Scott James and I have known each other via Twitter & Facebook for a number of years. He is a talented man – a family man – a funny man – and a guy anyone would love to spend time with! I HAD to interview him and showcase his story as well as his make known his talents as a photographer.
Tell me a bit about you & your MS story – when were you Dxd, how old were you, and how did it affect you then & now (symptoms, emotions, meds, etc.)? Also, you have a BEAUTIFUL family from the images I’ve seen you post! Tell me more about your background, family, & their reaction to your Dx – then & now.
I was pretty lucky when it came to right place, right time when I had my first onset. I had been dropping things at work for about a week so I went in on a Friday to see the Doc who figured I had pinched a nerve and sent me home with some pain killers. But by Monday I was sitting in the ER not feeling my arms and a huge case of the MS Hug. 12 hours later, and loads of Docs not really picking up what I was putting down, the on call neurologist strolled in and poked me with safety pins, ordered an MRI the next day, ordered me up a Spinal Tap the day after that (I have a whole 15min comedy routine about that LOL), and told me life was about to change. November of 2006
In that week’s time, I remember thinking, as I looked up at the screen at my MRI, the only eloquent word I could think of up in my little pee brain was…FUCK! And as the tears welled up I couldn’t even to bring myself to look at Deb (my wife)…but saying…I don’t want this for you. And the next two weeks were a blur of IV Solumedral treatments and wondering what the hell I was going to do. Everything I’d read up to that point was SO not good. And as the holidays neared…in NO way did I want anyone to know, so I kept it all in thru Christmas. Which led to making the drive up to see my mom…to tell her. I remember telling her she was about to become famous (someday) as the mother of the first guy to beat MS. A promise I hope to make good on, someday.
Here are some lovely comments from your family – specifically your mom and brother:
From: ALMA LITTELL
As a Mom you always want your children to be happy and have a healthy life. Sometimes along the way unforeseen things happen which you don’t have control over. Scott received the news that he had MS in November 2006 however he waited until after the holidays to tell me because he said he didn’t want to worry me. Of course I wish he had told me right away.
As many of you know Scott has written several blogs along the way and has the amazing ability to express his feelings, both ups and downs on any given day. His attitude and sense of humor pushes him forward and he never gives up. He gets up and goes to work every day and has participated along with family in the MS Walks here in the desert. Even though he has lost the sight in one eye he takes amazing photographs of race cars, surfing, nature pictures, etc. He loves going to the beach and taking surfing pictures on the weekends.
I see on his Facebook page that he has so many friends who encourage him, especially when he is feeling down and needs a lift. He also has a wonderful support system of Debbie, Chelsea, Riley and brother Dale, nephews Steve & Chris and special high school buddies Ken Knight & Joannie Hacker – also all of Debbie’s family. He is a hero in our family and we all love him so much and will always be there for him.
Remember: PROMISE ME YOU’LL ALWAYS REMEMBER:
YOU’RE BRAVER THAN YOU BELIEVE AND STRONGER
THAN YOU SEEM AND SMARTER THAN YOU THINK
By Christopher Robin to “Pooh”
From: Dale James
LUV YA BRO!
When I first found out that Scott had MS I had this utter feeling of disbelief. I knew nothing about MS. All I had ever heard about were famous people that had it and kept it secret until they could not hide their symptoms anymore. Of course that horrified me because I thought that within days I would see my little brother at the same point. Outwardly Scott does not like to let fear show but I could tell in his voice that it scared the hell out of him just like it would any of us that were given this news. But since then, we as a family have learned a lot about MS. Learning about MS taught me that what we saw in public was not the case. I learned there are different types of MS and at this point I believe that a person’s attitude can affect its progression. The main thing is that, like a hand of cards, it is something that one is dealt. What I have learned from Scott is that you have 2 choices 1) You give in and let MS run your life of 2) you take the FUMS attitude and give the disease a run for its money! It has taught me so much about him as a person and life in general. FUMS
Here’s our interview:
How has your MS changed your life overall – positive or negative or both?
10+ years into it still depends on the day I get asked that question as to exactly what my answer will be, LOL! The negatives are pretty much a daily reminder of what I use to be, as I sit at my desk looking out to a world I really was talented in (work wise), but can no longer be in. But I’ve been fortunate enough to stay within the same field I worked in before, where instead of doing the work, now I teach and train those who still can, how to do it. It took a long time for me to make that transition though, and the full decision to walk away from the doing…I should have made sooner but was too prideful to go away gracefully. And there’s been a price I think those around me pay, at times, in that if I’m having a good day I have a huge aversion to anything that harshes that buzz. My fuse can be short with issues others may be having that I see as REALLY not big problems (projecting my challenges in an inner comparison). So I think at times my family would say I seem disengaged. And I’ve yet to find a good balance…but I try.
I guess overall, for me the whole Yin/Yang of life has more extremes than It had before. The lows are pretty low…but the highs are even brighter. The victories are different in that, I can’t stand back and admire the work I just did. But instead, I have to be OK with the work of others knowing I had a part in teaching them all the skills I spent a life gathering. I use to end my days with the satisfaction of doing good. Today, the question I ask myself as I leave the office…the yardstick I have to measure myself is…Did I make someone better at what they did? Did I matter? Is someone benefiting from me not being the one able TO DO!
That’s my mundane living with MS. That’s the life changed, overall.
It’s obvious you are quite a fun loving, creative person who brings joy & laughter to so many…have you always been so hilarious & uplifting, or has your infectious outlook changed because of (or in spite of) your Dx of MS?
