advocating from within

advocate [v. ad-vuh-keyt; n. ad-vuh-kit, -keyt] verb, -cat⋅ed, -cat⋅ing, noun- a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc.

Living with a chronic illness can be challenging on so many levels. In addition to being physically and emotionally compromised, we have to step outside of it all and advocate on our own behalf.  Depending on the symptoms of the day and the emotional state that goes with them, it is often impossible to make the right decisions. Especially when we can’t always see clearly what is happening. And while many of us have family members who advocate for us, they too are experiencing the emotions of our coping and may not have a clear perspective of what needs attention. I’ve always said that in a perfect world we would all be assigned a “primary care advocate.” A person would guide us through our needs and provide solutions in a way that only someone not in the midst of the coping can do.

Last week I visited with my dear friend Linda who is fighting cancer and saw first hand the importance of having an advocate. We spent good time together, recounting special moments and creating new ones. I had no specific agenda for the trip. It was great to be with her and offer more than virtual love. I held her hand, kissed her face and listened to the messages that can’t be sent via the phone or computer.  I hoped to make her laugh and she me as if there was nothing but the two of us in the room.  For this to happen we would need to find moments for her to be pain free. Linda goes from serious pain to happy and adorable in the flick of a switch. It’s incredible to watch. Of course the same happens in the reverse when that antagonist re-enters the room.  This battle is constant. There was never a long enough window of time for her to think clearly. With no opportunity to look at the big picture, how could she represent?

I spent this first day attentive. Watching her press the button to send an extra surge of meds to relieve the increase in pain. All the while working hard to stay awake, get rest, care for her little one and eat. The latter of which is the hardest. She desperately needs to put on weight, but eating is very painful.  I kept reminding her to hit the button at the slightest discomfort and as a boost before and after meals. It’s amazing how hard it was for both of us to remember. Her expression was the prompt, but we looked for an earlier cue to preempt the pain. It was already clear to me, how my being there was helping beyond the distraction of good company. But it wouldn’t be until the next day that I could really see the role I filled so easily.

Monday morning I joined Linda for her Dr.’s appointment. We were quite the pair. She – walking gingerly with her pain pouch in a bag over her shoulder, tube running in. Me- with my walking stick, deliberate in my navigation while holding her arm. Moving around the hospital, it was unclear who was supporting whom. Of course the reality is we were both giving and receiving in complementary ways. Like the last piece in a puzzle that didn’t look like it would fit, but once in place completed the picture perfectly.

When we made it to her meeting with her nurse practitioner, Linda reported on her experience since her last visit including her pain level and how often she needed to hit the button.  I was surprised that her report didn’t match what I had witnessed the day before. She is a stoic, strong woman. I’ve watched her endure a lot more than most could handle. At first I hesitated to interrupt, but as the exam continued I knew I had to say something. When I did, her nurse suggested that they increase the pain meds and as Linda resisted, I saw myself.

I know the feeling of not wanting to increase my drugs for fear of the long-term implications. The thought of being reliant on medication- pills or liquid being pumped into your veins for the long haul is not an easy concept to digest. In Linda it looked more like a fear of submission or failure. So I questioned her nurse to say what I hoped Linda needed to hear. They were the words that soothed me when I had a similar struggle. “What dosage are other patients using?” As her nurse counted into double digits, I saw Linda’s face calm a bit.  It helps to have perspective. I was her advocate, moving in to that role with ease. A role that I could never be for myself.

During my most recent MS attack, my husband and I were discussing some “what now” options. During that conversation he told me things that he never had before. Apparently he had been living with a great deal of stress in his concern for me. I was commuting to NYC, working a full day at NYU and coming home too exhausted to function in a meaningful way. My worn-out self did not the best mommy make. He never mentioned his concerns before because he didn’t want to take the wind out of my sails. And my tendency to persevere in spite of it all prevented me from seeing the reality playing out in front of me. I’m glad Keith was there to show me what I needed to know. Looking back I realized that this wasn’t the first time I needed someone else to point out what couldn’t be clear in my mind.

