A decade with multiple sclerosis demands an anniversary celebration

Marking a rough, enduring, and educational relationship with my disease

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

by Benjamin Hofmeister |

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Valentine’s Day is less than a week away. If you haven’t gotten anything for your significant other yet, let me add to the holiday’s commercialization by reminding you that time is running out.

It really wasn’t my foremost intention to spur anyone into panicked action. This column isn’t even about the holiday at all. This date, set aside to let your special someone know how much they mean to you, has another meaning for me. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) on Valentine’s Day, and this year I’m marking my 10-year anniversary with the disease.

I don’t celebrate this date per se, but I do remember it every year as the day when MS and I began a relationship. It’s not a happy relationship. We’re not bound to each other with love and vows sworn before witnesses. It’s more like being in a three-legged race while tied to someone who keeps trying to run in the opposite direction as you. Regardless, it’s our anniversary next week, and it seems significant somehow that we’ve lived, laughed, and loathed for a decade.

Despite my personalizing of it sometimes, multiple sclerosis isn’t a living entity, and we don’t mark the occasion by exchanging gifts. If we did, the traditional gifts for a 10-year anniversary would be aluminum or tin. I never gave much thought to that in past years, but this time the symbolism of those materials felt significant and perhaps a little inspiring.

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These metals symbolize the strength that has carried a relationship through the years. It doesn’t matter what type of MS you have or how severe your symptoms are, your strength, above and beyond the norm, got you this far. I haven’t felt particularly strong lately, and it feels good to be reminded that my strength exists, it has brought me this far, and it will take me further.

Along with their strength, aluminum and tin are pliable, which makes them adaptable. I often feel that I’m being forced to be flexible or adapt to the various symptoms of multiple sclerosis, but without those qualities, I suppose I’d break. Strength plus flexibility is what makes these metals so valuable and useful, and that’s what I want to be for myself, as well as for others.

Tin and aluminum are also renowned for their resilience. Neither rusts, and both stand up well to the passage and challenges of time. These abilities are why they’re used to preserve and protect food. I haven’t always felt resilient over the past decade, but I haven’t decayed yet, so maybe I am. I may not always be the best example to follow, but it’s my hope that my experiences can help protect others when they doubt their own resilience.

While aluminum and tin are the traditional 10th anniversary gifts, the modern gift is diamonds, and there’s a lesson there, too. While they certainly aren’t pliable, diamonds are also strong (hard), adaptable to many uses, and resistant to decay.

However, there’s another comparison to people with MS that I’d like to draw from this gem. Diamonds are a form of the common element carbon. Under intense heat and pressure, they transform into something uncommon, something incredibly durable and unbreakable. I don’t think I’m a gem, but after 10 years, I’d like to think I’m durable. I hope I’m unbreakable. I’m trying to be.

So happy anniversary to me. I’m not extending well wishes to multiple sclerosis because my 10th anniversary with the disease is something I celebrate in spite of it, not because of it.

Getting here has not been fun, and there were painful lessons learned on the way. I plan on making it to the next milestone by being as strong as aluminum and as durable as a diamond.


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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Nathalie avatar

Nathalie

What a positive and thoughtful paper! Thank you for publishing it, just what I needed to read to help me stopping feeling sorry for myself and down. Thank you Benjamin!

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Cynthia avatar

Cynthia

Thanks , Ben.
A good read .... and very encouraging !

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Terry Ross avatar

Terry Ross

Ha! My MS anniversary is also on Valentine’s Day. I am eleven years. Still can’t really believe it.

Thanks for your columns. I read them regularly.

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Helen R. Eades avatar

Helen R. Eades

I have had MS for 43 years. I am in remission and doing great !

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Leanne B avatar

Leanne B

I also don't "celebrate" this anniversary but each year I add another year to the length I've had this disease. 26 yrs in November, it astounds me. It sounds like a life time but in fact it is less than half my life. I had a good full life befoe MS. For this am grateful..

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Martin Cohen avatar

Martin Cohen

Three years ago I celebrated my golden anniversary with MS. 50 years is a long time but not so long when you have a supportive spouse and family. My wife is my backbone and my adult kids and grandchildren help keep me on a straight path forward. I was too late for the disease modifying medications with exception of cytoxan which probably helped turn relapsing remitting MS into secodary progressive.
It is amazing how monoclonal antibodies have changed the face of MS in recent years. It is a much tamer disease and will prevent much of the long lasting disability of the past and make a diagnosis of MS much more tolerable and less scary.
Congratulations Ben on your wonderful attitude and maybe by your golden anniversary(preferably before) the extroadinary physicians and scientists who take care of us will have discovered how to remyelinize nerves and teach us to reheal our bodies.

cytoxan

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Lyanne avatar

Lyanne

I am happy to be able to find such inspirational fellow fighters in this MS journey with me! Thanks for the inspiring read.

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Sonja Holland avatar

Sonja Holland

I was diagnosed with PPMS 27 years ago this February. Life is always a think ahead in the MS world. You have experienced life in the Military world which helps you to think ahead. Enjoy all your time.

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Eileen avatar

Eileen

Thank you. I am so sorry for your diagnosis 10 years ago, but am so grateful that now being one of us, you so eloquently put into words what most of us are feeling and going thru.

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