I am much more patient with myself and with others and feel an incredible gratefulness for my family and friends who I have bonded with in an entirely new way; these are the people who are able to recognize that I am the same person, just living my life at a different pace, in a different way.
My greatest achievement has been to become a Full Professor at my university where I teach. How I did it? I was fortunate in that I had some great colleagues who helped me along with research. It takes a community to achieve this and we have a great department where we help the next person in line reach the next level.
In a university context, it is simply important to be easy to work with, to work hard, and stay out of trouble. I tried to do both of those things. I also kept my MS diagnoses fairly quiet. My immediate colleagues knew, but the students certainly do not, nor did my Dean-- although he does now.
So much good came from my diagnosis. Far more good than bad. On a very personal level I became more accepting of others. I became more compassionate about illness and physical challenges. I started to become a better listener. I started to challenge myself. I started to run. Just like Forest Gump I kept running and running. The running translated to climbing. Soon I was climbing some of the highest peaks in the world. The climbing took me to vast corners of the globe, to the poles, to Alaska. My story is varied and unique but it is not mine alone. My story can be anyone's.
I can't forget that I have MS. I have to always be thinking about taking care of myself. I had soooo much potential in life and I often wonder what my life would have been like if I didn't have MS. The subtitle I have for my memoirs says it all! It is, "If God only gave me problems in life He thought I could handle, I sure wish He had a whole lot less confidence in me!" Nonetheless, I have really had an incredible life!
There are many good things that my diagnosis brought about. At 45 years old I became the oldest rookie on the professional pool circuit. I was given a contract to play in 15 pool tournaments a year and would try to inspire others with MS in patient talks. I met a bunch of people that I don't think I would have met otherwise, including my wife.
I've learned that yes, I have MS. But...MS DOESN'T HAVE ME!!! I am still the same active person I was before MS. But I have to do things in moderation now. And I have to choose my activities.
Would I still like to backpack to the top of Mt. McKinley? You bet! But I can't. I have no steam (energy). And I no longer raft. Because of MS, I am weak and if I was to fall out of the raft, I would drown because I couldn't save myself... or anyone else for that matter. So I still camp, fish and day hike with friends.
The advice I give to the newly diagnosed is first, this is not a death sentence. It has its negatives but for the majority they live very active lives still. Second, I tell them to find a doctor they can trust. Third, don't be afraid to ask and accept help on the bad days. People want to help where they can
I was diagnosed with MS in the final senior semester of college. It was horrible. I had my whole life ahead of me and got this news that I thought was going to stop that. I immediately thought wheelchair. But then the universe gave me an article written by Wendy Booker and I read it and was inspired to write her a letter. She then wrote me a letter that ignited a spark in me to not let this diagnosis become me and run my life. From then on I didn't and I am so thankful for her and for her words.
My whole personality and life evolved in the ten years after my diagnosis. I didn't know what to do at first. I kept having flares and ended up in stability braces and a walker. Something had to give. I quit smoking, lost some weight and learned how to fight flare ups with humor and keeping a positive attitude! And all of those things helped immensely.
But it wasn't enough for me, I wanted to do more. So one day seven years ago I laced up a pair of old tennis shoes, headed outside and started to run. It was horrible! I wheezed, coughed and sputtered my way to the end of the block and stopped. I wanted my couch, a TV remote and a cheeseburger. But an internal battled started that day, a little spark in me ignited and I told myself "You can do better you lazy little sh*t", so I ran another two blocks but mentally I was unstoppable at that point.
MS is not a faceless disease. There are many, many faces of MS. Our goal is to hear and share stories of those who either have the disease or know of someone who is affected by it. We would love for you to share your story and let us know how best we can assist you in your journey.