I remember sitting at work and calling my mom to tell her what the radiologist had concluded. He wrote in his report that what was causing the numbness in my hands, feet and chest was “most likely Multiple Sclerosis.”
Speaking such a sentence triggered simultaneous sobbing between me in Michigan and her in Iowa. It was news we had feared, and even though we were connected over the phone we felt isolated from each other and the rest of the world.
In less than 20 minutes after mom and I hung up, I received a phone call from my dad, who had returned home crying after mom relayed to him my new reality. I had MS, but I also knew I had a family who would help me through it.
Mom and Dad launched a makeshift mission to contact people who had MS living in and around my hometown to help them better understand the chronic illness their son was dealing with more than 500 miles away. As a result, weekly phone conversations with my mom on Sunday expanded to include Wednesday evening calls from my dad.
He anxiously updated me on any new treatment options they discovered was working for Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So and encouraged me to look into each treatment further to see if it would work for me. As much as he wanted to share their newfound insight, deep down I think he just wanted to check in to make sure I was doing OK.
And my older brother, Mark, and younger sister, Dawn - who both live in Iowa - were equally anxious to offer their support through regular phone calls, as well as helping to raise money for Walk MS events the National MS Society hosts each year. In fact, my sister has raised money and joined me for this walk 10 of the past 11 years.
Dawn is a high school math teacher who saves what few personal days she has to come out with her husband, Mike, and show their support for me and my wife, Jennifer, who also is living with MS.
My family also includes current coworkers, longtime friends and countless new people I have met through local MS self-help groups and programs, as well as through the internet and related social networking sites.
What also has helped me is that I had quickly realized following my diagnosis: that my definition of family includes more than blood relatives. I truly am grateful for the ways my immediate and extended family has supported me in dealing with this disease.
Published On: November 15, 2011