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.