It took way too many times kissing the NYC streets for me to recognize that a walking stick would help me to navigate my world more safely. The foot-drop combined with a shot of dizziness is the perfect cocktail for scraped knees and a humiliated ego. But I always assumed that if I needed a stick, my Dr. would tell me. This was my frequent retort to my mom’s gentle (yet sledgehammer-like) inquiries.  A walking stick felt like a progressive failure to me. As I waited for my doctor’s recommendation- I endured more falls in denial. When Keith suggested considering it, I couldn’t ignore the evidence anymore. I knew intellectually the benefit it would provide, but I feared how it would speak to me, about myself. I didn’t know who I would be with a walking stick and I was not interested in meeting that person. Keith helped me move past it. He suggested that I treat using the stick as a social experiment. (Just How Nice are Those New Yorkers?!) And that concept empowered me to go forth.

The irony of this whole scenario is that when I went to my doctor’s office shortly after this decision, he questioned why I was using the cane. He said based on my exam there is no evidence of need. I couldn’t believe something that took so much emotional fortitude to accept was being questioned by my doctor -who, btw is a premiere MS neurologist worldwide. Nothing showed up in my exam to indicate this need. Of course he couldn’t recreate walking 3 blocks, become fatigued and dizzy and have my foot-drop kick in. I guess more detailed questioning would have unearthed this evidence.  But as they say, the doctor treats the disease and the nurse treats the person. After that appointment, I witnessed again, what I already knew.

With 21 years of MS under my belt, I like to think I’m an effective advocate for myself.  In many cases I am. Though my mind must play a fragile balancing act. And as I struggle to navigate past the information that fuels my fears of  “what if” I know I’m running the risk of missing something that could be very helpful. With Linda I felt inexplicable strength based my own experience in the doctor’s office. Knowing what my needs are, I easily stepped into the role of advocate for her. And in her, I saw myself. I was that patient – from the outside looking in and I knew exactly what to do.

Find Me In Fatigue

Fatigue is hands down the most difficult MS symptom to experience and explain. While all invisible symptoms defy description, finding words to convey the feeling of this type of exhaustion is not easy. Because everyone thinks they understand “being tired,” it is particularly helpful to draw a line of distinction between that and this experience. So I will try to do that… words are my greatest ally, after all.

When I was first diagnosed in 1988, long before any disease modifying drugs were available to treat MS, I knew full-on fatigue. This neurological experience isn’t anything like being tired. It consumes you in its grip. It’s long fingers wrap around you and suffocate your being- robbing you of your sense-of-self. Each and every cell struggles to endure and with that, is a disconnect from all that defines you. It lives in you no matter what you do. It doesn’t even require physical movement to take hold. Just sitting and reading a book or playing scrabble- any level of concentration would be fuel for exhaustion. My memory of my time with fatigue is not one I care to revisit. It was a time with no hope, filled with fear of what role this thief of my personality would play. Trapped in side my worn-out body, I could not imagine what would become of the effervescent me.

And to make matters more challenging, I was surrounded by people who tried to tell me that they “get tired too” making me more isolated and angry than ever. Living with MS is a tough ride, but having to constantly explain yourself, defend yourself even, makes it even harder. Copaxone has allowed me to live life mostly free of fatigue, so I was caught completely off guard last Sunday when it reared its ugly head.

That day I pushed myself hard. Not by working out, or riding the Lifecycle at the gym of which I wish I was a member….. just by going to the local art fair searching for that elusive hand-crafted mug. Walking around Art in the Park (ing lot) at the Montclair Art Museum was enough to do me in.

But let’s talk mug… a welcomed distraction! This mug of mine needs to be special. It’s the one that feels perfect as I wrap my fingers around it and support it with my palm, warmed by the contents. The one that deserves to bring that ideal cup of java to my anxious lips. Yes.. I wax poetic here. I love coffee… and I need my perfect mug to have and to hold. My last victim found its fate as a hippity-hop was flung across the yard and tore it from my hands, tragically taking that rubber vehicle’s life with its own. The shards of mug sliced through it in a feat of physics I would love to replay in slow motion. A sad day for both me and Madeline. 😦

So, I excitedly arrived at the fair, the very one that brought that perfect predecessor to my home. With walking stick in hand; daughter, sister, nephews and parents near by, I descended. I had it all planned out. I would do a quick jaunt to assess where my new coffee vessel would be adopted and rejoin the family. Of course in spite of separating myself from the group, I couldn’t quite achieve the speed and agility I hoped for, and couldn’t put my finger on the ideal mug. I ran in to the posse just in time for shirt-painting, tie-dying, music-listening, food-wanting, gift-buying, bathroom-going, arm-tugging, constant-whining and thus my chances of finding my soul-mate-mug were diminishing by the second. But my family was on board. They knew how important this was. They each were given a description of said item and an assignment of what to do if they found it. Cell phones are very important in this type of mission. Phone messages with pics of mugs from across the park were employed to avoid excess travel! Anything to shorten my trip was appreciated.

