You're Going To Hear Me Roar

I was asked in a recent interview to compare MS to an animal. The animal I chose to compare MS to is a lion. On vacation I went to the San Diego Zoo, and seeing the lions there reminded me even more why I compared MS to a lion out of all of the animals. While at the zoo, the lions were breathtaking. The male and female were both laying up in the tree of their habitat staring at their viewers. They were striking, and in that moment watching them I quickly forgot how dangerous lions can be. I learned while there that lions even purr, and if you’re like me the first thing you think of when you hear purring is a sweet kitten not a ferocious carnivore. From where they were laying they looked powerful, but friendly as they lovingly pawed and groomed one another. Lions are majestic creatures. When you first see a lion you are struck with its beauty. It is sleek and fierce, and if you didn’t know about their aggressive nature, then you might want to get a little closer and get to know more about it. However, lions are sure to roar if you get too close.

MS behaves in ways you don't expect

Male and female lions take on different roles in their pride. Male lions spend most of their time guarding their territory and their cubs. They maintain the boundaries by roaring, marking it with urine and chasing off intruders. Their roar is powerful, being heard up to 5 km or 3 miles away! It’s their intense territorial display to let others know they are in charge.  Female lions are primarily hunters. They work together to bring their prey down. The weaker females herd the prey while the stronger females pounce and attack to make the kill. When you see male and female lions, it’s easy to assume that the male would do the kill while the female guards the babies, but lion’s behaviors, like MS, aren’t what you would expect.

My MS is much like a lion

My MS is much like a lion. Like the male lion, my MS came in with a vengeance. It came in and quickly marked its territory letting me know it was the new boss of my body. It quickly chased off any hope of living a life free of disease. Like the female lion, it lurks around waiting to bring me down. The animals the lions hunt are often not aware of their presence, but when they strike, there’s not a good chance their prey is getting away. My MS symptoms are sneaky like the lion. They linger and lurk waiting for the moment I turn my head and forget and then…..they come in for the kill. To look at me I look healthy. I’m active and my symptoms are often invisible. It’s just like when I was looking at the lions at the zoo and seeing their beauty, I forgot for a brief moment that they were dangerous, but when you take a closer look you see their sharp teeth and huge powerful paws. You hear the authoritative roar, and you’re quickly reminded that they’re not playful, sweet creatures. Like the appearance of the lion, my MS symptoms are invisible and may appear innocent…and it’s easy to want to forget about it on the good days. But as soon as it roars, there is no forgetting that MS is aggressive and untamed. It’s there to snatch me up as soon as I get weak. MS and its symptoms can be tamed by medical intervention, but taming it isn’t a quick fix. You can tame a lion, you can approach the powerful and intimidating beast, but taming it cannot take away the lion’s power. At any given moment that lion will go back to its roots, and the bite won’t be pleasant. The unpredictability of working with a tamed animal is frightening when the animal comes from the wild. If you remember, lions are largely territorial and they don’t like being messed with. Multiple Sclerosis is territorial in that way too. It has its home in our bodies, and while medication can help ease the side effects, there is no guarantee it will stay tame.

MS is a powerful beast

MS is a powerful beast. It’s hugely unpredictable and there is no denying its power. While we make our best efforts to control the disease, prevent it from progressing, and feel our best, there are those days, weeks and even months that it snarls its teeth and roars in our face. Sometimes the relapses are so powerful we feel as if we can feel it and hear it for days. It’s loud and it rumbles far longer than we thought it would. The claws are sharp while the grip of the teeth is that much sharper. It digs into our souls longing to bring us down with its physical ailments and emotional difficulties. But, there are those days I feel like I can overtake it. The days where I feel like I am the lion, and MS is my prey. So, while we may have a lion living inside of us, I choose to be strong. The lion does things with a powerful and strenuous spirit, and I intend to fight the beast with equal enthusiasm. MS will not break me, I refuse to give it the power to do so. The lion called MS has a persistent spirit, but my spirit roars louder!

“You can’t kill the spirit of the lionhearted.” –Erin Van Vuren

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