A match made in heaven! This is the tale of how love found two of the nicest, sweetest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. These are THEIR stories about they met – and how a couple of online MS support groups (MSpals & MyCounterpane) helped fate bring them together. The rest was written in the stars. Here’s a little treat music video “montage” which depicts the story of how Chris & Donna met, fell in love & married happily ever after!
Chris Guzikowski’s Back Story –
My story begins in 1985 in Pennsylvania. My younger brother, at age 21, was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). That was the year, I became a caregiver, I was 28 years old. By 1991, Joe had progressed to being confined to a wheelchair. As a caregiver, I had no social life, when not working, I was tending to Joe’s needs. Joe passed away in 2002, due to complications from MS. During Joe’s journey, I learned a lot about MS, and this plays a part in my journey. In 1995, I began to have balance issues – I fell 4 times, all within 15 minutes. That’s when I first thought, hmmm, maybe I had MS also. The following day, my motor skills were noticeably affected and I could not write a check. I knew it was for the purpose to pay a bill, but did not know how to fill out the check. My hunch was true…I was eventually diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS). At the time, I was still taking care of Joe and my widowed mother. I could not lose my job, so I kept my MS a secret. Luckily my symptoms of balance issues stopped. With no visible symptoms, I was still able to keep my MS a secret. At the time (1990’s) there were no treatments for MS. In 2003, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so my care-giving role continued. By 2008 my MS had progressed to falling again – I was walking with a limp and staggering…holding onto walls for balance. My employer was sending me to drug testing on a regular basis. I saw the writing on the wall, I made an appointment with my first neurologist, and was diagnosed with RRMS. I started taking the drug, Rebif and have been on it ever since. My employer made it very rough for me, all the while staying within the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines. A few years passed and in 2011 it was time for lifestyle changes and time to file for disability. My typical symptoms usually pertain mostly to balance, walking, cog-fog, pain, bladder issues, fatigue, and eyesight. I still had responsibilities at home and a purpose in life – taking care of my mother. All that changed on 4/30/2015 when my mother passed away. I was lost…no longer had a purpose in life, and for the first time in 30 years, I was all alone. I had also lost all my friends over the years. Now, let’s jump ahead a few months to September 2014. I joined MyCounterpane – a wonderful MS support website which also connected me to it’s creator/founder, Kate Milliken.
Kate talked to me on the phone a number of times, and got me to open up and share my journey on her site. I saw a post from Mary Pettigrew on MyCounterpane in which she had mentioned the idea of participating on Facebook. So… I joined Facebook for the first time. I joined a few MS groups, even one called “MS Singles,” and started looking for a local lady with MS, since “normal women” didn’t seem to want to give me a chance. Needless to say, I had no luck with “MS Singles.” In June 2015, someone on MyCounterpane mentioned another Facebook group called, “MSpals” so I joined. On 06/26/15 my life took on a whole new meaning and a new chapter was about to be written. On that day, I happened to see a post from a lovely lady named Donna, who mentioned living with MS for 17 years. We started to message each other on Facebook and, well… the rest of the story.
Donna Guzikowski’s Back Story –
I was diagnosed with MS in June of 98. I had been having problems with an electrical shock going down my spine and then my arm acted up – turning to “rubber” once. I had had surgery twice within 2 months and actually thought I had a pinched nerve in my neck that was causing the electrical shock. I thought maybe as they moved and manipulated my body in the operating room, this had caused the nerve to get pinched in my neck. My doctor sent me to a neurologist and when he said he was sending me for an MRI to rule out MS I was baffled – I had no idea what a MS was. I had never even heard of it. When I got the news two days later that it was indeed a positive diagnosis for MS (with 17 active lesions) I was petrified. My life consisted of other challenges on top of this news. I was in a “not so good” marriage, my mom had just been diagnosed with cancer, and I was quite scared. I started taking the weekly injections of Avonex, but broke out in hives. Then, I was put on Copaxone and had bad site reactions from the injections. During this time my mom passed, my husband and I split up, and now I was living life as single mother of two sons ages 8 & 9. To make a long story short, after my divorce my MS actually became much quieter and better to handle. My doctors explained how stress played a big role and was causing MUCH of the flare up. I have learned to live one day at a time and to be thankful for what I can do – even though it’s not what I used to be able to do! God has blessed me even though some would say, “how can you say that if you still were stricken with MS?” I feel it’s because of going through life challenges and my MS brought me closer in my faith and has led me to the best thing that has EVER happened to me…meeting my partner, my friend, my husband, Chris Guzikowski on “MSpals.” God is so good to me!
