There are so many things that one can dislike about MS. Having a lack of energy, constant feeling of being tired, inability to control one's body, and the other multitude of symptoms that can affect us on a daily basis. The one that is really bothering me the most lately is the one that affects you, my readers, more than anything, and that is my laziness when it comes to actually sitting down and writing my next blog entry. It has been close to 3 months since I wrote my last post, yet there have been more than a dozen times where I have had ideas of what to write and failed to motivate myself to sit down and type what was on my mind. However, like every year this is the month of giving thanks for what we have, and as I always do I will write down a few of the things that I am thankful for.
First and foremost I am thankful for my wife and children. It doesn't matter who you are or what is going on with your life, your family is always going to be the most important resource you have in your life. I know, there are certain exceptions in people's lives, but let's just make this concept a blanket appreciation and like we do when the holidays (or traumatic times) occur, let's only focus on the good. When I was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, the very first person I discussed it with was my wife. Granted, I had to discuss it with her since she was the reason I sought out a doctor's diagnosis and finally admitted that "something" was not right with my body. She was the one who supported me as we went through the HMO game of "pin the tail on the doctor" that one goes through when they have to find a primary doctor, then a specialist, and then repeated testing. Always good for a few laughs if you are a oddball like me and have a warped sense of humor. The best part about going through all the hoops when we were seeking a diagnosis was that I worked as a professional paramedic at the time and as such only worked 8-15 days a month so I had plenty of time to visit different doctors and specialist and couldn't say I didn't have time for tests, when I tried both my doctor and wife would call me on it and then I had no other choice but to submit.
Secondly, I would have to be thankful for the true friends. I say true friends and anyone with MS will know EXACTLY what I am talking about. When you are healthy, and not a sociopath like me, you have as many friends as you care to make. They are there for you whenever you need and you tend to do likewise. You will generally make as much time as you can to hang out and spend time together doing anything you can. Sometimes those friends will even allow your significant other to join in the shenanigans. However, when you are diagnosed with any type of chronic illness that is not very well understood by the medical community let alone your extremely non-medical friends, you can pretty much watch many of those friends simply vanish before your eyes. Not only do they not really understand what is going on with you and the "disease," but they are not willing or understanding enough to ask you to specifically explain it to them. This results in fear and confusion on their part as well as yours. Even though I was a part of the largest brotherhood in the world, many of my closest friends in the fire service didn't understand what my diagnosis meant and once I was forced to reveal my illness and retire, many of them seemed to disappear as well. I somewhat understand since in the fire service when someone is diagnosed with a terminal/chronic illness it is usually not too long afterwards that they are planning a funeral service for that person and thus cutting that person out of your life is believed to be saving them from having do deal with your loss. Unfortunately with MS, this disease can keep you alive and going for many many years after initial diagnosis. Now though, you get to go through it with what would most likely be less than half of your initial support group. So, again, I am extremely thankful for my friends that I have currently and you would be as well.
Thirdly, I am thankful for my health. I will give you a second to gather your composure from the laughing fit that you most likely just entered when you read that. And yes, you read that correctly, I said that I was thankful for my health. Here is why...Besides all the symptoms that I am currently living with, I am still alive and able to type this for you to read. As a matter of fact, you should be thankful as well since you are alive and able to read this which is a big deal when you really think about it. Although every day takes a certain amount of energy to get through and you may not have enough energy to get all your daily goals completed, you are using what you have to live. There are many of us who have given up when given this diagnosis. We are the strong ones who put up with this disease daily and continue to fight and refuse to allow it to dictate how our lives are lived. I will admit that when I was first diagnosed I was ready to completely give into the disease and just give up. As a matter of fact, if you have been reading my blog for while and remember one of the first posts, you will remember when I discussed giving up on life and the different ways in which I had thought to disengage my life from this world. If not, please go back and read it, I promise you it is not depressing and will make you possibly urinate yourself a little which should at least provide a little humor to your day if you haven't had any yet.
Fourthly, if you are lucky enough to have health insurance (unlike me currently), be thankful for pharmacology. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and many of us will be spending time with our extended family. As much as you may love your family, we all know how hard it can be to deal with them when you are in perfect health. Unfortunately, with MS most of us tend to move slower and may even require assistance getting into our families house, so we may be stuck dealing with them when we really just want to escape. This is where your thanks for pharmacology comes into play. You have access and most likely have prescriptions to strong medications that could make your experience dealing with your family so much easier to live through. You may even have access to certain prescription medications that could make your body remain there dealing with them but much like the movie Click, your brain is on autopilot. I know, I know, this is not a nice topic to discuss. However, just think about all of those family members of yours who seem to drink A LOT when they are together for the holidays. You know you have at least one! They are engaging in dangerous behavior with a legal drug that has been known to be abused by a large number of the population and your other family members always seem to talk shit about those family members who drink too much. Now, your medications that usually can make alcohol appear as strong as a Tylenol pill are given to you by your doctor to allow you to survive your "perceived deadly disease" and thus you are not taking them to be abusive of drugs, but rather to be able to attend the family event without your disease being in the forefront and who can really blame you for taking them. See, your disease and doctors have given you a reason to be FUBAR at this family event and thus you can't be blamed by your other family members. However, generally if you are taking some really strong medications, it might be a good idea to keep a close eye on those drunk family members because you will probably find them to be so much funnier than anyone else in the house will. This brings me to my last thing to be thankful for...
Be thankful for anything that can be perceived as being funny! It doesn't matter if society thinks that something is funny or not, because you are the one who needs the laughs, not them. You have to be able to keep your mind from dwelling on this disease. So many of us focus on what we can or can't do, what we used to be able to do, how much longer we will be able to do something, or how many thinks have changed for us since our diagnosis. One must be able to have a distraction, and honestly, humor is probably the greatest distraction because it not only takes your mind off of what is going on with your life, but it is healthy for you to laugh. Laughter is truly the best medicine and I have been using it through my life and career long before I ever found out I was sick. Live, laugh, love. This message seems to be everywhere lately. But, it is so true! If you don't live, laugh, and love, you will be miserable and this disease survives on misery and will completely be able to take over your body if you are not happy. So, live, laugh, and love this Thanksgiving and remember what you should be truly thankful for. After all, those around you may not completely understand what you are going through, and God knows that you don't have the energy to explain it to all of them over and over again. But, remember, it is your life, or at least something like it.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!