The Physical Changes of Relapsing MS By Donnie, Father, Husband, Project Leader, Former Athlete • May 31, 2018
When I was diagnosed with relapsing MS in 2000, I only knew one other person who had RMS. Since then I have had the privilege of meeting hundreds of people with the disease. With relapsing MS, your age, gender, ethnicity, or where you live don’t matter. Multiple Sclerosis can affect anyone.
Being diagnosed has changed a lot of things in my life, which, I am sure, is the case with most people who have relapsing MS. The physical changes are pretty apparent when you see me coming. Several years after my diagnosis I had to start using a cane to help with balance issues. A cane is not something you typically see a healthy looking 40-year-old man using. At first I was very self-conscious about needing a cane. To me, it was a sign of weakness.
I live in a small, rural community where I run into people that I know on a regular basis. One day in particular stands out in my mind. I was getting out of my car at the local hardware store. I had parked in a handicap spot and just exited my car. I grabbed my cane and headed towards the entrance. Just about that time I ran into an old friend that I hadn’t seen in several years. He looked at me like I had two heads! First words out of his mouth were not “How are you doing?” but “What are you doing parking in a handicap spot?” That was quickly followed by “What are you doing using a cane?” My mood switched when I realized he was asking with some sarcasm in his voice. Then I felt angry. Did he think I was using a cane as a fashion accessory? I explained to him that I had relapsing MS and that I needed the cane to help me walk. After that we exchanged a few uncomfortable pleasantries and he went on his way.
I had known this guy for years. We grew up together. Played football together in high school. If he reacted this way, what would other people do? Why is this healthy-looking guy using a cane? The reaction I get most often is people asking if I hurt my knee. Then I have to awkwardly explain to them that I have relapsing MS. Their response is usually as awkward as my explanation. To say I was self-conscious about my mobility issues is an understatement. I knew at that point that I had to change my attitude about the cane. More importantly, I had to change my attitude about my situation.
My mobility has continued to be an issue that I deal with every day. There are days that I don’t need it, but more often than not, I use the cane. The word itself, “cane” is still hard for me to say. So instead, I refer to my help as “my stick.” When I get ready to leave the house, I will ask Melissa to get my stick. Stick just sounds more manly to me.
Relapsing MS has affected my physical abilities, but it’s not all bad. It has also changed me in a positive way. Relapsing MS has unlocked an inner strength that I didn’t know existed. It has empowered me to live my life with determination. I can’t control what happened yesterday or last week. The only thing that I can control is today. So I will get up at 6:00 AM, just like I do every day, and head to work with my stick. I will smile and greet every person with a “hello” and a “how are you doing?” If they ask about the stick I will explain to them that I have relapsing MS. I will not be embarrassed. I will take the opportunity to share my story. Who knows? Maybe my positive attitude will add a spark to their day.
- disability progression
- LIVING WITH RELAPSING MS
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