Marcus Brown lives in San Diego, California and a father of two grown sons. He is a teacher of computer applications, author, & avid reader. Here is a brief interview & a copy of one of his essays. Enjoy!
Tell me about your background before your MS diagnosis.
I am a father, Christian, business owner of Electra City Sound Enterprises, EnVision Communication Concepts and fun guy! Team EnVision’s name is derived from the name of my company EnVision Communication Concepts.
Tell me about your Dx & how it changed your life for both good & bad. How is your MS these days?
I consider myself to be a true Renaissance Man.
You’re a creative, motivated, & passionate positive person…have you always been so, or did it come in the forefront after your MS Dx or because of your MS?
I have been creative, passionate, and positive all of my life. My positivity is what keeps me going.
Tell me about your writing. What genres do you migrate towards?
I migrate towards Christian fiction.
Tell me about your blog. Has your work been featured or published? Where was it & what has been published?
I published my blog when I decided to pursue writing as career. Here’s the link. http://mibbookablog.blogspot.com
My current plan is to self publish my first novel, Imagine That in November 2017.
Tell me about your advocacy/activities with MS related events or fundraisers.
I am a self help group co-leader in a men’s group sponsored by the National MS Society. I was awarded the self help group co-leader for San Diego 2016. http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/MarcusBrown2017
You’re a new member of MSpals. How did you come across the group & how are you enjoying it?
I learned about MS Pals from Mary Pettigrew. I am enjoying meeting new people and learning new things.
What are some other activities you enjoy or are actively involved with?
In addition to my blog and writing my book, I am also a mentor and counselor with my church.
What are your plans/goals for the near & long term future?
My short term goal is to finish my book and lead into the next book in the series. My long term goal is to become a highly successful published author.
When the going gets rough, how do you keep moving? What makes you smile? What inspires you most?
A heavy dose of comedy makes me smile and laugh because laughter is the best medicine.
Loss of Independence: An essay by Marcus I. Brown
Something On Our Minds Vol. III – an anthology to benefit the Accelerated Cure Project
Reading stories about prisoners of war I can imagine that that chapter of their lives must have been a difficult and challenging time. When I think about a POW in a war I often think about the fact that the person is confined and can’t move about like they want to. They are in a strange and unknown place. Often the biggest toll that it takes on the person is the mental one. I have never been a POW and so I am not writing from firsthand experience. I have read accounts of prisoners of war and I seek to draw parallels between the prisoner of war experience and a person who has MS. One thing that I learned from the prisoner of war stories, the Diary of Anne Frank, survivors of the Holocaust and stories about slavery is survival and quality of life is about a state of mind. It isn’t so much the physical torture or abuse that they endured, but mental torture. Smart captors know that and they try to get in the prisoner’s head. Multiple Sclerosis is much the same way. I often say that unlike a congenital disease where a person is born without sight, hearing or one of the other senses, Multiple Sclerosis robs a person of abilities that they had. The disease inflicts the cruelest kind of torture; loss of independence that the person had before. My story begins ten years ago when my sons were kids and I would play with them in the backyard. We played football. My sons against dad. I noticed that I couldn’t “cut” or change direction quickly when I was running with the football. I went to the doctor and he said, “It’s nothing…a lot of people who are are in their forties have that problem.” I knew that NONE of my friends have that issue. He sent me to a cardiologist. Total waste of money! I thought that it was vertigo. Meanwhile Multiple Sclerosis was slowly taking my independence. Like a thief in the night, it was quiet and invisible. Unlike a prisoner of war there wasn’t any torture. There were questions though. These questions didn’t come from a captor. They came from me. “Why was this happening to me?” The next torture technique occurred while I was walking around the neighborhood with my friend. We usually walked three times a week throughout the neighborhood. We would walk on the sidewalk side by side. I kept veering onto his side one day and he said, “Man, you’d better have that checked out!” The final torture technique happened when I went hot tubbing with a friend of mine one weekend. The heat beat me down and I literally had to be helped out of the hot tub and to the car. I still hadn’t been diagnosed so these were unrelated incidents in my mind. I was slowly being robbed… Robbed of my independence. I didn’t even realize it at the time. I went to a different doctor this time. I “fired” the other doctor. The new doctor said he was going to order a MRI. I saw a neurologist at the same clinic and she said that the results of my MRI pointed to several different diseases and the only way they would know for sure is that I have a lumber puncture or spinal tap. I still haven’t been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, but the thief is in my body! In all of movies that I’ve seen where they held Prisoners of war, the captor would gradually deprive the prisoner of certain things like light, food and clothing. Multiple Sclerosis is a lot like a captor. It can deprive you of light (optic neuritis), food (loss of appetite) and clothing (heat or cold intolerance). At the same time that I was having the MRI and the lumbar puncture I was going through another kind of torture. I was going through a divorce. That’s another story altogether! I said that to say that I didn’t have health insurance when I got the lumbar puncture and the procedure was done gratis by a neurologist in Sugar Land, TX. I was finally diagnosed April 15, 2010. I began another chapter of my life… The year that I was diagnosed I call “the year that the wheels came off”. I sold my house