Finally I found one and though it wasn’t perfect, it was close enough. I bought it and took one more trip with Madeline to get her friend’s birthday present, and then a second stop at the bathroom, and finally to meet the rest at the gang at Applegate Farm stand for that much desired-dairy-destiny. (can’t resist hyphenated alliteration!)

Unfortunately my effort to get there was thwarted by the entire physical breakdown of my overly-taxed body. To the outside observer I must have appeared to be a cast member of the Night of the Living Dead; dragging my leg, lunging myself forward to find a momentum. I suppose holding a walking stick and Madeline’s hand helped to dispel that image. But from the inside it was all black eyes and decaying body. I dragged myself to the chair that all ushered me to, and sat.

And when I got home, I sat. Unable to think or even be… stifled under the greatest of exhaustion that compromises my entire self. Sleep and depression weren’t far behind…. a delirious slumber filled with the fear of what I will be when I wake up.

Luckily with Copaxone fatigue is only reached when I push myself far beyond what is reasonable- it is no longer the MS symptom that underscores everything, found after walking 20 feet. Instead it is only found when I expect to be able to do more than my body will allow. Usually that is a lot more than 20 feet, but it falls short of a trip around a festival, a museum or around the park. (and you can forget the Bronx Zoo!) You’d think I’d know that line of demarcation by now… maybe it’s my optimism, maybe denial. Whatever the case may be, I often find myself in this zombie like state disappointed I can’t do something that seems like a “no-brainer”. And thus, I am left with the realization that there is a solution for these scenarios- and it’s that next step that I’ve been avoiding for some time. Can a scooter be as empowering as my walking stick is? I hesitate to type it, but I believe I know the answer.

When I awoke I realized a change of scene would do me good. So I called my neighbor to join her for a coffee. Her kitchen is adorned with mugs that feel great in hand and reinforce this journey with a line drawing and simple message – because in spite of it all Life is Good! That and the great conversation she always supplies is just what the dr. ordered, Thanks Susan! 🙂

Thanks for reading.


“Some” Voices of Multiple Sclerosis

I read  a recent  edition of the New York Times blog column Well entitled Voices of Multiple Sclerosis.  My husband is my editor. He is the one who steers me past the articles that he know will torment me for days and to the ones that will intrigue and inspire. It’s easier now that we have made the “green” transition to e-reading. Instead of piles of folded papers cluttering our flat surfaces, emails accumulate in our virtual mailboxes with encouraging subjects such as “Keith thought you would be interested in this…”    Such was the case for Voices of MS. And while it sat in my “in” box for a bit, eventually I did read and in this case listen.
I was moved to write a letter to the columnist Tara Parker-Pope though I have yet to send it. So, I thought I would post it here and get some feedback from my readers.. especially those of you who have MS. (but not to out rule those who don’t!)
Ms. Parker-Pope,
Thank you for giving voice to some of the diverse individuals who live with Multiple Sclerosis. Watching and listening to their experiences brings out many reactions; personally and professionally.
As a person who has been living with MS for over two decades I connect with each of these stories, with an understanding that ranges from “I know what you mean” to “will this be me?”The latter of which is the approach/avoidance that I experience with everything I read or see about MS. I have met many people with MS over these 20+ years that echo this sentiment.
It’s hard to satisfy such a varied group of people. Any media outreach is obligated to represent. If the sampling doesn’t provide a person from each “walk” of life then someone is alienated. In doing so however, many people with MS who are fearful of their uncertain future are not interested in reading more. Though some want to know every possible outcome so that they can plan for what might happen, many don’t want to waste valuable energy worrying about something that may never occur. It’s counter productive on so many levels most significantly, managing each day do be the strongest one can be within their individual circumstances – emotionally and physically.
It is this reality that inspired me to become an educator that uses technology to create ideal learning environments for individuals who live with such an uncertain future. I have designed a web-learning approach that allows each person to customize what s/he wants to learn and how s/he wants to learn it.  Called, it uses techniques supported by learning theory and preferences that can be set to reach each unique individual with MS.
This educational tool serves up information as the users want to absorb it – based on their own symptoms and concerns – without exposing them to information they are not looking for that replaces their desire to learn with fear and uncertainty. Or if your approach is more “rocky road” (“I want to know those worst case scenarios”), you can specify accordingly. Whatever the situation, this new way to learn about health on the web is self-directed and ultimately empowering.
(MS SoftServe is a non-profit organization currently seeking grants to fund its development…blah blah blah.)
I just left off there. I’ll obviously revisit this before I send it to her. Maybe a more refined ending! 🙂
In the mean time… I welcome your thoughts.

