My confession: MS has me …

Dan Diggman and Jennifer 1By Dan Digmann

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.

Dan and Jennifer Blasphemy, I know. And, “Oh my God, shame on me because us MSers (if we indeed can collectively call ourselves MSers) need to form a united front to fight our shared disease.”

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.

Dan and Jennifer graduationThere, 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?


  1. Great post! I am familiar with that phrase of course, but had never thought of it quite this way. I like it. I have tried to find the gifts that come in spite of and sometimes because of MS. Maybe that’s the ‘MS has me’ part. Overall it has pushed me into much more conscious living. I try to be pretty open about my MS and I think when I try to ‘pretend’ I don’t have it, life becomes uncomfortable quickly.

  2. Dan~
    I appreciate this post so much! I agree that our united front really does bring me comfort, yet you are right, at this time, MS really does have me too! I can sincerely say that I have learned more than I could ever have learned without this MS experience and I have become a better person because of it.

  3. Thank you for this post. So true. My progression is accelerating and denying this truth doesn’t make it get better or go away. I have to acknowledge it and press on with pride and conviction. The fact is, we are stronger than all the people around us. 52 diag. Prog. MS 8/2011.

  4. Great article and words perfectly timed for me to hear. Sometimes it creates a burden of it’s own trying to deny what it often actually true. I just had one of those emotional breakdowns last night after being my usual stoic strong self for a long time. I just had to cry and admit this disease does have me and I have been really really frustrated, worried and sad about it! Just allowing myself to do that released a lot of pent up stress, by allowing myself to admit I do feel weak I ended up feeling much stronger emotionally again!

    • Noelle~
      I know Dan is going to want to reply, I just need to sneak my thoughts in… My heart goes out to you, just as it does to all those in emotional pain! Over the years I have struggled with accepting, but not expecting the disease to continue. Yes, we do feel much stronger when we accept our feelings of weakness.
      Keep being strong,

    • Noelle- I can relate to your comment. Trevis Gleason posted on his blog about how there are certain times that remind us of what we used to be able to do. Change can happen slowly, we develop our new norms and then Bam! someone wants you to go to a concert, a late evening event, or a long outing without bathroom facilities, or a school reunion (yikes) and it hits especially hard that MS has taken some things away. It’s okay to let out the sadness and frustration. Like you, once I get it out, usually just an evening, I am able to see what MS has brought me in the way of gifts. A good cry makes my vision more clear.

  5. LOVE your perspective Dan! I personally choose to “honour and accommodate” the MS, making it part of my life, even happily co-exist with it. When I was spending every ounce of energy trying to “fight it”, I had nothing left for anything else in my life. Now that I “make room for it”, it seldom takes me down for any length of time.

    I may be a woman with a disability but I am NOT disabled. 🙂


    • That’s a great perspective Trish, I love the idea of “making room for it”. My MS walk team slogan the first 5 years was “Fight back against MS” now we have “Believe- Together we can make a Difference”.

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