There’s one thing you need to know about my family — we’re weird. We laugh at inopportune times. We can go entire days just speaking to one another in movie quotes. Sarcasm is a love language to my clan. And we can make just about anything — and I mean anything — a joke.
For instance, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004, my first MRI scans showed I had three lesions on my brain and one large one on my spine. Naturally, I was scared and more than a little depressed, which was something my mother tried to alleviate with a little humor.
“We could name your lesions,” she said.
“I don’t wanna,” I grumbled back, my face buried in a pillow.
“No, c’mon,” she prodded. “It’ll be fun. The doctor said they’re never going anywhere, so we might as well give them proper names.”
She wouldn’t give in until I agreed, so I finally spat out the words, “Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.” I figured the three in my head could be the trio of musketeers made famous by Alexandre Dumas. (The one in my spine was later named D’Artagnan in keeping with the theme.)
Mom nodded, liking the literary reference and the gallant nature of the names. And then her eyes opened wide and she gasped.
“Hey,” she said chuckling softly. “They can be your French Foreign Lesions.”
I groaned loudly. It was a ridiculous pun — a play on French Foreign Legion, the military service branch of the French army open to foreign nationals — but for some reason, it struck me so funny that I couldn’t help but laugh. That laugh grew and grew until we were both rolling on the couch, clutching our sides and wiping tears away. When the giggling finally subsided, I felt a little lighter somehow, and while I was a long way from being back to normal, I was a little more like myself for the first time since the diagnosis.
A year later, we decided that if we were going to tackle MS head on, we’d need to help raise money, so we started putting together a team for the MS Walk in Jacksonville, Fla. That first motley crew was only 10 or 11 people strong, but we had a purpose and, better still, an awesome team name. Yep, we entered as the French Foreign Lesions and hit the course wearing orange shirts, black berets, and drawn-on curly mustaches and waving baguettes in the air.
The next year, I was the faculty sponsor of my high school’s National Honor Society chapter, and the kids wanted to make the MS Walk one of their service projects. They simply wouldn’t take no for an answer, so we got cracking on painting aprons, signs, and folding chef’s toques. As you can see, the result was glorious.
The moral of the story is this. Multiple sclerosis is scary. I totally get it. But you don’t have to let it run your life. For a few months, I let it do just that, and I wasn’t pleasant to be around, to say the least. MS didn’t take my life; I gave it away. But thankfully, my mother wasn’t content to let me wallow in self-pity or fear for long. She got me laughing, got me living again, and because of her terrible play on words, we all got back on our feet and started walking.
If you haven’t done so already, get involved with a Walk MS team (or start your own). You can go here to find one that’s coming up in your neck of the woods. Raise some money to kick this stupid disease’s butt. Have some fun doing it. If you love someone with MS, help him or her by donating money for research and participating in the walk yourself. Being surrounded by people who are doing something to fight this disease makes patients feel less alone and more empowered than you know.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.