 year ago

    Great to hear from you, Maxie! MS is a daily challenge, but attitude is so important in staying mentally ahead of the disease. “I refuse to make it all about the disease.” Such a motivational comment 🙂 Count your blessings in your husband and family, and stay optimistic in your fight with MS.

    – Dan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

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