I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on January of 2004. Since that time, I really haven’t come face to face with a newly diagnosed person. Until recently, that is, when someone leaned over to whisper in my ear, “You know, she was just diagnosed with MS,” referring to the woman I met just moments before, and was now seated across the table.
An immediate sadness washed over me, followed by an overwhelming impulse to comfort her, even though she didn’t appear to need comforting. I wanted to take her by the hand and run, not walk with her, through the process of learning to live with the MonSter. I knew in my heart that it couldn’t be done. She will walk that path in her own way, in her own time, just as we all do.
When the opportunity presented itself, I walked around the table and tapped her on the shoulder.” I wish you didn’t have MS but, since you do, welcome to the club.” There was an instant connection through this crazy thing called MS. Once you meet up with another person living with MS, it’s as though you’ve given the secret handshake for an exclusive club. Even if you’ve just met, there is an instant connection of shared experiences and questions.
I looked over at Jake, who was apparently engaging in the secret handshake ceremony with her husband. They smiled as they traded MS war stories. As difficult as it is for us to have MS, the role of spouse/caregiver is not an easy one. When someone you love and share your life with is struggling, you struggle too.
We spoke of medications, canes, and the wonderful world of MS blogging. But those things are really just the basics. Those of us living with MS must plow through the complicated issues of health care coverage, employment, and disability accommodations. Some of us become educators and advocates for ourselves and others. Some become fundraisers. We all gain understanding of people from all walks of life who deal with chronic illness of any kind. We learn about the strength we never knew we had.
Now we know two more people on the roller coaster ride. Two more people who must learn to accept this new entity into their lives. Two more people in our exclusive club, which seeks no new members. This club that should be shut down forever --- boarded up and condemned and relegated to the past.
Published On: September 18, 2008