When I was diagnosed nearly 20 years ago, I was naturally in a state of shock. I remember talking to my mom and one of the things I told her was I didn’t want people saying “what a shame, she used to be such a pretty girl”. I know that was a pretty shallow thing to say upon finding out that I have a debilitating disease. My brain just couldn’t wrap around the reality of what my future was going to entail.
The other day, I was reminded of that statement when I saw a beautiful Grand Pyrenees dog. I found out her name was Katie. Her shimmering white coat of fur was fluffy. She obviously is taken well care of and her coat is brushed diligently daily. After noticing her beauty, I realized she was missing an eye. That was quickly overlooked by everyone who saw her because she was so sweet and friendly. Just because she had one impairment didn’t take away from her other qualities. This got me to thinking later that I am very similar to Katie. Yes, after 20 years of living with MS, I have lost a lot of qualities I once had. I have to ride in a wheelchair to wherever I want or need to go.

When I was first diagnosed, I was working in a college town that is right next to one of the Great Lakes. On the weekends, I would love to go down to the lake and walk on the path that went behind the university. It was so serene; especially the further I got from the parks. Besides the occasional bicyclist alerting me that they were on my left, the only sound I could hear was the crashing of the waves. I would sit for hours watching the colorful sails of the boats bobbing up and down in the distance or the white seagulls soaring above the horizon. The dogs racing up and down the dog beach as well as kids playing together at a distant part of the beach kept me entertained for quite some time.

As the years went by and my ability to walk went with them, I thought I would never be able to walk down my beloved path again. A few years ago, I went to the park by that lake for a lunch with a dear friend. Instead of just watching a limited view from my van like I had done a few times in the past, I was now able to travel down that path. Of course, now it was on four wheels under me instead of my 2 legs that carried me in the past. It didn’t matter, I could now do something I thought I had lost forever.

The fact that I spend my life in a wheelchair doesn’t take away who I am. Sure, I have my down days when the depression gets the best of me. But my mom’s favorite saying “this too shall pass” gets me through the dark days. Even during these dark days, my MS cannot permanently take away that I am a sweet, kind, nice and faithful person. Sometimes the stress of life with MS, or just life in general, makes me question my intelligence and skills I have. My core values are the one thing MS cannot take away from me. I’m still the same person deep down even though the packaging may be slightly different and my perspective has changed. I have found that I have other skills I never knew about. Please remember that just because MS has landed you in a wheelchair or using some other walking assistance, it doesn’t take away who you truly are. Stay strong!

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