Healthy Living

Multiple Sclerosis: How it Feels to Live with a Progressive Disease

Multiple Sclerosis: How it Feels to Live with a Progressive Disease

When spring kicks in, you might be hyper-aware now of everything you've done, good and bad, since last year at this time.  Maybe you're mulling over what you haven't achieved, or the weight you didn't lose that you promised as a New Years's resolution. Instead of being happy, you are sad with a list of unmet goals or the lack of check marks on your bucket list.

For Jennifer Powell, her year-in-review comes in the spring as well.  It was the time of the annual walk for multiple sclerosis, during which Jennifer was painfully made aware of a terrifying fact - she couldn't finish.

Jennifer has multiple sclerosis, and the Walk MS event has made it glaringly obvious that she her disease has gotten worse.

Jennifer had been suffering from multiple sclerosis for several years. 5 years ago, she began to avidly fundraise for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Every year since then, she walked in the Walk MS course and completed it.

At first, Jennifer had no problem finishing the course. But every year, she recalled always feeling the same excitement but having more and more difficulty finishing the walk. Finally, 2017 came when she wasn't able to complete the run. Admitting defeat, she left the course with tears streaming from her face as she humbly turned back at the one-mile mark.

The walk was a painful shock that reminded Jennifer that her disease wasn't getting better; she was getting worse. 

For Jennifer, her decline was staring her right in the face. It was hard and it stung. She was taken back because she hadn't really noticed the subtle changes that were taking place every day.  The obvious change in her ability was painful as she noticed that she suddenly couldn't finish the same course she had completed just a year ago. It was an unwelcome reality-check, slap-in-the-face kind of moment for Jennifer.

Jennifer still managed to find positivity

To deal with the heartbreak about her setback, Jennifer tried to remind herself that everything in life comes with a balance. Life just doesn't exist with rainbow, smiles and positive events. She challenged herself to match her dismay with an equally brilliant memory that brought her happiness, especially ones that reminded her of the ordeals that she had to overcome. Staying positive is the only way she knew to make it through the bad times. And she knew this exercise well. 

For this particular setback, Jennifer readjusted her focus to surpassing her fundraising goal. She rested happy, knowing that the money she raised was going right back into the multiple sclerosis community, helping thousands of other people also suffering from this debilitating disease.

Jennifer felt that these challenges had toughened her

It's painful to realize how much was lost in just a year. Jennifer was acutely aware of everything she could no longer do. But despite the discouragement, these challenges made her a stronger woman in the end. She has learned boundless limits of patience, faith, and perseverance. Her battle against multiple sclerosis has laid the foundation to her sense of being. Her challenges have made her a strong person and shaped the person that she is proud to be today.

Though she wishes that there was some cure or magic to help ease the suffering that multiple sclerosis can bring, Jennifer is thankful for the life lessons that she has learned from her disease. She is an incredibly patient and generous person, who can persevere and find happiness even in the toughest of times. 

Jennifer encourages other people to accept both the good and the bad 

Sometimes, looking back on what you did during the past year is revealing. It's a brutally honest, sometimes surprising journey to look at things you've achieved, and things you've lost. Jennifer knows that despite the losses, she's also got some victories to account for too. The good and bad are what come together to make life the beautiful imperfection that it is. She urges other people to also embrace and be mindful of even the tiniest of blessings and when the bad moments start to overwhelm her to hold up a stop sign in her mind and re-record the message playing in her mind with a more positive one. 

Having multiple sclerosis can make it difficult to stay motivated 

Jennifer's story is a reminder that living with multiple sclerosis is not easy. We can't ignore the fact that there is simply no cure for people suffering from this chronic, progressive  condition. And while she is tempted to ask "why me" more often than she cares to admit, she almost always is able to turn it around and say, "Why not me?" and how can I help someone else get through and thrive. 

Jennifer reminds us to keep on marching

We need to remind ourselves of the positives in life to help cope with the setbacks that we experience. This is especially true when living with multiple sclerosis since the disease will always inevitably progress. As you get weaker, new challenges will present themselves. These are the times when you'll need to dig deep to find inner strength and focus on the positive and put one foot in front of the other.