Thirteen years ago, a neurologist sat on the edge of my hospital bed and told me, “You have MS. It’s not the end of the world. There’s more on the internet than I could ever tell you about, so I suggest you do some research. Good night.” Since then, I’ve thought a lot about those two letters—so much so, in fact, that they became the title of this column. For a time, my life felt reduced to them. MS became the very narrow aperture through which I viewed the world; everything was labeled by, limited by, and colored by it.
However, there are hundreds of other words that start with those two letters—thousands maybe—and many of them are better choices to define me. For instance, I like to think of myself as:
Marvelous: This is an adjective that means “superb, excellent, or great.” People who are marvelous “cause wonder, admiration, or astonishment.” They are “surprising and extraordinary,” and even sometimes “improbable or incredible.” I’m not a sad sack, some pitiful creature who is cause for pity. Like everyone living with MS, I’m a cause for wonder, an incredible person who happens to have an illness.
Maverick: I love this noun, which means “a lone dissenter … who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates.” Synonyms include nonconformist, individualist, freethinker, and lone wolf. I may have MS, but I refuse to conform to it and allow it to dictate my life. A maverick to the core, I value my independence and don’t ever surrender it without a fight.
Malleable: An adjective that means “adaptable or tractable,” also is a relevant word, because while I’m inflexible when it comes to giving in, I’m also willing to adapt when necessary. No, I can’t live my life exactly the way I want, so I have to yield when that’s called for. I may bend, but I don’t break.
Manifold: While this word can refer to a part of an engine or a kind of paper, it’s also an adjective that means “of many kinds, numerous and varied.” So, this is a word that fits me to a T, because I can walk in many different circles and groups of people and feel at home. Give me a six-course dinner, and I’ll tell you which fork to use. But I’m also good with a meat-and-three feast in a Southern dive. Everything from Renaissance music, to rock n’ roll and everything in-between helps me find my true self.
And when it comes to ‘S words’ …
There’s no shortage here, either. I’m an MS patient who happens to be:
Sagacious: A person who answers to this descriptor is “shrewd” and has “acute mental discernment and a keen practical sense.” I’ll answer to that description any day of the week, and twice on Sundays. A sagacious soul sees things for what they are, and makes smart decisions after weighing all the facts. No knee-jerk reactions or headstrong mistakes here.
Sanguine: MS can rob a person of so many things, but it doesn’t have to. That’s why I like this word, one that means “cheerfully optimistic, hopeful, or confident.” That’s what you have to be when faced with multiple sclerosis, and after a first few rough months, that’s precisely what I decided to be. Sure, I have my share of down-in-the-mouth moments, but overall I keep on the sunny side of life.
Singular: Whether you mean the word in the sense that I’m “extraordinary, remarkable, or exceptional” or that I’m “unusual, strange, odd, or different,” I’ll take it as a compliment. Life’s too short to blend in or to take the road often traveled. I choose to walk a different path, to live a fuller and richer life. And multiple sclerosis, though it is a pain in the butt, won’t stop me from doing that.
Spunky: I think you have to be “plucky” or “spirited” to really get the most out of life, whether you’re an MS patient or not, and I’m proud to number myself among the spunky set. Facing a chronic disease does require a bit more courage than most folks are used to mustering, but I’ve never backed down from a fight. And I don’t plan to any time soon.
So, what words define you? Don’t settle for “multiple sclerosis.” Sure, those words are on the list. They’re a part of you whether you like it or not, but you are so much more. Never lose sight of that fact. Write the other words down because the world needs to know all the nouns, adjectives and adverbs that befit a beautiful soul, such as yourself.
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.