Tuesday, September 27, 2016

No Regrets, Disability Be Damned

One of my life’s mantras is No Regrets. Sure, it’s cliché, but I never wanted to look back on missed opportunities and wonder What If. But when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, that mantra collided with an incurable disease and it made me pause. Maybe I should take a pass more often for my health. Maybe I should live more conservatively. Maybe I should take fewer risks. So in that first year, when the enormity of coping with MS mentally was at its crescendo, I did. And I passed up a once-in-a-lifetime experience that haunts me to this day.

Now I could point to the missed opportunity to ride horses with Laura on a Mexican beach that year … when I was certain the headline in the following day’s paper was going to read Founder of ActiveMSers Dies in Freak Horse Accident. Or I could point to the missed opportunity that year to try surfing for the first time (similarly, Founder of ActiveMSers Perishes in Freak Surfing Accident). At the time, freak accidents seemed almost a given if I strayed from the safety of curling into a ball feeling sorry for myself. But no, these regrets pale to what happened in Las Vegas on November 1, 2006.

The location: SEMA, the invitation-only, over-the-top aftermarket car show that the Fast and the Furious movie franchise was essentially built around. The scene: the high-performance drifting track hazy with tire smoke and an unfortunate engine fire. The situation: As editor-in-chief of a Nissan magazine, I was being introduced to owners of souped up sports cars. But one owner had his own personal tractor beam and fan base: supermodel Tyson Beckford, at the time Ralph Lauren’s leading man.

I’ll admit my man crush was instantaneous. I remember the moment—the clothes, the handshake, the frighteningly good looks, piercing eyes, and epic jaw—as though it had happened yesterday. We talked cars. We talked drifting. I admired his modified 350Z. Tyson then handed me a small leather box (and I can say Tyson because by then we were basically on a first-name basis, at least in my head). Inside, on a bed of felt, was a gold access card. He had just invited me to his exclusive private party that he was hosting that night. Me.

How could I possibly go to a party that started well after my bedtime? How could I possibly go to such a party when I exuded about as much coolness as a pair of used lime-green Crocs. How? But there was a bigger problem, or so I thought: I had multiple sclerosis. I was disabled. I should play it safe, get my eight hours of sleep, and floss to prevent tooth decay.

So I never showed up.

Tyson Beckford. Photo by Jesse Gross.
More than two thirds of those diagnosed with MS are women, and I would hope right now that all of you are yelling at your computer screen calling me an idiot. For that matter, the guys, too. You all would be right. That party, I imagine, would have been epic, like the Hangover without the drunk wedding, naked Chinese dude, and Mike Tyson. Check that, Mike might have been there. And there might have been a tiger in the bathroom. The point is, I’ll never know.

There’s a valuable lesson here. No matter what your disability, don’t let it rule your life. Don’t let it dictate your every move. Don’t just play it safe. If you do, some of life’s most priceless moments will pass by like the sun fading into the horizon. Or a Tyson Beckford rager. From that day on I resurrected my mantra—No Regrets, MS be damned. And I haven’t regretted it since.

11 comments:

My Odd Sock said...

Wow, quite a story!
Man, you are right...sometimes we have to say "Smh" to MS & go for it.
Who knows, at the party Tyson could of had an accident & been unable to do a photo shoot the next day...Dave Bexfield steps in as a replacement to become the next Ralph Lauren model.
Stranger things have happened.

Great story!

Dave Bexfield said...

MOS, that would have been beyond strange given my looks. But now that you mention it, perhaps that night could have been the catalyst to launch a line of clothing designed for the disabled. Or I could have been munched by a tiger. Founder of ActiveMSers Tragically Eaten By Tiger, Followers Bummed.

Mouse said...

Oh man!
Perfect timing, thanks for the arse-kicking.
I just got back from a trail run during which my left foot kept falling asleep. I tripped over it, went head first down a rocky slope & left half of my skin behind.
During the 4 mile hobble home, that insidious MS voice kept whining away at me that it was my own fault, and I shouldn't be doing 'normal people things' with my condition. Ir almost convinced me that I should be on the sofa in front of the Idiots' Lantern for the rest of my finite time on this planet.
I read this just in time. Thankies muchly, Dave!
And MS, you can STFU.

Dave Bexfield said...

Mouse, when folks say "leave it all out there," I'm pretty sure they didn't mean skin. Sorry about your scrapes, but remember they are just flesh wounds. Onward!

Michele Corneglio said...

Dave,
I was just thinking about Friday night this week...I am going to be so dead tired, but I desperately want to go to the Football game to see my nephew play in his Homecoming game AND I need to be awake to go to the airport about the time that game ends. How am I going to do both?!?! I was considering how to tell my nephew I can't go to his game. And then I was thinking how can I tell Mark he should take a taxi home from the airport... Oy! None of that is acceptable! What have I got going on Saturday? Nada! So, I'm going to live it up Friday night!

I know that my Friday isn't going to be anything like your missed party was, but the exhausted part of the night will be similar. You sure know how and when to give me a good swift kick in the pants!

Dave Bexfield said...

Michele, the weather Friday will be cool. The game won't run late. Your nephew will win. You'll have fun. Glad to wear the boot!

Funnybutnotfunny said...

This article rocks~~!!!! I just made a "MS be damned" decision a couple of days ago. A friend of mine has been inviting my husband and I to his comedy shows for the past two years. Another invite showed up a few days ago. I scourged through the list of reasons why I shouldn't go including getting enough sleep and having to drive an hour in traffic to and from work every day. I went for it and booked the tickets. I'm still having reservations about it, but I'm forcing myself to work through it.

We will go tonight. I'll probably be tired, but maybe I won't be. If I am tired, I'm not going to die. I'm not going to die if I'm tired tomorrow due to not getting enough sleep. Millions of people don't get enough sleep and they don't die either. Granted, their fatigue is not the same as the fatigue that we have, but it's there even if I do get enough sleep.

So am I gonna just let life pass me by? No. I've been doing that for six years. Not gonna fly anymore. I'm gonna live. I'm gonna do all of the things that I've been saying no to. Thanks for this article. It's such a confirmation and very timely!

Dave Bexfield said...

Way to go, FBNF! Hope you laugh so hard tonight that you roll on the floor. Just don't hurt yourself going down and end up in the ER. Trust me on that one. :)

Hebe Yellow said...

I'm with you on the 'instinct' side of - just don't go! Sometimes better to keep energies for a party where you will be with people you love rather than just another invite and mingling. I would rather go to a party with people I love and know and then be 'cream crackered' for weeks, than go to a party just because it is there and still be 'cream crackered' for weeks. A bit boring I know but we have to choose carefully and save our wild emotions for something that is guaranteed - bouldering near the sea, a cliff walk, doing something really daft! Going swimming in the sea with your sticks and lots of surprised jellyfish!!

Dave Bexfield said...

Hebe, I always wanna do it all! Especially daft things. :)

Jason Hayes said...

I am so happy I stumbled across your blog. I have a friend who has Multiple Sclerosis and he does his best to stay as active as possible- or as active as MS lets him! I love the message that you are putting out and can relate to trying to take in all the moments you can. I bet he would love this!

Jason Hayes @ Decorm