Kim from I Tripped Over A Stone is keeping me busy, bestowing me the honor of the Disability Award. They say that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery, so I will mimic what Kim mentioned in her piece, and refer to this as the disAbility Award. I’d much rather focus on the positive than the negative, and view being saddled with Multiple Sclerosis as a bump in the road instead of letting it define me.
Part of the deal is to respond to ten questions Kim asked, and pass the gauntlet to other bloggers who live with disabilities. Many of the bloggers I know who fit that description have already been nominated, so I will pass on that one. Onto the questions:
What were the first symptoms you experienced? I was on my treadmill and my leg literally stopped working. I couldn’t bend my knee, lift it, or control it whatsoever. It dangled like an overcooked strand of spaghetti, and I practically had to fall off the treadmill onto a nearby couch before I really injured myself. It was a surreal experience and freaky as hell. The symptoms disappeared completely shortly thereafter, and my mind was racing. I knew something very wrong had occurred, but could not fathom what it was. After the symptoms vanished, I didn’t tell a soul. After all, how could I possibly explain what just transpired? No physician could assess it without actually seeing it in action, so I decided to bury the incident. I ignored it, hoping and half-believing that it would never happen again. We know how that turned out.
Name one good thing that has come from of your chronic illness. Perspective. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, and have a greater appreciation for everything that is good in my life.
What is the one thing that is believed to be accurate about your condition that isn’t? That is s tough one. MS is known as the snowflake disease because it affects everyone who suffers from it differently. Our combination of symptoms is as unique as our fingerprints, so I honestly can’t think of anything. If anyone who reads this can come up with something, please feel free to chime in.
What is the worse symptom you have to deal with? There are a number of them, but the worst has to be balance, or lack of it. I use a cane all the time, more for balance than anything else, although walking is not easy. But my balance is so bad that I can turn an ankle or fall down by just leaning in the wrong direction. I’m toast if I lose my center of gravity. Most folks would assume chronic pain would be number one on this list, but I fortunately have avoided that bugger for now. Hopefully it stays that way.
What advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed? Get a good neurologist who specializes in MS. Read as much as you can about the disease so you know what you might be dealing with. Be proactive in your treatment, and don’t be afraid to try anything. If you have the primary progressive variety of MS like me, remember that nothing you try will improve your symptoms over a long period of time or make them go away. The name of the game is to keep things stable and minimize or delay the pace and spread of the progression. I have been successful (so far) in that endeavor. The symptoms have certainly progressed within my leg, but they still remain confined to that single limb after eleven years.
What is the one thing you miss doing before you were diagnosed? Going on long walks with my wife.
Do you find the word disability offensive? Not in the least, primarily because it is a fact. I have a disability. Besides, disability is a hell of a lot better than handicapped. I despise that word.
Since your illness, what is the most important lesson you have learned about yourself? Although I have always felt this way, dealing with this disease has proven that I am a resilient, stubborn, tough (in a good way) upbeat, and half-glass-full kind of guy.
Do you celebrate the 4th of July? Of course! Besides, that also happens to be my mother-in-law’s birthday, and she lives with us.
Thanks again Kim. I am glad that we are part of each other’s respective tribes.