It’s Men’s Health Week, and we’re featuring the perspectives of – you guessed it – men. Following tiredoftired’s guest post about depression on Monday, we are pleased to present this poignant essay by longtime PatientsLikeMe member and mentor Rick N, who has lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for 23 years.
I am a 58-year-old man with MS. It has often been a long, bewildering, and lonely journey, which has taken me to the valleys of sorrow and to the pinnacles of success. MS is not a death sentence, as some would say. Rather, it is an opportunity to inspire and show to the world that an incurable disease can be transformed into a blessing, an enduring promise that life can go on.
MS is a slow and debilitating disease. It creates new challenges daily. Some days I forget that I even have the illness and can do most tasks and chores. The next day may find me with a trembling heart begging for mercy. Sometimes I think that the worst of MS is the unknown. I am currently diagnosed with primary progressive MS (PPMS). I awake with fears and anxieties. What is MS going to give me today? It is the challenge I must face. However, I will tell you how the monster can be defeated!
I do not perceive MS as burden, I see it as an opportunity to overcome. MS had me in a wheelchair for over two years. I was resigned to the fact that the rest of my life would be in this wheelchair. My first thought was simply, “Okay, if this is my life now, I am going to compete in the Paralympics.” So I climbed every hill in my wheelchair as my challenge, until I developed neuritis in both elbows requiring surgery. That was the end of that goal.
But today, in spite of that setback, I am walking because of a positive attitude and a strong faith in miracles.
My faith in God’s will and guidance for me was ever clear. I made the best of my life as an example to all that “it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you make of it.” Never did I pity myself in that wheelchair. I went out and about under all circumstances. Until one day something of a miracle happened. Whatever it was, I will never know for sure, but I was able to get up and begin to walk. It wasn’t pretty, but I put one step in front of the other and suddenly I was walking again. Then I used my lawn mower to stabilize me. Before long I could walk longer and longer distances. That was almost two years ago and I walk normally today. We all must believe that God’s healing miracles happen everyday. I am living proof.
Attitude is everything, regardless of your afflictions. MS is powerful. So much that it can lead one to believe it is impossible to live a healthy and happy life. Nothing must ever stand in the way of true HOPE. With hope and faith, mountains can be surmounted. However, this does not come easily.
Where does my unshakable attitude come? I often sit quietly, restful and calm. The physical realm becomes in some way a dwelling place for my spirit within. Time well spent in the calmness provides rest from the physical aches and strains. My pain level is always high. It is just the world I live in now. What I have cultivated from MS is the spirit of adventure and conquering the unknown. Acceptance means much.
In 2008, I came across PatientsLikeMe. It was like finding a great pearl in the oceans. Suddenly, the loneliness of MS could be understood by some 150,000 members with the same vague symptoms that I have. To explain what life is like with this disease, there are no words to do justice. But PatientsLikeMe gives me the opportunity to chart all of my symptoms, medications, conditions and treatments. It also offers daily journaling, and most of all, a forum in which I can read and comment with members that are in need of compassion or solutions to their current problems. This is a resource where I can find the answers to all of the confusion that goes along with most chronic illnesses. I have most definitely found it a haven of comfort.
I want to thank all who have read this. I am not a writer nor have I the talent for words. I only wanted to express my feelings about MS and the values that the disease has brought me. Should there be a cure today, I would much rather opt for the continuance of this illness. Reward and treasures are mine that I could obtain nowhere else.