Left Out

Since I was twenty months old I have felt left out. Everything was going along okay and then my sister was born and it really messed things up. Although I don’t remember the day, I am told that when my mom stepped out of the nursery I covered my newborn sister in talcum powder– the earliest attempt at white-out on record!

Over the course of my life I repeated that pattern. In grade school, in highschool… early college and even after I graduated- I was always drawn to friendships in threes -reliving that circumstance, creating the triad that inevitably leaves one of the three feeling not a part of things. It’s a lait motif; a constant comment for my years of therapy. I learned that I was likely recreating these scenarios to get get some resolution. In retrospect maybe it was just preparedness training.

When I got my diagnosis at 20,   that “left outtedness” was promoted  to a starring role. And while I try my best not to dwell, the reality is that there is so much that I can’t participate in. On strong days, I can say.. “but there is so much I can do”. Some days I’m not feeling so empowered. Those are the days when I can’t stop thinking about the things I’d like to do. In the summertime it feels like a regular occurrence.

The pre-baby years of my marriage were much more controlled. Avoiding heat and spending a lot of time doing what I can do wasn’t too much of an effort. (I married a man that loves the social scene of a cold dark movie theater as much as I do!) But when my daughter was born it quickly became a different ball game. Cut to today and we have a 6.9 year old pulling us outside for a wide array of activities.

My husband is happy to acquiesce to all of my daughter’s outdoor pleasures. He spends many hours playing catch, jumping rope, being tagged and “duck duck goosed”. The social ops that we are part of as parents are also new frontiers. The invitations for beach trips, the swim clubs, the Bronx Zoo excursions… the fun outdoor activities that complement every families summer calendar are ongoing. And the feeling is not only me being left out… but concern that Madeline is not getting to experience all that she should-and it takes on an energy of its own.

Yesterday we went for icecream with my husband and her friend from camp. When her friend wanted to know what flavor I’m getting, Madeline said “My mommy can’t eat ice cream because she’s trying to make her MS go away.” While I don’t expect that my new way of eating (or not eating) will make my MS go away, it was refreshing to hear the interpretation that Madeline stated so simply.

And it got me thinking more about her point of view.

Madeline doesn’t feel left out of anything. She isn’t competing for anyone’s attention nor does she seem terribly concerned when her friends are enjoying things without her. I expect when she reflects back on these summer days she will not be remembering anything but the fun she had and what we all did together.

Yet on a regular basis, I wish I could do more with her. I can’t help it. I don’t feel sorry for myself, or waste too much time thinking these thoughts… but the reality is that these feelings are here and I guess I should recognize and honor this part of my experience once and a while.

So that is what I’m doing.

Thanks for reading.


Happy Birthday (Anniversary) To Me

So here it is. Saturday, June 21st of 2008 I’m celebrating my 40th birthday and the 20th anniversary of my diagnosis. Being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis on your 20th birthday might seem like a cruel joke to some, but for me it was the beginning of my life challenge. What seemed to be an insurmountable prognosis became a series of tests that I passed with flying colors.

Don’t get me wrong… It would be an understatement to note that a lot of this ride has been very difficult. I’ve certainly spent time crying, shaking and cursing the universe that assigned me this lot in life. Wondering in fear what is next and how will it change my everyday. The what ifs” and “will I be able to handle it ” question marks clogged my already crowded neurons. That ride started out like a rollercoaster with no end in sight. The loch ness monster at bush gardens in virginia is the best parallel. I was too scared to go on it as a 10 year old but I’ve been riding it every since my 20th birthday. This time I was taller than the hand on that little animal painting and had no excuses for not joining the group of apprehensive riders.

