How to Reach Your Goals While Living with Multiple Sclerosis

Cathy Chester avatar

by Cathy Chester |

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Having lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for over three decades, I have lots of stories to tell about my experience with the disease. Tales about dating, marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood, relationships, career, and so on. I’ve had MS for so long that sometimes it’s hard to remember the time before I had the disease.

I’ll be turning 60 in a few months, and lately, I’ve been reminiscing about my life and what I want the rest of it to look like. I don’t mind turning 60; aging has never bothered me. What gnaws at me are the things I haven’t done and the hopes and dreams I had as a younger woman that I haven’t fulfilled.

Life often has different plans for us.

Although I haven’t traveled the world, swam with dolphins, camped in national parks, or written a New York Times best-seller, I know my most important dream has been realized: I feel blessed to be a happy wife and mother.

You may say that I could still fulfill my dreams. After all, we see people with MS doing incredible things every day: scaling mountains, swimming oceans, and running marathons. These people seem to possess extraordinary powers, and we are in awe of their accomplishments.

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I wish I could fulfill my dreams before it’s too late. However, these last few years have taken a physical and emotional toll on me. I’ve been hit on all sides with illness, loss, and grief; my life has felt so overwhelming that at times I didn’t know how to move on. As I begin to crawl out into the open, I wonder about my place in the world and what my next big step will be.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

As Dr. King said, I need to have faith; faith in myself and the universe. I need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I always say MS is not the total of who I am and that I won’t allow it to define me. So I’m going to devise a plan that will help me accomplish some goals with the abilities I still have.

Following are the ways I plan to achieve my goals:

Decide what they are: And work towards them. If I want to walk 5 km for charity, then I should start with more than my usual one mile a day. I hope my feet and legs will be cooperative.

Write them down: Writing things down makes them feel more real to me.

Tell someone: This will hold me accountable. For example, I’ve spoken before large crowds, but I’d like to become a regular paid speaker, perhaps an MS ambassador for a large company. I’ve always wanted to join Toastmasters to help me hone my speeches to sound more professional. Practice makes perfect. Now that I’ve told you I hope you will hold me accountable.

Break them down by size. Walking longer distances and getting back to yoga are smaller goals; learning how to scuba dive or traveling to Africa are larger. Each is achievable by setting milestones and taking baby steps forward.

Be honest about limitations: Being open about physical and financial constraints will help me to create a more pragmatic life plan. I can no longer walk, run, or ride a bike over long distances. Stairs and hills pose a problem, as do extreme temperatures. I need time to rest and have my dietary needs met.

Celebrate choices: Rejoice in my freedom to choose despite disability. I’d love to do much more, but I won’t dwell on what I can’t do, because that’s a waste of time. Instead, I’ll focus on what I can do and celebrate the journey because life is delicious.

MS is not the total of who I am, and it shouldn’t be for you either.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” –Elisabeth Kübler-Ross  


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.


Dory Stephenson avatar

Dory Stephenson

Wow. Nearing the same age myself, experiencing the same issues I couldn’t have written this piece any better myself! We seem to have mirror lives. The only difference is that she was able to articulate what I haven’t been able to do for so long. With some work, perhaps, I’ll be able to do better in the future-as well. Writing has always been my niche, ever since I was a much younger girl. And I miss the travel I once did without second thought.
Thank you Cathy for your inspiration especially at this time of year as we edge towards the next setting our goals and make plans for a brighter future.

Cathy Chester avatar

Cathy Chester

Dory, I wish you continued good luck going forward and I hope your goals, whatever they may be, will be realized just as you want them. Thanks for reaching out and all the best~
Cathy Chester

Dan Pottman avatar

Dan Pottman

30 years too. My only hope now is how much pain will I be in tomorrow. Why don't I want to eat. I see a lot of msers tell the same ole story. But what if you had no amily. Your so called friends don't call. All I ever think about is killing myself. It won't stop.

Cathy Chester avatar

Cathy Chester

Dan, I am sorry you are feeling the way you do. I truly am. MS can certainly be a cruel dictator and many others have felt like you do. Like others, I hope you reach out for help from a qualified therapist or a support group for people with MS to communicate your feelings. There's no shame in reaching out for help. You can find a local group by reaching out to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society ( and if you still have such negative thoughts I strongly urge you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Please keep us posted on how you are doing. We are a community who truly cares.

Cathy Chester

Sandy Stolaronek avatar

Sandy Stolaronek

I feel the same way, so I know where you're coming from. It seems that I have a very difficult time finding somebody who feels the same as I do or has many of the same symptoms. You are the first person did I have come across in my eight years since my diagnosis, that seems to feel the same way.I guess all we can do is pray there's a miracle that can save us from this nightmare! Sincerely, your MS warrior comrade. Much love and prayers for you!

Laurentiu Todie avatar

Laurentiu Todie

Writing was never my niche, but painting always was, before MS and after, I just have to set my pace to one thing at the time.

Cathy Chester avatar

Cathy Chester

That's wonderful about your gifts at painting. That is something I was never good at doing at all! One step at a time is the best way of going about things. Keep at it, Laurentiu!
Cathy Chester

Petra, South Africa avatar

Petra, South Africa

Thank you especially for the CELABRATE CHOICES part!!! And ca sere sera is something that we have to make peace with.

Take care.

Robby T. avatar

Robby T.

Dan, you're selling yourself SO SHORT of the enormous impact you COULD BE HAVING in other people's lives, say for example "ME"! I just turned 40, but was diagnosed after turning 34 in Sept.2012, at which time I was making over $100k per year in my outside sales position, and my wife was 6 months pregnant with my oldest son Lil'Robby is 5, and Blake is 3). For people like me, fellow MS'ers such as YOURSELF, who have been around the block a few times (you said 30 YEARS) are an INVALUABLE SOURCE of information! Buddy, I have MORE THAN A FEW QUESTIONS I'd absolutely love to throw your way! Please don't deny me, or ANYBODY ELSE the chance to actually LEARN SOMETHING from a person who can honestly say they've "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT"! And if it's BOREDOM which plagues you, I always extend the invitation to ANYONE who'll accept it (nobody has yet) to come hang out with me and wipe BUTTS & NOSES ALL DAY, only 1 of each being that of my own, but neither my butt or nose need help! HAHAHA!! Stay the course man, because that's what you are, a "MAN"! You've gotta be, to have lived with what I've lived with for only 6 years! You mentioned you don't have any family. I wouldn't tend to feel like that. You have MS just as I do, and so do THOUSANDS of others, which DOES MEAN that you in fact DO HAVE A "FAMILY"! We may ALL BE SICK, but heck, who isn't in SOME WAY! Whether it's a medically diagnosed condition, or your just plain CRAZY, about like most of my own extended family seems to be. You AE NOT ALONE Dan. I'm here, if not physically, I'm definitely here mentally right along with you.....

Sabrina Cuadra avatar

Sabrina Cuadra

I just "celebrated" my ten years of living with MS. It's hard for me to imagine what my life would be like in 20 years. Will there be a cure by then? I want to work, but my fatigue won't allow me. I am looking for ways to earn some money and also thought about public speaking. Just in these ten years, I have been through a lot and can maybe help others. Thanks for writing this!


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