There’s a saying in the Multiple Sclerosis world that, on the surface, is quite empowering: “I have MS. MS does NOT have me!”
I don’t have the facts to cite the source of who can claim coining such a magnificent mantra, but I’ve always credited it to Montel Williams. He is a celebrity who truly is living with this chronic disease of the central nervous system and is serving as an inspiration for me and the more than 2.5 million people worldwide who have MS.
But please permit me to respectfully disagree with Montel and follow up by spinning the spirit of this rally cry.
For nearly 15 years I’ve lived with this disease, and as much as I’ve tried to embrace the thought that “I have MS. MS does NOT have me!”, it just never felt right. I realize that at the core of this message is the sense of not submitting to MS and not allowing it to have control over my life. I get that.
But I never could shake the sense that if I continue bringing it up, am I not continuing to give MS power and agency? If MS doesn’t have me, then why am I the one who keeps saying this phrase out loud to remind the rest of the world and myself?
The reality is yes, I have MS. And yes, MS has me.
There, I said it. Admitted it. Confessed it: I have MS and MS has me … crying out of frustration for the things I no longer can do … missing social activities because I’m too tired to go out late … worrying about an uncertain future …
I understand how a person could argue that this is a defeated way to look at my life with MS. But wait! There’s more!
Rather than denying the reality and impact that MS is having on my life and me, why not embrace it and then celebrate everything I accomplish in spite of it? Consider these examples:
• I have MS, and MS has me … meeting and falling in love with the woman of my dreams.
• I have MS, and MS has me … making trips to the state capitol to advocate for healthcare legislation.
• I have MS, and MS has me … taking the time to appreciate each good day a little more.
• I have MS, and MS has me … finding the emotional strength I never thought I had.
See what I mean?
Since my diagnosis with relapsing-remitting MS and my marriage to Jennifer, my wife who has secondary-progressive MS, there truly is no denying that I have MS and or that its presence plays a role in nearly every minute of every day.
Yet I am empowered when I acknowledge this reality and then conclude with the control that I have in how to positively respond. So, how about you? How do positively respond in spite of having MS?