MS: The certainty of uncertainty…

As a twenty-year veteran MSer, sometimes I am asked to advise the newly diagnosed.  Occasionally, I get to welcome the newly medically afflicted into the MS club. This fraternity is where the members are completely courageous, and the condition is continually confusing.  Questions get posed to me all the time, typically asking the same queries in different forms.  Is MS a death sentence?  No. You have MS, so how do you look so good? Oil of Olay.  What now?  Live your life to the fullest, finding ways around obstacles appearing in your path no matter what they may be. 

Then one gentleman’s query put me in a quandary when he asked me what he should expect from an MS life?  I thought for a moment and came up with this simple answer, keeping in mind this is my way of looking at it.  My explanation had cleared up our strange medical condition in this simple sentence.  With Multiple Sclerosis, you must expect anything and be ready for everything. 

However, there are a plethora of variables that make planning for MS an unyielding undertaking.  To give you an idea of some of these differences: age, how healthy you are, and your geographic location, to name a few.  Multiple Sclerosis neophytes need to know there are many similarities yet even more differences between symptoms and MSers.  If you ask any ten people with MS, you will see some commonalities and even dissimilarities in the symptoms.  However, the impact of these symptoms on their lives can vary drastically. 

People will usually share their stories about how they dealt with MS adversities they faced.  The problem is you will not understand until you experience those challenges yourself.  Although the same symptoms in different bodies cause various issues, no two MSers experience the same.  Keep your bodies moving by moving anything you can as much as you can for as long as you can and never give up.  No matter if it is running, walking, swimming, or something in between, stay in motion. I always say if you sit still for too long, your body will rust, and a rusty pair of scissors does not work correctly, and neither will you.  I went for nearly ten years without moving, and I deteriorated so much I am currently in a wheelchair. So learn from the mistakes of others.

Food is life, but the wrong food can be your downfall.  There are plenty of MS-focused diets from which to choose, and they all generally tell you to eat reasonably and smartly.  It is more important to pay attention to the similarities between these eating lifestyles and not the differences.  Portion control is imperative, just like not overdoing unhealthy food, do not overeat, or speed eat.  Although many argue what they look like, health and wellness are both critical.

When something unexpected happens, do not panic!   Someone has gone through it before you, and others will deal with it after you as well.  Remember, life with Multiple Sclerosis is your new routine, so adapt and overcome and never give up doing things.  It is essential to find a workaround that helps you do something you love or other tasks you want to accomplish.  When needed, wear a cooling vest or carry a notepad for reminders but do not deprive you of life.  It is important to take it one day at a time and be patient because MS surprises can happen at any moment. 

No matter what happens, keep a positive attitude, and always wear a smile.  When you require help, people will be willing to assist you if you are wearing a smile.  Grumpy Gus’s get a bitter rejection when assistance is needed most.  Learn your limitations but never give up and live your life to the fullest, using any adaptations required.  Be willing to laugh at yourself as it will make the difficult times easier to handle.  They say, if you are not laughing, you are crying, and who wants to cry?  Most significantly: do not ruin a good day today thinking about a bad day yesterday so let it go.

Build a stable support system filled with family and friends who are supportive, not pejorative.  Find a Multiple Sclerosis support group, whether local or online and find an MS buddy in that group.  Stress and MS are mortal enemies, so do not let them use your body as a battlefield because that war will not go well for you.  Avoid stress but if you cannot avoid it, find ways to manage your stress with meditation, music, or maybe religion.

I feel these are essential bits of knowledge for those who are new to MS.  Experience removes fear and builds your MS confidence.  So remember today you are better than yesterday but not as good as you will be tomorrow.

To thrive in this MS life, you need three bones: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.

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