Donna & Chris: In Love and Marraige –
We met on an MS support group (MSpals) not a dating site. Though I certainly have been on several and from what I understand Chris had been on a few too. I had definitely given up on love. I had dated several men who were “normal” and it wore me out trying to be “normal,” like them. When I joined “MSpals” it was strictly to comfort those that had this terrible disease worse than I did. It wasn’t until my 17th anniversary of being diagnosed with MS on June 26th (or may have been 27th)…Oops, I have the “MS brain” today, ha ha! I posted my story to let the others know that it wasn’t definitely a death sentence. That even though it was such a devastating disease so many good things that come out of it. I found out many things – especially that my husband wasn’t going to stick around with my diagnosis. Chris happened to catch my post and started making comments. Of course, I answered each one after I looked to see if he was single! OK… maybe we both were considered stalkers (LOL)! Anyway, we kept talking and talking and talking. It wasn’t long before we exchanged emails and eventually exchanged phone numbers. I have to be honest regarding first impressions as Chris was not the kind of man that I had “thought” I would be interested in. But wouldn’t you know…God had a different plan. It wasn’t long before I realized what a big heart he had. His compassion and his love for his family turned out to be what I had longed for all of these years. When Chris slipped (or did he?) and said I love you one evening, I quickly said, “oh you can’t say that yet!” However, truth be told, I had wanted to say it myself. So, after some Face Time and hours of video chats, we decided he would come down to South Carolina and finally meet me! Of course, my sister who has been my makeshift mother since my mom passed away, thought for sure that Chris was an ax murder. Several of my friends thought I had lost my mind. Oddly enough my sons never said too much about it. Maybe they were just hoping I was really going to find someone.
Chris drove from Pennsylvania to South Carolina in August 2015. Little did I know he truly had only driven about 5 miles from his house since he was diagnosed with MS about 15 years earlier? Wow! He was definitely a driven man!. So, we met and the following month (September) I flew up to Pennsylvania to see his house. Obviously things were becoming serious between us, but love kept us on path. When we discussed being together on a more permanent nature, we decided we would live in his farm house, and I was going to leave my son’s, which was so hard for me, but I also knew I really loved him. Once again God had other things in mind and things did not work out for us in Pennsylvania. We ended up coming back to South Carolina and building our home here. Little did we know that soon, both of my son’s wives would become pregnant?!
So we had our first grand baby, Emma Grace this past April 7 and our second grand baby, Trace Eugene is due the middle of July. God is so good. I remember when Chris first mentioned us getting married and I thought oh my goodness, I need someone that can care for me I can’t fall in love with someone that perhaps weill need more care than I will. I don’t think this will work. You would think I would learn by then to trust God, because the first words out of Chris’s mouth was “who better to care for each other than ourselves? We understand our limits and our capabilities. There’s no surprises. We do what we can and we both understand when the other has to rest.” Excellent idea. For me I no longer have to worry about being the perfect person. And in Chris’s eyes, I am as perfect as they come – the same applies in my eyes about him. It doesn’t bother either one of us when we have to stop and rejuvenate. It doesn’t matter to either one of us that we both walk with rollators. It doesn’t bother either one of us that sometimes it’s hard even climbing into bed. It doesn’t bother either one of us that our lovemaking is of our own design and often consists solely on lots of hugs and kisses. Because we have learned that making love is not always the act of intercourse, it’s the daily touches, smiles, and embraces. Love is so much more than a sex act. It’s sharing, cooking, cleaning up the breakfast dishes, feeding the pups, and saving the other one from the task of bending down and filling the water bowl up. For me, it’s watching Chris hold little Emma and smiling from ear to ear. Or, it’s my sons (who we consider as OUR sons) when they text and ask Chris about motors and various things. For Chris, it’s watching me enjoy the therapy pool, until it gets a handle installed so that he can use it too. It’s sharing the maintenance and cutting of our 4 acres of grass – the heat gets to Chris, but it doesn’t get me as much. So we set a timer – he cuts for an hour and a half and then I go out and tell him it’s time to come in. That’s when I pop outside & take over. In fact, as I’m sitting here now, writing our story for you today, Chris is currently outside with our lawnmower and it’s almost time for my shift!