November 14, 1997, was the day my life changed forever. In just four words, “You have Multiple Sclerosis” my neurologist altered the course of my life.
My name is Jennifer Digmann and that dubious day came about six short months after my graduating from the University of Michigan-Flint. I had plans for a future, and those plans never included living with a chronic illness, especially not Multiple Sclerosis.
It took me several years to reconcile with the disease (at least I think I have!). And as awful and unkind as MS can be I now believe it is one of the best things to ever happen to me. Hard to believe but it has really given my life a path and meaning that I may have never found without it. Multiple Sclerosis forced me to get serious, stand up for myself, and grow up.
The disease taught me how to become my own best advocate. If I want or need something, I have to take the responsibility to make it happen. For example, I have learned that if I am educated about new treatments or medications, I can ask my doctors the right questions.
Since my diagnosis I’ve used Avonex, Betaseron, and have had the best results with Copaxone. However, subtle worsening required my finding a new more aggressive neurologist who eventually prescribed Novantrone, which stabilized my secondary-progressive MS.
Having these treatments and finding my new neurologist reinforced my belief that I can’t sit by and let MS walk over me. Hey, I may no longer walk, but that doesn’t mean my disease should be able to either. I’m fighting this disease the best I can, and being actively involved in increasing MS awareness and advocating for those of us in the MS community are two ways I fight MS.
As part of growing up, I realize now the importance of family and friends. I understand how meaningful these lasting relationships are and how much joy they add to my life. In addition, I’m always trying to be a better daughter, sister and friend.
And since my diagnosis, I’ve learned how to be a wife, and I hope I’m a good one at that. The disease led me to meeting my husband, Dan, who also has MS. We met at a National MS Society event called “Finding your Buried Treasure” back in 2002. We dated, fell in love and were married in 2005.
Yes, it sounds easy and honestly it was. Forgive my schmaltziness but we were meant to be together. He and I had to endure MS to find each other.
One more thing, MS taught me to stop sweating the small stuff and to find joy in the simple, little things. Like when Dan helps me get out of my chair so I can sit on the couch next to him. I value this quality time and recognize it as an accomplishment. And I am proud of small milestones, such as having a successful physical therapy visit, being able to fold large bath towels, or riding my arm bike for 11 minutes because really these accomplishments are not small. They are a big deal and success for me. One of my main goals is to try to live as great and joyous life as possible, even after a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.