Life is all about choices. Some choices are ours to make and others are made for us...
When I was a child I loved my Barbie doll. She was beautiful with long blonde hair, a perfect body and lovely face. My best friend owned a Ken doll (Barbie’s boyfriend). We would often pretend they got married, had children and lived a Utopian life. Barbie had different outfits for every occasion – from dinner parties and sporting events to exotic vacations and PTA meetings. The toy company must have loved (and profited from) little girls like me who insisted on purchasing each outfit sold separately. Barbie and Ken lived happily ever after in Utopiatown where nothing bad ever happened. I spent hours dreaming of how my life would be like theirs.
As I got older my life seemed to mirror this Utopian lifestyle. I graduated from college with honors, was immediately hired for my dream job in publishing, and fell in love with a man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. How lucky can you get? But wait! Hold on! What was this? I began experiencing periods of numbness and tingling in my hands and legs, weakness in my entire body and overwhelming fatigue, even after waking from a full night’s sleep. My doctor ordered a spinal tap and CAT Scan to confirm a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple what? When I heard the diagnosis, I thought I had Muscular Dystrophy, the illness better publicized by Jerry Lewis and his Labor Day Telethons. Once it was explained what I had, I couldn’t believe this could happen to me. The Barbie dream seemed shattered.
Now I was faced with a choice. I could either lose myself in self-pity and spiral downward in a depression, or face this new obstacle with strength and courage. After a few weeks of letting this diagnosis sink in, I chose the latter. The ability to make this choice was made easier because I had two important things in my corner. First, I was blessed with a family who rallied around me with love and support. Second, I was blessed with a boyfriend who loved me dearly. He thought that a life without me was not a life he wanted to live. He told me my MS would be something we’d deal with together, as a team. We were married a year later, and welcomed a beautiful, healthy baby into this world four years after that.
Now let me take a moment to be perfectly honest – I don’t want to sugar coat anything. Living with Multiple Sclerosis is a daily challenge. Living with it is even more of a challenge when you add being a wife and mother to the equation. There are many days when it is burdensome, frustrating and overwhelmingly fatiguing, all while assuming the responsibilities of taking care of others. It takes a lot of inner determination to live up to your dream lifestyle while you are also managing your disease. So when I became pregnant, I knew I’d have to muster up all of my courage to stay as healthy as I could each and every day so I could care for my husband and child. I longed to be a good wife and mother, and also yearned to be a useful and productive member of society. I wondered whether I’d be up for the task.