My family and friends will debate you as to my hilariousness (LOL), but I’ve always been a bit of a goof and that HAS been a huge help in dealing with my MS. And being a bit introverted gives me time to think of all the funny angles life has in it. I know when people around me hear I have MS there’s a natural kind of pity, or generally feeling bad about it…I guess I just don’t want them to feel that way. So I’m the first to make a joke about it to diffuse any of that. I think with the overall goal being two fold…1) Let them know I’m still me and 2) The short straw I drew could happen to anyone, I want them to know if it ever does, you can still be you. I owe it to myself to always be me. If that makes sense
I’ll always be pissed I got MS. I’ll also always be pissed I wasn’t the kinda kid who got straight A’s in High School. But there’s some things that just are. So…I’ll live with the pissed-ness. I won’t like it…but I owe it to myself and those around me not to be the wet blanket, or turd in the punch bowl that would make even ME not want to hang out with ME – LOL. IF this MS chooses to go south, I’m trying to live in such a way as to give me more good and funny stuff to look back on, than the BS of it all.
I see you have quite a colorful background which includes wonderful life experiences! Tell me more about these adventures. Any upcoming plans or vacations on the horizon?
Shooting the Indy 500 this year was a definite highlight. Superbowl kinda status for me to have gone. Andhope to go back for many more years. There’s nothing like looking up into thegrandstands surrounded by over 300, 000 plus people…When you can hear them cheering OVER the sound 33 Indy Cars flying around the track at over 230mph…You have to feel that. Because no words I can come up with would describe it.
Any “bucket list” desires?
Having got to shoot the Indy 500 this year, I guess that would leave shooting a Formula 1 race and taking a JEEP trip across the country with my camera bag would rate high on the list. No plans, no maps, just time with Deb away from the day to day, and meet up with other MS or racing friends.
Tell me about your favorite subjects to shoot? I see the beach, surfing, and various forms of auto racing sport are prevalent in your portfolio.
Hard to pick a favorite. It’s never a bad day to hang out at the beach (The Church of All Things Beachie Goodness, I call it) And the surfing is as hard to catch as a race car going 240mph. But I guess I would have to say that to me, there’s almost no bigger rush than standing next to a machine build for the sole purpose of going quick, and trying to catch the beauty and style of that. And there’s a selfish part of that for me…in that to do it, you have to be TOTALLY in that moment. There’s SO much happening around you there’s absolutely no time to to let MS creep into the moment. None. When I get back to the hotel room at the end of the day, the MS will be there waiting. But for those moments of total immersion into clearing my mind of the BS of MS…Total bliss. Totally selfish…but totally freeing.
I think the photography has morphed into something because of the MS that has made it ever more personal than it ever was…and something talking about…I don’t do much. But here goes…I have NO idea as to the whys of having got MS. But in the end…which I hope is a long time from now…I think someone (family or other) will come across the images I’ve taken and maybe they will see in them who I was. The things I saw in the things around me…the moments. And that there may even be that, ‘Holy Shit’ kinda moment when they’re looking at it all and realize that, all of that was done…that those moments were caught by a guy who had every reason to curl up and except his fate. Yet…he (I) didn’t. That I got my one eyed, shaky leg ass up and swung back every bit as hard at what was vexing me, as the vexer punched… I guess what I do is less for fame or glory, as it is, just a proof of a life.
What are some of your additional favorite activities these days – what do you most enjoy getting involved with?
Since mid June I’ve been on a quest to lose weight. I’ve been getting into walking, bike riding, and making healthy choices. The MS is NOT a fan of these activities…but ya gots to do what you gots to do – LOL! If it does come down to me and a wheelchair…I’d rather have to live that reality with a much smaller butt print.
Do you have any new ideas or projects up your sleeve in which you’re interested in exploring? Any plans or goals for the near or long term future? I understand things are in the works to shoot an #MSbeautifulcollection soon in Southern California, yes? Thoughts or ideas on this project?
I’m equally excited about the possibility of being a part of Lisa and Tori’s photo project, called #MSbeautiful and now that it is cooling off here in California, I hope it will be easier to get everyone together. I’ve been following what they’ve been able to do so far and see the total positiveness its brought. One project I always have kicking around in the back of my little brain is to grab a couple of surfing friends I have and doing a kind of Endless Summer Day shoot. Start at dawn up near Santa Monica and just hit as many surf spots we can fit in the day back down to San Diego.
MS is such an unpredictable beast & we’re all different as to how it affects us. However, resilience is a powerful trait I’ve noticed in so many of our fellow MSpals – including YOU! Scott, what are some things you do to lift your spirits, stay positive & keep smiling whenever days are rough or when your MS can try to get the best of you?
I think any time I figure out a way to adapt to something I use to do with ease, I take pleasure in that. My being stubborn helps with that. Music also plays a big roll. My go-to whenever the nurse presses play on the IV machine is the Foo Fighters – Pretender. “What if I say I’m not like the others? What if I say I’m not just another one of your plays? You’re the pretender! What If I say I will never surrender?” The oldie “Shambala” is always a good pull to get me back to center. I’ve loved that song since I was a kid, and it takes me right back to the easy days of just riding my bike, hanging with friends, and just a simpler life.
Being adaptable is job one when it come to MS. There’s a host of things I USE to be able to do without much thought being put into it…but now…I just have to do it differently. Or at a different speed. Eventually, I just figure out a way, and with each of those adaptations…there’s a win. And winning is gooood!