“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.“
It was 5 years ago that I started having a strange numbness in my left arm and hand. I had just started swimming laps at my gym, and I knew something was really wrong. By the first week of August, I couldn’t do anything with that arm and hand. After multiple doctor visits, blood tests, X-rays, and MRIs, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis on August 26th. It was the biggest shock of my life.
Looking back now, I realize that I started having MS symptoms in college, such as vertigo, fatigue, and depression. But I didn’t know it was MS at the time. It took paralysis of my arm and hand in 2016 to get my attention and into an MRI machine that showed lesions in my brain and spine. Thankfully, by the Grace of God, function has returned to my arm and hand, and I have been stable on medication since that time.
But I never know what tomorrow brings. And that is where the strength comes in. It is terrifying having Multiple Sclerosis. So I lean on God for all my strength, joy, hope, and peace. And because of that, I THRIVE. The photo in this meme is me at 17 years old when I was vacationing in Pompano Beach, Florida in 1984. For me it captures the determination I feel to face all the challenges in my life going forward.
One of my favorite PBS shows is called Growing Bolder.
It is “a team of award-winning journalists, broadcasters and creatives all focused on sharing the inspirational stories of ordinary people living extraordinary lives – men and women who are redefining the possibilities of life after 50.”
When I turned 50, I decided to stop coloring my hair. I had been covering white and silver hair since my late twenties. Stopping was the best decision I ever made. I only wish I’d done it sooner.
Ageism is alive and well in our society, so going natural feels like a rebellious act. And that fits me perfectly.
“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde
This is one of my favorite quotes because it delivers a very important truth. If you want to live a peaceful, joyful, and powerful life, you must embrace your authentic self.
What is your authentic self, you ask? It is simply who you were created to be in this world.
The process of discovering your authentic self is not so simple. This is because most of us have been influenced by our families, schools, and communities since a very early age. As we grow up, there are pressures to fit in. We receive strong signals that it’s not okay to be ourselves.
So over the years, we become someone that makes others happy, while we ourselves feel empty and lost. We feel like we’re faking it all.
If you do decide to embark on a journey of self-discovery, know that it will take work. But as the saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy.
Once you discover your authentic self, you begin to see that what makes you unique in this world is where your value lies.
My crisis started the first week of August in 2016. Within a few days’ time, I lost function in my left hand and forearm. Just like that. No warning. Boom. All the things I took for granted and did on a daily basis, I could no longer do. I couldn’t type, hold a plate, wash my hair, tie my shoes, open a jar, hold the steering wheel. It was terrifying. The medical appointments and MRIs that followed were equally terrifying. By the end of the month, I had a diagnosis. Multiple Sclerosis.
I spent the month of August in constant prayer, seeking God for strength and courage. I can honestly tell you that by the time I received the diagnosis, I accepted it gracefully. Was I extremely sad and scared? Absolutely. But I accepted the results because I knew by Faith that nothing just happens. That this was God’s will for my life.
Since that time, I have regained 100% function in my left hand and forearm. I still have the tingling sensation, but that is a minor inconvenience. The first gift I received from this crisis is that I no longer take my body for granted. Typing this post right now with both hands is such a blessing to me. Given there is no cure for MS and that it is a progressive disease, there is no telling what parts of my body will be affected and when.
Which brings me to the second gift of this crisis. If you do research on MS you quickly find out that it’s all a big mystery. They don’t know what causes it, they don’t know exactly why the medications help, and everyone experiences the disease differently. So basically, you are forced to accept the fact (that we humans try so hard to ignore) that life is unpredictable. You are forced to take life one day at a time, to pace yourself, to set priorities, and be adaptive. And this has brought great clarity and focus to my life.
The third gift of this crisis is that it strengthened my relationships with my husband, family, and friends. I found out on a much deeper level how much people loved me, valued me, and cared about me. I tend to be the strong one in a group, always taking care of others. It was very healing for me to be vulnerable and allow others to take care of me. I was surprised by people’s compassion and experienced incredibly sweet moments with my loved ones.
The last and most important gift of this crisis is that it has brought me closer to God. I know with 100% certainty that I could not live with Multiple Sclerosis without Him in my life. He gives me the strength, peace, joy, and courage I need to move forward in my life. And for that, I am eternally grateful. I leave you with a Bible verse that has been on my desk since the day of my diagnosis. “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear. I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13