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My Multiple Sclerosis won’t own me

My Multiple Sclerosis won’t own me

Eight years ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This disease causes an abnormal response in the body’s immune system and is directed against the central nervous system according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. There is no known cause of the illness and no cure.

I took this diagnosis and owned it.

Knowing that MS could lead to an inability to walk, I found myself saying that I needed to use it or lose it. This began my journey into living a healthy lifestyle that included daily exercise and diet.  I took up running and kick-boxing which I like to call my physical and mental therapy. I started to pay more attention to what I was eating or more to what I wasn’t eating.

I openly talked about my diagnosis with family and friends. I also weeded out those friends that I learned were not really my friends. I surrounded myself with positive people who I knew truly cared about me and I returned those same feelings. I even got a dog who I knew would always give me unconditional love.

The people in my life were telling me that I was handling this all so well. They loved my positive outlook. This was so encouraging to me. I was not going to let MS beat me. Instead, I was going to beat MS. This was my headstrong attitude that I’ve always had even before MS. According to Webster’s, the definition of headstrong includes words like stubborn and obstinate which should of had my picture right next to the definition. This headstrong attitude was going to get me through. Wrong!

This headstrong attitude can also be my worst enemy. I don’t like to ask for help. I’ve always felt that asking for help means that you then owe that someone in return and who wants that hanging over their head? People don’t really want to help, it’s a burden. Isn’t it?

I was too headstrong to ask for help because that would mean that I wasn’t handling my illness well. I wanted to keep up this façade that I was doing great even when the illness was changing things. I found myself tired, in pain, and sometimes just wanting to be by myself. However, all these things were easy to hide from the people in my life, so they assumed I was great!

Eventually I had to learn to communicate. Telling people you are not feeling well or too tired to do something is not a sign of weakness. Heck, even completely healthy people feel this way on occasion. It comes down to being able to say no.

In the past, instead of telling people no, I was making up excuses to cover the fact that I was sick or forcing myself to just do it. After all, the “just do it” slogan worked for Nike so why wouldn’t it work for me?

Now I find myself saying “do what you can and take pride in the things you can do” instead of dwelling on the things you can’t do. Most of all, I needed to realize the people in my life truly care for me. It bothers them more to see me struggle than it does for them to take time to help me. My relationships have been even gone stronger since I’ve learned to ask for help.

I have also learned to plan and prioritize, since I can’t do it all. I also communicate with my family and friends about how I’m prioritizing. This way they understand why I’m saying no to them. My friends now understand when I tell them that I can’t make it out on Friday night because it was hard enough for me to make it through the work day. My family understands that the holidays might get a little hard for me if I’m expected to be in more than one place for the day. It’s all about communication and being honest.

I will never leave my headstrong mentality at home, but I have learned to sometimes check it at the door. I am stubborn and obstinate but now I know there is a time and place.

 

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Comments

21 Comments

  1. Shannon, thanks for the honest and inspiring take on handling a chronic illness like MS. Your words will inspire others facing health challenges to recognize that family and friends are grateful to help and support on good and lousy days!

  2. Julie Nakis

    Thanks for sharing your journey, Shannon. I’m sure your friends and family appreciate your openness and willingness to accept help.

  3. Shannon, thank you for sharing your story. People DO want to help.

  4. Love your “can do” attitude!

  5. What a heartfelt and honest story, Shannon. I admire your strong attitude and positive spirit! You are an inspiration!

  6. Love your headstrong attitude, Shannon! Thank you for sharing your story and inspiring others to overcome.

  7. Love your honesty and strength. You have learned so much about yourself and others on this journey. A great example to everyone, no matter what we struggle with we do need help at times and need to recognize that others do also, even when they seem fine. Prayers for your continued strength as you live with this disease!

  8. Thank you all for your kind words. It makes me very happy that I shared my story.

  9. Thanks for sharing, Shannon! Inspiring story!

  10. Lynn Hutley

    Great story, Shannon! Disease can make those who love you feel powerless so asking for their help can be healing to them.

  11. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story! Keep being headstrong-it has worked so well for you. Prayers for continued health…

  12. I must say I’ve learned a lot from your journey. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Newly diagnosed. Struggling. Thanks for making me cry & smile and for being another lesson on this new journey. Best of luck to u.

  14. Your story was moving and very inspirational. I have a family member with MS and this has helped me to better understand his challenges. Thank you so much for your courage and sharing with such heartfelt and meaningful honesty.

  15. Thanks Shannon for sharing your inspiring story! I know you for last some years but didn’t know about it. You are really a strong person.

  16. Great story Shannon! Very inspiring! It is always liberating to share your “testimony”, for both others as well as yourself! Thank you for sharing…

  17. You’re an inspiration, Shannon! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Pretty much you are a rock star! So appreciate you sharing your story, Shannon!

  19. Thanks for posting, Shannon. I recently go through cancer treatment. I learned a lot from your story. Thanks again.

  20. Thank you for sharing, Shannon! Your story is truly an inspiration to others facing any kind of challenge!

  21. Thank you so much for sharing Shannon.
    It is such an inspirational story!
    I love reading your articles.. keep up the good work.

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.