Ever call off of work on account of sun? It’s good for the soul and so yesterday I did just that. Thunder showers that shook our part of the world earlier in the week cleared out, taking all the humidity with them, and leaving a sunny, dry day of about 78 degrees – square in my “MS comfort zone” – and I went canoeing with a friend on the exquisitely beautiful Susquehanna River. We paddled from Duncannon to Dauphin, both towns in Central Pa. -- a perfect run for a stolen day.
What I love most about my river is how alive it is. From copperhead snakes to teeming clouds of tadpoles, minnows and crayfish, just about anywhere I put my paddle down something is looking up. And the birds! Yesterday alone we saw a red-tail hawk, two blue herons (or the same one twice), a snowy egret and my friend swears she saw a bald eagle, although I suspect it was a plain-old turkey buzzard.
Right now my MS is in what for me passes as remission. Yes, if I do outside activities in the heat without taking precautions my limbs turn to rubber, and I talk even more than usual without actually saying anything. My left eye will blur out and out and out until it’s so distracting that I patch it off with my own homemade shoestring-and-denim invention – it’s so ugly it would make a pirate cry in disgust. But, even so, if I’m not too overheated or overtired and drink lots of water and carry around ice packs and wear my lucky charms and am careful to not step on cracks in the sidewalk, I do OK.
A few years ago, when I could still do more physically without advance planning, I would consider where I am now to be a state of permanent relapse. But now I think it's an ongoing state of remission. If I am careful and stay balanced, I can do anything I want. I can take a day off of work and go canoeing. Heck, I can work without feeling like I’m dead at the end of the day.
Since my first full-time job after college was answering phones at a center for independent living when I was 23, I figure I grew up in the Independent Living Movement. This meant for a long time I thought I should be fine with whatever strangeness happened to my body. After all, since I was 23 I’ve been surrounded by friends, bosses, coworkers, mentors and just everyday people who are “really” disabled. So what’s there to be afraid of, or sad about?
But right political thinking is absolutely no immunization from all the roiling emotions a disability’s progression can bring. So while I knew something was going on with my body since before I worked at the CIL, it wasn’t until it began progressing that the full emotional weight of “I have MS” threatened to drag me under. In fact, it did drag me under and I almost drowned in my own fear and self-pity.
Diagnosed in ’98, a full 15 years after my first symptom appeared while I was in my junior year in high school (I fell, often, for no apparent reason, and my eyesight was sometimes wiggy), I didn’t actually deal with how I felt about it until three years ago, 2004. At the urging of my neuro, I took a med that made my fatigue exponentially worse, and then the fatigue morphed into depression and when I started wondering how I could bloodlessly and painlessly kill myself I got a therapist and an anti-depressant. That was my low point. That was also the year I was finally forced to deal with my emotions about my disease.
And have I? Yes, mostly, I think I have. Although I suspect I’ll have to again and again. For now, though, I’m OK. And that’s enough.
Sitting in the canoe yesterday, I didn’t care how blurry my eyesight was or how spastic any arms or legs were, or even that my right hand has to sometimes be reminded its fingers can still unclench. I honestly didn’t care. I was too entranced with the fat tadpoles dancing around the crayfish. Only later did I wonder at my new definition of “remission” and “OK.”
Awesome Blog and great example for all of us! I took a health class in college and the professor said that a lot of times sickness and disease happen when we push ourselves to hard for to long. Her suggetion was to plan the occasional "sick day" when you feel fine. Take the day off and do something for you. Since taking her advice, I've been much healthier. Happier too.
What is the old saying--"At the end of their life, nobody wishes they had spent more time at the office".