It takes a lot of grit, perseverance, gumption to find victory over a chronic disease. When you hear the doctor say those dreaded words, “You have_______” (fill in the blank), your whole world starts to spin out of control. For me, when I heard that I had multiple sclerosis, at first I was relieved because I knew I wasn’t going crazy. But then the reality of the disease set in. And I had to find out a whole new way of living.
As an athlete in an athletic family, I learned to push through the pain and to realize that a little bit of pain as you get stronger it’s not necessarily bad. So as symptoms began to appear, I took it on as a thing that need to be conquered.
But as symptoms continued to linger, I knew something was not right. Due to an insurance change, I went to a new physical therapist. That is when things started to happen pretty fast. First I had a hip replacement. I was wondering if that might have solved some of my leg weakness, so I was anxious to do all the therapy that was given to me. I was sure that my full health was just a therapy strategy away.
Unfortunately that was not the case. Soon after a neurologist called me and told me that I had multiple sclerosis. A new life, so to speak, began.
I found out very quickly that I could not bury the grief I was feeling. I had a strong network of family and friends around me to draw strength from. I also began going to a counselor, who helped me work through how to live this new life. I am so glad I did that.
Grief is a funny thing. According to Wikipedia, “grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions.”
So if it is a response to something that has died, I can relate my MS experience to that definition. I have definitely experienced something that has died—my health, independence, fearlessness, mobility, and confidence, I was beginning to succumb to the negative feelings of low self-worth. Things were crashing in on me, and I knew I had to draw upon a deeper well than just my own resources.
Throughout all of my trials, tribulations, fears, and trembling, I never lost sight of God. He has been my constant companion, even when I made erroneous life-changing decisions or allowed fears to creep in. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:25-26
In the spring of 2015, I started giving thanks to God that there are so many things I can still do beyond the disabling issues with which I deal. It was not an easy transition, but once I made it, I felt very free. How did I come to that breakthrough? Lots of prayer and diving into God’s Word. He says in Psalm 91:1–2, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’”
Once I allowed myself to remember that God is for me, still loves me, and will never leave or forsake me, I started the journey back to a joyful and peaceful life. I have helped others to see that joy and peace don’t depend on circumstances (unlike happiness), and I needed to listen to myself! Daily reminders help keep me on track. I read the Bible each day, do a daily devotional, attend a Bible study, and love going to church to worship with like minded believers.
“I will lift my eyes to the hills—from where comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1–2)