in Houston and moved back to San Diego, California. Even that process was harrowing! The house was on the market for awhile and it finally sold via short sale to a cash buyer. The house was sold and I began to sever all ties with Texas. I quit my job as an adjunct professor at Houston Community College. I farmed out the remaining events that I had on the books to my disc jockey friend in Houston. Life as I knew it was morphing into a shadow of my former life. One of the things that everyone who has the disease has in common is that we were all very active… Uncommonly active. The loss of independence had begun… In harmony there is something called contrapuntal motion. It’s what makes harmony come to life. It occurs when one voice goes up while the other one goes down. My life was in contrapuntual motion. One side was going up while the other was going down. I was beginning to get requests to be a speaker at the college and at the same time I was selling the house and losing my family. This is where my life becomes different than “typical torture”. I realize that although many people have the disease, their approach to the disease and the loss of independence is dramatically different. I decided that all, I mean ALL, of my thoughts and actions would be positive. I made a Bucket List and started to check things off on my list. I’m doing things that I never imagined that I would do. I am the co-leader of a Men’s MS Support Group and the leader of a Men’s Bible Study Group. I’ve been to Australia and various cities in the United States. I went through a rough patch emotionally, but I overcame that by always looking at the bright side. MS is a mind over matter disease. If you don’t mind then it can’t matter. As I said earlier it’s like a “thief that keeps on taking”! I finally got to the crest of the hill emotionally and I could see into the valley. After months of torture by the invisible captor, I have taken my life and more importantly my attitude back! I had to change my focus from what I USED to do to what I CAN DO! This is an important step in the process. I have decided to add published author to my list of accomplishments. I formed a publishing company, got a logo and a Facebook page and I was off to the races. The more that I do what I can do the more I feel like Stephen Hawking, a brain in the shell of a body. Psychology of Independence 101 If I were to teach a college course now it would be called Psychology of Independence 101. Many people who care about you want to do things for you. These are the nurturing folks. The people who care about you. Some people don’t care, not out of mean spiritedness. It’s just not in their makeup. Maybe they just don’t have the compassion gene. It may be a hint of narcissism. These are the people who see you struggling with something and they don’t offer to help. I want to discuss the people who do want to help. They want to help too much. I will use my experience at a 4th of July get together to illustrate my point. I am fortunate to have ample strength in my hands to open jars and bottles. My mom asks me to open bottles that haven’t been opened for her because she knows that I can do it. A group of friends were enjoying our meal that day sitting outside. My mom had brought my plate outside for me because I would’ve needed to balance a plate of food while I stepped down a small step to the patio. I enjoyed chatting with the group and eating my meal. I had a bottle of water that hadn’t been opened yet on the table in front of me. My godmother asked me if I wanted her to open the bottle for me. I chuckled because I could easily open it. After I finished my meal which was on a paper plate, another person asked me if I wanted her to throw the plate away in a trash can nearby. I politely declined the offer. It would have been much faster to let them throw away the plate, but I wanted to do it. I wanted to struggle for my independence. Class was in session and I wanted to ask all of my students to take out their pen and paper and begin taking notes. Here’s what I would have said had I been teaching my imaginary class. People who are disabled don’t want to be that way. Most of us had done things for other people in the past. I am uncomfortable being on the receiving end of help. Most of us are fighting for our independence. I figure that these issues could be solved with a simple question. “Do you need anything? ” or “Can I help you?” Most of the time I say, No. I’ve gotten over the pride part years ago. You can easily tell who’s taken the class before and doesn’t need a refresher course. They are the people who offer to help and quickly back away when you decline their offer. They “get it”. Pity vs. Compassion The next part of the course would deal with the difference between pity and compassion. I used to teach a course in customer service and the students would discuss differences between the two. When you pity someone you put them in a different place than you. When you show compassion, you empathize with them. You demonstrate genuine concern for their plight. People who are capable of doing something don’t want pity. They want to know that you’re aware and that you may need help. In order for a person to be aware they should have compassion. Awareness often takes the form of moving something out of the way or helping the person to carry a tray of food. I have a rule that I force myself to follow. I don’t eat breakfast in bed. This forces me to get up, brush my teeth and clean up before I go into the kitchen to eat breakfast. I’m not an invalid. Once again, it’s another demonstration of independence. Describing What You Can’t See One of the most difficult challenges of the disease is to describe a symptom that you can’t see. It’s like the game of Pictionary on steroids. At some point you have to tell someone who doesn’t have the disease what it feels like to have it. Sounds easy, right? MS doctors see patients who have Multiple Sclerosis every day and they still can’t understand. They can empathize, but they can’t really understand. Imagine trying to describe the attributes of a giraffe to an alien from another planet. On your mark! Get ready! Go! It’s about deciding to do a thing and doing it! One thing that I’ve noticed is that the mind is a powerful tool. When you decide to do something and make up your mind there isn’t much that can stop you.