When I was diagnosed with MS in ‘95, I promptly joined a gym and chose to ignore the disease I’d strangely acquired. I mistakenly rejected a preventive drug therapy and instead planned to eliminate my MS with exercise. I lived in denial and hid my disease from others. I was afraid of being labeled by a diagnosis. Thanks to wisdom and disease progression, I’ve thankfully come out of the MS closet!
As an MS advocate, my mission is to share my story while inspiring and educating others about this greatly misunderstood condition. The random location of each individual’s lesions could be scattered anywhere in the brain and/or spinal cord. Therefore, the disease presents itself differently for all of us MSers.
It all started with some numbness in my hand and arm 23 years ago and when it subsided I was back to my normal active self for 10 years. New lesions eventually appeared and affected my legs, balance and bladder.
Maybe you have an aunt who can barely function because of her MS. Perhaps your sister’s friend was diagnosed with MS 20 years ago and has never had a problem. Yep — that sounds like the wonkiness of this confounding disease. No wonder it’s difficult to understand.
Every day with my MS is a logistical challenge. How will I conserve my energy to accomplish what needs to happen? What devices will I use to make it easier? Is my travel walker in the car? Is my scooter fully charged? If I work out in the morning will I have enough energy left for my afternoon activity? Planning is a necessity!
As I explain in Stumble to Rise, in spite of well-laid plans, things go wrong…
”Who would think that washing my hair could be a hazardous situation? I’m forced to close my eyes as the water rushes over my head. If I’m not hanging on tightly to the grab bar in the shower at that point, there will be trouble.
Thank goodness for a recent glamorous and functional master bathroom remodel in our new home that includes grab bars, a zero entry shower with built-in seat, and safety measures everywhere. It rivals the many swank bathrooms at five star hotels I’ve visited over the years on those free tropical vacations with my company.”
In spite of the best possible safety precautions, the aforementioned STUMBLE happened Thursday night in the shower. As I rinsed my hair, my hand slipped from the grab bar and boom–as I fell, my eye banged into the sharp corner of the tile seat. My husband, Scott, freaked out and rushed in to rescue me like he does regularly. He heard a loud crash followed by my pitiful shriek. He found me crumpled on the shower floor with my face covered in blood. As is typical of MS, it wasn’t a pretty sight.
By the next day, I was truly thankful that my injuries hadn’t been worse. Scott wondered how I could see the positive side of this unfortunate disaster. My answer? “I’m so grateful. This could have been much worse! What if I’d split open my nose, punctured my eye socket, broken a limb or any number of other possibilities. I can deal with this.” I just kept going.
I waited too long for stitches so it’s possible that my modeling contract will now be voided. But, seriously, the next day urgent care and steri-strips were both just what I needed. After 24 hours, my left eye resembled a boxer following a losing match. I hid behind a hat and sunglasses for several days on a family vacation, but now I’m “coming out of hiding” here with you. Why should I be ashamed? My face is that of a proud MS Warrior who is stumbling and ultimately rising above my disease!
I’ve learned valuable lessons by navigating my MS, watching my parents who were a daily personification of the Stumble to Rise philosophy and through the perseverance required to build my leadership development business and now to write a book. Your happiness and success is not based on perfect conditions. Instead it’s about your ability to roll with the punches. Shit happens for every single one of us but it’s how we deal with it that determines our futures. (Excuse the French but nothing else would do.)
Whatever you’re struggling with, it’s imperative to have an escape! Maybe it’s something you used to enjoy but haven’t done in years. For me, hanging with the people I love, exercise, writing, meditation and sometimes watching a silly movie all feed my soul. And of course, when everything else seems a little crazy, I get a salon blowout. Good hair days definitely bring me joy. Here’s a pic of my salon time Thursday after one week of healing and a little make up. Life and definitely MS get ugly so we have to take control where we can.
Rising above your challenges doesn’t happen without some joy thrown into the mix. I challenge you to be grateful and find the joy that the universe is waiting to deliver! As I prove daily, you can and will RISE above your Stumbles!