The Role of Love When Living with Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis By Katy, Wife, Writer, and Yoga Instructor • September 1, 2017
My husband, Joey, knew I had relapsing multiple sclerosis long before we started dating.
We had been friends for almost a year before our relationship took a romantic turn, and I told him about my own diagnosis of relapsing MS, as well as my mother’s challenge living with her own case of the disease for decades.
How We Met…Eventually
Joey and my sister, Alexia, were friends first, working together at a barbecue restaurant while I was living abroad in Florence, Italy. During that time, my mom, Vicky, had been in a car accident, and the impact of the crash had broken her back.
Alexia took a few months off from college to help the family while Mom recovered. And Mom’s healing process unfolded slowly. She was already moving a little slow because of the illness. But Mom was a true warrior when faced with the challenges and never gave up on living her life.
She and my dad, Michael, would still attend parties, go to church, and enjoy meals at the restaurant where my sister worked while she was at home and where I became a hostess upon my return home.
That is where Joey and I met.
My parents would swing by every now and then for a meal. And seeing them together was always so romantic. They worked as a team in every situation, with dad helping mom climb out of the car and navigate stairs as she graced him with her radiant smile and sparkling laughter.
Joey saw what relapsing MS could do to someone if given enough time to progress like it did in my mother. There weren’t any treatment options until the final years of her life. And by then, the disease had already done irreversible damage to her central nervous system.
But my husband did not run away when faced with the unknown. We fell in love despite the potential that my relapsing MS may make our lives more complicated someday.
Embracing Life Together
A few months into our relationship, Joey and I were walking in Chattanooga, making our way to a summer music festival on a balmy evening. My relapsing MS had been relatively quiet during those first days of dating. But that night, 10 minutes into our walk, my left foot began to drop.
All I could focus on was the task of lifting my left toes off of the ground, and I was sure that Joey could hear my left foot as it slapped against the pavement of the street. I immediately became self-conscious and a little defensive, feeling that arguing would be easier than admitting to either of us that I needed some help every now and then.
I told Joey that I would understand if he wasn’t up for the challenge, or wasn’t crazy about living his life with a disease like relapsing MS lurking in the background. But I was the one who was really afraid, clinging to an unrealistic concept of perfection.
“Katy, don’t you know that I would carry you across that bridge if you needed me to?” he said. “Life can sometimes be tough for everyone, but we can manage this together.”
Joey is a great Care Partner to me. More than 11 years later, he continues to be true to those words, supporting me through everything from temporary bouts of blindness to occasional limping on one leg. He helps me remember to pace myself on afternoons when I want to hike in the hot summer sun and holds my hand when I’ve pushed myself a little too hard.
We are true partners in our marriage, and that’s what makes it all work. Plus, he likes to do the cooking at the end of the day. And he knows that he can count on me to clean the kitchen.
My relapsing MS is not always the ideal third party to accompany us, but it is an ever-present reminder that at the heart of marriage is a willingness to trust, to love, and to help one another.
Like my precious parents, Joey and I are committed to each other and to living joyfully at every turn, which can sometimes be easier said than done. But facing the challenges together is always worth it.
You can also hear from other people living with relapsing MS and their Care Partners here.
- CARE PARTNER
- LIVING WITH RELAPSING MS
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