April is my month. The weather gets warmer, the world gets greener, and everything just generally lightens up. I was born in April. My wife and I were married in April. My favorite holiday is April Fools’ Day. I love Record Store Day, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Walk events and, of course, there’s this.
I began writing for Multiple Sclerosis News Today on April 5, 2017. I have never kept a diary or journal, and never really written a column before (plenty of articles on assignment, but rarely opinion pieces like these). Though I didn’t create the column with this end in mind, I now have a documented collection of stuff that seemed important enough to write about at the time.
So, I was going to write about some updates and thoughts about it all. Until I read “29 Reasons I’m Thankful for Having MS.”
My guess is that lots of writers can point to articles they wished they had written, or written first. This is certainly one of those for me. The gist of the piece is that Doug Ankerman, the article’s author, has MS. And he’s got 29 reasons for being thankful for it.
“Thankful he has MS? No one is thankful for having MS. He makes no sense!
Oh, I hear you. Loud and clear.
Now, let me explain. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) back in 1996, so I’ve had a good long time — over 20 years — to think about this. And yes, MS has closed many doors in my life — physically, emotionally, professionally. But as the saying goes, just as many have been opened.
It is all a matter of perspective. A perspective I had to change unless I wanted MS to prevail.”
Here are a handful of Ankerman’s 29 reasons:
- “Thanks to MS I am appreciative of clean, public restrooms.”
- “Though I am fairly independent, MS has made me aware of accessibility and other issues faced by the disabled.”
- “MS has helped me be positive and not dwell on the negatives in life.”
- “MS enables me to help others live with their diagnosis through advocacy and support.”
- “Thanks to MS, I have become more patient with myself, more tolerant of others, and more accepting of their differences.”
At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, I share many of Ankerman’s thoughts and ideas about the disease. MS has been a frightening and humbling disease to me; one that’s forced me to rethink (and reconsider and re-prioritize) what’s important in my life, who I really am beyond the physical me, and what life is really about.
I was diagnosed in 2013 but likely had the disease for many years prior to that. Though MS sometimes seems to move very quickly, the reality is that MS has slowed my life way down, and in many ways, given me a chance to appreciate more of it — even as the disease progresses.
Over the past year, I’ve had the great fortune and opportunity to write 30+ pieces for Multiple Sclerosis News Today, and I am a frequent contributor to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Momentum magazine. I’ve met and talked with a lot of people whose lives have been touched in one way or another by MS. What strikes me the most is how resilient and positive and courageous they’ve all been. All of them.
I love movies, and for whatever reason, “A League of Their Own,” the story of the short-lived female professional baseball league starring Geena Davis and Tom Hanks, is one of my favorites. Sometimes I think this scene — conceptually about resilience and resisting the urge to give up in the face of adversity — resonates with me:
As Ankerman says, don’t get me wrong. I don’t wish to have the disease, I’m not optimistic about it, and frankly, it would not surprise me if Ocrevus (or any drug for that matter) can’t alter the course of the disease for me. I definitely have plenty of days when I feel sorry for myself.
But without MS, and even as it gets hard (and harder), I likely would have lived the rest of my life without experiencing and appreciating so much that makes it great. And that includes getting to write this column — and getting to know you — because of it. That’s my recap of my last 12 months of “MS in Motion.” Thank you so much for being a part of it!
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.