The Power of Positivity: Living with Relapsing MS By Katy, Wife, Writer, and Yoga Instructor • December 12, 2016
When I was diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis in 2001, my first instinct was to panic. My mom, Vicky, had lived with MS for more than 20 years at that point. And while she did not show any signs of physical disability until the year or 2 prior to my own diagnosis, I had visual evidence of the consequences of living with the disease.
But Mom was never the type to feel sorry for herself or make excuses about why she couldn’t do something. Quite the opposite. Instead, she spent her time finding ways to keep her life in motion, working with various volunteer organizations, attending church religiously, playing bridge with her friends faithfully, and attending more events than anyone I know. A concert at our local university, the local symphony performing on the shores of the Tennessee River in sweltering 4th of July heat, movie premieres—my mama was always in hot pursuit of fun and joy. And every one of us has that choice.
You see, when I was diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis, I felt like my world was caving in on me. I was scared. I was confused. I wrestled with visions of not being able to walk without assistance, if at all. Following my diagnosis, I spent a couple of weeks at home figuring out how to inject myself with medication and finding a pair of glasses to improve the sixth nerve palsy that was causing my double vision, my disease’s debut symptom.
Mom was my constant cheerleader as I worked up my confidence to go back to school at the University of Georgia. She set up lunch with a friend of a friend, a young woman in her 20s who had recently gotten married, was working full-time, and had also been diagnosed with MS.
Her name was Megan, and she experienced double vision as a result of her disease. Over iced tea and quiche, she told me how beautiful her honeymoon in the Caribbean had been, even though she was managing her MS at the same time.
I remember thinking to myself, “How can you enjoy anything when you’re seeing two of everything?”
I was still consumed with an attachment to the way things should be. I had not yet recognized my opportunity to embrace challenges for what they are, and utilize them as tools to make the experience of life more rich, more important, and filled with more empathy and appreciation for every person and situation that I encounter.
I needed a few extra days to feel ready, but I finally packed up my car, put on my prism glasses, and prepared to head back to Athens.
Mom and I were standing in the breezeway at my family’s house saying our goodbyes and hugging, with her coaching and cheering me along. I remember she was wearing this pretty light pink tank top, perfectly coordinated with the light pink brick of the house.
She leaned on the door to the garage, counting on it to help her keep her balance. She was having a little trouble walking at the time, but she could do it at a steady pace with awareness.
“Doesn’t the breeze feel wonderful,” Mom said with that radiant smile of hers. “Drive safely, baby doll!”
She armed me with her courage and her optimism that we could still live life in spite of our disease. And she built an unshakable foundation for the life I have lived since my diagnosis 15 years ago. She encouraged me to practice yoga, inspired me to write, and urged me to travel the world at every opportunity.
“Live your life,” Mom always told me. So that’s what I do. To honor my sweet mother, who passed away from MS-related complications in 2014, I endeavor to live my life in spite of challenges and to do it all with a radiant smile. Looks a lot better than a frown.
- LIVING WITH RELAPSING MS
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