If a cat has nine lives then I have at least twice as many. One day shy of my 50th birthday, my mind runs a vivid montage of years past. I close my eyes and I am there. I feel a heavy melancholy as the movie rolls. I see my family. I see my parents. I feel my home. I feel safe.
I see kindergarten, brownies, and Girl Scouts. I am at our annual campsite in Yosemite. I smell the bonfire and see the smiles of friends who have passed away. I see hikes to the beach over steep terrain. I see my dad carry me and I feel protected. I see myself sail, ski, sing, cheerlead, tap, swim, and play soccer and piano. I am confident. I see pool parties, birthday celebrations, and my mom’s special cakes.
I see myself travel through countless countries and experience incredible cultures. I see plays, concerts, symphonies, and operas. I am enthralled. I crave cultural literacy. I attend the University of California, Irvine, and am a college graduate. My family is there. I feel love.
I am a teacher and love children. I cannot have children due to severe endometriosis and a radical hysterectomy at 24. I mourn. I grieve. I drink to ease my heart’s ache. I cry. I grieve. I lose my way and decide I want more. I admit I am powerless and give up alcohol. I find a personal faith and embrace newness. I find strength. I write a book about endometriosis and reach thousands. I am a chat host for WebMD. I help others and in turn help myself. I begin to heal.
I meet and marry my husband. I move to Southern California. I feel love. I grow. We grow. I learn to be a woman and leave the girl behind. I love and feel love. I own love. I nourish my friendships and am grateful.
We live and we laugh. We love. We travel and experience beauty. We grow through trials and tears. We hold on. We learn.
I have multiple sclerosis. I fear my future. He has my hand. I can do this. I do daily shots, then monthly infusions. Three years pass. I progress to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. I begin Rituxan (rituximab). It makes me sick. I have new lesions. My body and mind change. I grow weary. I fight. I hope. I pray. I am grateful and I am blessed. I feel love.
I am 49, one day before 50. I am emotional as I approach this milestone. I think back to my childhood and it seems like another lifetime. My heart is heavy and I long for my family. Their love is a cherished magic elixir, the link to my first 50 years on this planet.
I look at my husband. He is my constant. He is my heart. I reach for his hand as I embark on my second 50. I look to my golden retriever, my most loyal companion. I look at my nephew, a boy who carries my heart. I look at my daughters and grandchildren and derive joy in their triumphs. I look at my incredible friends. They inspire me to love all of myself. I look at my sister, my other me. I am protected. I look to my parents and thank God they can witness my second act.
The second act is where it all comes together. The puzzle of life begins to fit into place. Multiple sclerosis will shake things up. I will fall and fail and want to give up. I will then take a step back. I will remember who I am and I will keep going. I will honor my first 50 by living my best second.
Intermission is over. The lights have dimmed. Let the curtain rise.
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.