Monday, April 22, 2013

Rewriting Your MS History


If you could go back in time and change whether or not you got multiple sclerosis, would you? I imagine if I asked this to a crowd of those with this disease, a riot of “duhs” would rain down. Who in their right mind would want MS? That person must have a brain smaller than a walnut. Clearly a cashew-sized brain or one not quite the girth of a beer nut. (Incidentally, a beer nut technically is neither made of beer nor nuts—peanuts are legumes—and is an outrageous bit of misleading advertising, especially to a teenager looking to catch a legal and cheap protein-laden buzz.) But the answer, as you’ll read, isn’t so clear cut.

Scientists are not sure how multiple sclerosis manifests itself, but there are clues, like where you lived in your early to mid teens. Those residing in latitudes farther away from the equator are significantly more likely to get diagnosed with MS than those living closer. Is it because of less sun exposure, less Vitamin D? Perhaps. How would your life be different if your family was uprooted and forced to move to a sunnier, warmer location? For some of us, those were the years where our strongest lifelong friendships were forged. There would be no snow forts to defend, or cold Halloween nights to bemoan your licorice haul, or basement slumber parties in the dead of winter where the friend wearing footy PJs was the envy of all. Would you trade away all of those friendships and all of those memories? Maybe.
Researchers also speculate that the Epstein-Barr virus could be a contributing culprit. Like many others with MS, I got EBV/mono when I was in high school. (And from a girlfriend, no less, who I wasn’t that fond of to begin with, sigh.) So maybe my rewritten past would mean a mono-free senior year. Brilliant! I wouldn’t have missed a month of school, my grades wouldn’t have nose dived, and I wouldn’t have had to settle on my third-choice college. But I also wouldn’t have gotten that job at The Washington Times, I wouldn’t have had the afternoons off to wander into a random greeting card store… and I wouldn’t have met my wife. Give me MS a million times over; I wouldn’t want to revise those parts. Not to mention I obviously wouldn’t have started ActiveMSers … and then where would you go to find nonsensical rants about beer nuts?

It’s funny how life works out. And you know I don’t mean ha-ha-milk-out-the-nose funny (or for those of you on a dairy-free diet, soy-milk-out-the-nose funny). We can’t change our past, which is probably just as well. But our future? We can still mold that. I just wish I was a touch better with a potter’s wheel.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Haha! And if I didn't have MS I might have gone on to marry an a*hole! (He broke up with me after I was diagnosed). I had 'love goggles' on and didn't see how nasty he could be!
Phew! That's the best MS has brought me - saved me from a horrible guy.
I

Dave Bexfield said...

Another wonderful advantage of getting this disease. It ferrets out the weasels! Hope your next pair of love goggles matches your glasses prescription.

gimp paul said...

No, I would not change a thing (including MS). It all goes into a pot and gets stirred and that is our life. Kinda like a wonderful, rich and awesome tasting gumbo

Dave Bexfield said...

gimp paul, I cross-posted your comment to Facebook and Twitter. Perfectly said... and yummy!

gimp paul said...

Dave I don't know how my name came up as gimp Paul. I usually go by fat Paul or Jeff. I have more names than a New Yorker in Rio Rancho.

life well Lived said...

I love your "milk out the nose funny" definition of funny. My friends and I differentiate between "Funny haha" and "Funny Hmmmmm."

As for would I change my having MS, I would in a half a second. I'd probably be faster, but the darn MS slows my response time for such difficult decisions. In all seriousness, I look at a lot of the physical issues I've dealt with in the past like ripping ligaments playing soccer or having testicular torsion as mere training for how to deal with the pains of MS. I view a lot of my mistakes in the same light now that I make many many more. I view experiences from both categories in a different light in terms of the tolerance I've developed for accepting less than optimal outcomes.

This doesn't mean I would chose to play this great game of life with a mental hand tied behind my back handicap. Unless this MS is preparing for something else to come, I'd just assume pass. None of this keeps me from appreciating the benefits MS has given me in terms of empathy with my medically fragile kids or the sense of needing to fill each day and appreciate the things I have and can do. No, I'm not saying MS has given me nothing worth noting. I would like to think what it has given me, I was already on route to possessing.

Dave Bexfield said...

LWL, I see your point, but I may not have been completely clear. I think all of us would remove MS from our pasts if everything else stayed constant. My point was not that MS has changed me as a person (I'm sure it has, it changes all of us), or how my life has changed since being diagnosed, but that if you go back in time and take away the very roots of your MS, your entire past might be erased, too.

Let's say it all came down to where you lived when you were 13. Say you grew up in Arizona rather than on the East Coast. (The anti-MS time machine had your parents decide on a move west on your 13th birthday.) Would you rewrite everything after age 13 to rid yourself of this disease? Your adopted kids would not have you as a wonderful dad. You would have never met your amazing wife. You would have gone to different schools, had different friends, everything.

It's a huge tradeoff. And most of us would never make such a pact....

Anonymous said...

I hit all the factors, living in the wrong place, had the virus, but one of the pros out the MS nightmare, I have found out just what determination and stubbornness can make you do. I have done things I shouldn't be able to and it has taught me determination will make you get up each day and make the most of it instead of being sucked into the MS downspin and letting it win.
Humor makes dealing with all of the downsides much easier. I have learned to laugh off recovering for near falls as practicing for surfing. Don't let it define you and don't ever lose the sense of humor. Thx Dave for once again reminding of the brighter side of things. your are an inspiration.

Niko said...

Obviously if I could change some things to not have gotten MS, I would have. But at the same time, I'm not sure I would have been able to become the person I am today, whom I love, and though my plans for the future have changed, I am going on to doing EXACTLY what I want to do, all thanks to the changes I've made in my life since my diagnosis. :)

Dave Bexfield said...

Niko and Anon, it is interesting how MS can change us, often for the better... Heck, what if that bus that *just* missed the MS you (walking slowly into the street), plowed into the fully healthy you and put you into an early grave as you got out into traffic a wee too fast. Dramatic and cliche, but you never know. And why are folks always randomly killed by a bus? Oh, life's mysteries.