I heard on the news last night the men’s football head coach from the University of South Carolina answering a question about how he felt about playing football on Thanksgiving Day. He said Thanksgiving wasn’t a day, it was a meal. I totally disagree. I believe Thanksgiving is a way of life. The Bible tells us to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. After being diagnosed four years ago with multiple sclerosis which has no cause and no cure, I had to reconcile the fear that I felt with giving thanks for everything.
I have written a book, Fearless, that chronicles my journey from diagnosis to today. At times it was not an easy path.
I used to be fearless. I had the world by the tail. I knew what I wanted and went after it. I was successful and happy about my life. When MS entered my life, I felt like my life was over. I was fearful of my poor balance such as trying to walk up and down stairs and inclines and moving around in small places, ringing in my ears, from the inflammation which caused pain, weakness in right my hand which caused me to change my hand dominance, foot drop which made walking very difficult, bladder and bowel issues which I kept hidden for a long time, cognitive issues such as trying to find the right word in a timely manner, overwhelming fatigue which makes it hard to make it through the day, and falling–always of falling.
I have a funny story about a fall that happened recently. My bed is about eight inches away from the window. I was closing the window with one leg in between the window and bed. That was my right leg, and my left leg was on the bed. I was reaching to my right and putting weight on my right leg. And I started to lose the ability to stand on that leg, so I started slipping in between the bed and the wall. I tried to right myself several times, but I kept slipping further and further onto the floor. I was lying on my right side with my back against the wall and my front against the bed. My mother, who is eighty-nine, was not able to move the bed. So we had to call the fire department to come and move the bed and pick me up off the floor. I told them no social media pictures were allowed! If it wasn’t so comical, it would be very tragic, especially if I was alone. I now know not to do that again!
As I went through the stages of grief, I came to a point where I had to lean on someone greater than me. As a Christian, for me this was God.
One of the stages is anger. I am definitely angry that I cannot be as fearless as I once was. For the first two and a half years after my diagnosis, I would watch other people walk, run, play with my grandchildren, and do simple everyday tasks and think, I used to be able to do that and now I can’t. It is the simplest things like getting dressed in the morning, getting on the floor, getting back up, running from room to room after my granddaughters, walking through the parking lot, and going into a large store that cause me to feel sorry for myself. I felt like everyone can see how poorly I walk and thereby wonder what is wrong with me.
I have heard it said that our lives are like a kaleidoscope. Each time a kaleidoscope turns, there is another beautiful picture of combinations of bright colors. And at the center there has to be light, because without light, the kaleidoscope would just be dark. Jesus is the center of my kaleidoscope, and my life revolves around Him.
So now I can give thanks for all things. How? Instead of focusing on me, and the things that I can’t do, I draw on the things that I can still do and try new ways to overcome my weaknesses. I focus on God’s plan for my life. And I never, ever give up!
Slowing down has not been easy for me, as I have had many wonderful jobs from teaching to being a nonprofit manager. I have a rich history with working with children and adult with disabilities. I know that only my mind and emotions can make me disabled. And I refuse to be disabled! I choose to be thankful in everything!
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