Apparently the same universe that I cursed, thought I could handle it… even 20 years ago at this very low period in my life. Apparently it (the universe) was correct. “That which does not kill you makes you stronger” is an apt theme for what turned out to be a scary course with MS. The people I meet who have had this diagnosis for more than a couple of years mirror that posture. It’s the once unwilling boxer now shouting “Is that all you’ve got?” “Bring it on!” I’ll show you what I can handle. It may have taken me years to find this fighter in me… but its with me now. When I think I won’t be able to cope with the symptom de jour… I look back at what I rose to the challenge of, and feel emboldened. (I think I may have left out 1 metaphor…should I go on?! 🙂 )

In 1988 I was just starting out on my life, independently from my family. New to Baltimore I sought out friendships, dated and learned who I am as a filmmaker in a pre-digital, pre-internet world. I also needed to learn who I was (am, will be) as a person with Multiple Sclerosis. Yet I didn’t yet know who I was without MS. The spectrum of “what might be” seemed vast at 20 years old. I feared everything. Would I be able to complete my degree? Would I ever meet anyone who could love me with this disease? At a time when I was unsure of who I am in this world, I had to cope with unsureness of my being at the most pure level.

Discovering myself as a person with an organic disease that is completely unique is very tricky. When I reflect back on that time I wonder how I got through it. Because I was simultaneously coping with my parent’s divorce and my mom moving to Florida, I was alone in the process. But like many things in life, time is the great adjuster.

Time heals all wounds… except of course if they are scars. In retrospect the wounds of coping made me a stronger individual. I feel that who I am today has been shaped by my ability to cope with unexpected changes. As I leaf through the pages of the history that is mine with MS, I continually make that positive Hmm sound. You know the one.. with the little lift on the the last “m”. Almost questioning. As the years progress and I continued to reflect I realized that I can deal with far more than I ever imagined I could. The initial fears that came up while reading the list of possibilities in 1988 played themselves out very differently.

But the THE UNKNOWN loomed large over my college graduation. As I sit here 20 years later, a mother, a wife and a person who owns this version of MS – the next 20 years still hold a lot of question marks. But looking back and looking forward I can say that whatever is in store for me, I can handle. The list of possibilities that fuel(ed) my fears is now like a crossed off grocery list halfway through the store. I’m not sure what that will mean, and I still shudder to think of what I may or may not have to add to my column of coping. But I do know this, my power to persevere has served me well and when it comes down to it, living this life of challenges is always better than the alternative. And conveniently the world of medicine and pharmaceuticals is working hard every day on my (and my peers) behalf to make sure that the second half is easier than the first. How great is that?

Dizziness Reduction and Alternative Reporting

So here I am, a month after starting the MS Detox Diet… or my version of it. And my dizziness that began way back when in December is subsiding. It happened so gradually I practically didn’t notice it. In fact the change was so subtle at first that I couldn’t determine what felt different. Just that something good happened. And the sensation is still present when I move certain ways- reminding me not to get overly confident. I’ll turn my head as I’m walking away and everything shifts. But for the most part it’s taken a break. It’s off center stage and blending in to the scenery. No longer does the world as I perceive it change when I go from a seated position to a standing one. Such a smooth and gradual transition… that it wouldn’t be difficult to forget. But now, when people have the courage to ask me how I’m doing… I excitedly report something other than status quo. And I remind myself to not get overly confident as I tell them that is crops up periodically. Don’t get used to this … because it can change back in a second. Since my “recovery” I have reverted more than once. As Dr. Verter, who has been treating me more regularly said, “don’t expect that this will be anything but a minor setback”. And he was right. And so it is. But I will keep my fingers crossed in an “un-superstitious” way. Hoping, praying? To the higher power that exists in this universe that this will be all but a distant memory to recap in a “what was” report of my Multiple Sclerosis.

MS SoftServe, off and running!

Yippee! A triumph over the endless digital dilemmas, web master Bonita has figured it out (as always) and the video that describes the staging ground of MS SoftServe is up on the site! It’s also on youtube in an abbreviated way. I hope this video will help to explain why MS SoftServe is needed, and how we can make it a reality.

So now I switch gears to copy writer and layout artist (with the support of familial experts ) to create a brochure to spread the word about MS SoftServe to potential sponsors. Awaiting the delivery of the legal documents to register with IRS and get my 501c3 number. Then the fundraising aspects of the site will be functional.

For all of you out there who have expressed support in making this site a reality, I’m assembling a list that I will use as evidence of need when I approach sponsors. This will also serve as a mailing list for important announcements. While your writing… take an opportunity to request something that you would like to see produced on the site. The way to make the most of this site is for it to be a “For us, By us” venture. Join me in its development!

Something has changed

It is such an unusual experience having compromised sensory symptoms. The information and tools we use to interpret the world around us are generally consistent. We know when something hurts, or feels uncomfortable. We can even explain the details of pain or discomfort with metaphors and similes. My head is pounding like a jackhammer. Even the sensory changes have common comparisons. My feet have pins and needles from sitting wrong.

