When I look back, life felt normal. I did the typical mom things. I ran kids to sports. I worked at the school. In my spare time, I wrote novels. When my feet started to tingle, I told myself it must be a pinched nerve. But, the tingling turned into numbness that spread up my legs, into my hands, and then to my face. I told myself to remain calm. But when I could no longer swallow without choking, my calm turned to panic. I walked into the ER that night, and a few hours later, I could no longer walk.
Emotionally, I went into survivor mode. I didn’t feel anything but the need for answers. The doctor told me my brain was full of active lesions, and then the words “Aggressive Onset Multiple Sclerosis,” echoed through the room. My body was attacking its own nervous system. The doc told me I might gain feeling back, but I might not. It all depended on the nerves that were affected. And though there were meds to manage MS, there was no cure. That’s when I felt the massiveness of my diagnosis. I spent the entire night crying wondering how I could raise my kids and live with such an awful disease.
The whole next year I lived in survivor mode. Relearning how to walk, trying different medications, and struggling through their side effects. When people asked me how I was, I’d smile and say I was improving, but the fact was, I felt awful. I still felt numb most of the time. When I could feel, clenching spasms in my legs drained me of energy, and the meds to relieve the spasms, left me feeling half alive. My brain always felt foggy and the fatigue controlled my life.
One day I was soaking my muscles in a lukewarm bath, wishing a hot tub wouldn’t make things worse when I started sobbing. I hated that I couldn’t control my spasms and that my life wasn’t what I had imagined. The tears rolled as fast as the depressing thoughts bombarding me and I searched for something to make my life matter. Suddenly the thought came, “MS is a gift, to help you become who you are meant to be.” As soon as I thought it, peace filled my whole body and the stabbing thoughts plaguing my mind, vanished.
That moment shifted everything for me. MS wasn’t a curse but a gift. That is when I started looking at the ways MS changed me for the better. My marriage felt stronger, my kids acted more compassionate, and I could feel the strength of so many who walked alongside me.
The thought that MS is a gift is what spurred MS blessed into action. I wanted to give place to the challenges MS brings, but equally important and less talked about, the blessings given in return. Not just in my own life, but in the life of other MS warriors and the people who support us.
Blessings are just as diverse to individuals as MS is. But no matter the way they are given. We are all MS blessed.