I can describe my dizziness with a number system, or scenarios that people can relate to. I feel like I just stopped spinning around and around in a million circles. I’ve refined and re-tuned my descriptors as I search for a way to have a handle on this ambiguous yet debilitating symptom.

Then last night something changed. In the evening after a long day at work, I started rearranging things in the kitchen. I was suddenly overcome by a surge of energy- as was immediately evident in my housekeeping. (something I usually don’t have much drive for.) I made steamed kale with shallots and tamari and some quinoa. I unloaded the dishwasher and loaded it with the sink’s contents, I washed all of the pots that had been socializing on the stove top for the past few days, I did 3 loads of laundry including the folding and putting away. I scooped the litter and swept the floor and read 3 chapters in my book. Now this may seem like a standard evening for many working parents… but for me this was a superhero moment. I hadn’t been that productive in this short evening time-slot in a long time.

What was that all about? I’ve been detoxing for 1.5 weeks and am re-cooping from the acupuncturist with visits to my chiropractor to even things out. Maybe this has something to do with it, maybe not. All I know is that although I continue to experience dizziness — something is different. Something is really good.

Coping a new

Whenever I am trying to get my head around things, I turn to the dictionary. I’m not sure what is so satisfying about that process. Maybe it’s a control thing. Don’t we all want a little more control?
So here’s what says:

1. to struggle or deal, esp. on fairly even terms or with some degree of success (usually fol. by with): I will try to cope with his rudeness.
2. to face and deal with responsibilities, problems, or difficulties, esp. successfully or in a calm or adequate manner: After his breakdown he couldn’t cope any longer.
—Synonyms 1. wrestle, strive, persevere.

I think we should add one to that to better reflect the unique brand of constant coping that those of us use to manage our constantly changing completely unpredictable disease.

How about this:

3. a successful effort to persevere in spite of the odds when managing health changes in the face of uncertainty. ie. The ability to constantly reinvent yourself.

That is a bit more empowering and optimistic in my book. A friend of mine, who is also “coping” with MS wrote this most significant passage to describe her experience. It helps me to read, and reread it as I’m carving out my path. I imagine you might find it helpful too.

How often, as a healthy person do you concentrate on the division of mind and body- of soul and physicality?

We are one with our hair and our legs and our arms and our hearts and our bladders. They just work. They do what they are supposed to do. At times they hurt, or malfunction; we use words like stomachache or headache or leg cramp. But we don’t remove the leg cramp, hold it up to a light, examine it, ridicule it, scoff at it, cry about it, agonize over it and try to discover the physical and existential implications of it. A stomachache isn’t a dusty window into our future. Our minds and our bodies pass together through life with minimal conflict.

When you are diagnosed with MS a great divide suddenly emerges. What was once a happy synchronicity between body and mind becomes at worst a war and at best a dialectic. I am well. I am sick. I am a combination. I am a healthy person that lives with a disease. I am a diseased person with moments of healthy. My arm is numb because I slept on it funny. My arm is numb because my T-cells are attacking my myelin. My arm is numb because I imagine it to be that way. Suddenly you are engaged in an unceasing dialog between mind and body.

On the best of days you can mute the conversation while you are engaged in being a student, or a professional, or a mom. But at the end of the day, when the quiet descends and the work is put away and children are asleep, the anxiety of newborn aches and pains, of sound futures uncertain tuck themselves in between your sheets and lie with you at night.

And so begins the dialogue of emotional healing. You begin the negotiation between mind and body. You build coping mechanisms and you rebuild and restructure until you are able to find a way to live at ease within your body and its numbness and its foot drops and its dizzy spells. You find the peace you need, and you get through a day, a week, a month, then suddenly there is something new. A nerve misfires or fails to connect and suddenly your body begins the conversation anew and you begin the negotiations again. This time, though, a little stronger, fortified by the fact that you made it to ‘ok’ before and can get there again. It is a challenge in a world when tomorrow always seems to be in focus while today is a blur, to stay centered on the here and now. Today I walk, I wheel, I think, I love, in the best way that I can—with the tools that I have. Tomorrow I will do it all over again.

I am so moved by this piece. I find myself reading it over and over again. We all have different experiences with this disease. We all have different mechanisms for coping with our own variation. But what we do all have in common is described exactly in these words. Thank you for letting me in to read about your experience. It means the world to me.