To the Newly Diagnosed MS Warrior
To the Newly Diagnosed MS Warrior
(an open letter to the newly diagnosed)
Dear Newly-Diagnosed MS Warrior,
You have just gotten the news and you are in shock. You will go through a range of emotions over the next couple of days, weeks and months. You’ll feel broken and damaged, you’ll start listing your limitations and mourn the loss of dreams that will now have to go unrealised. You’ll mentally go through a list of family, friends and acquaintances and weigh up the pros and cons of letting them know about your new diagnosis; you want to let them know why you may not be available on a given date but you don’t want to see the pitying looks in the eyes of people whose opinions you value. You will experience all of these thought processes and probably much more.
I want to remind you that you are still the same person you were before you stepped into the doctor’s office to be ‘branded’ with a label: ‘Chronically Ill, Handle with Care’. You don’t want to be a victim and you don’t want to be pitied or molly-coddled. Let it be known that you are still you. Things may not always go according to plan and that’s ok. In life it never does anyway, whether you have MS or not. Feel free to be as open about MS with those around you as you want. There is no wrong or right way of dealing with MS as long as you continue to move forward, no matter how fast or slow. As long as you continue to put one metaphorical foot in front of the other, you’re doing great! MS is different for everyone so there are no comparisons to be made, no benchmarks, no right or wrong way.
You will find a strength and a courage you never knew you had. Yes, you’ll feel the loss of dreams of all you could have been but from the debris of these decimated dreams will sprout the seeds of innovation. This is your chance to throw off the yoke of the ordinary and enter the world of the extraordinary. From the ashes of your old self , a new you will be born…a little bit battle-weary and with chinks in your armour but you will survive, you will overcome the fears and you will move forward and embrace this new life because you are strong, because you are alive and because you are a fighter! You are a warrior!
You are going to have days when you feel like a pin cushion because you’ve had so many blood tests done, you’re going to have days when your taste-buds are numb to the taste of the cafeteria coffee because you’ve been at the hospital for so long, you’re going to have days when you hear so much medical jargon you’ll feel as though you are competent in the field of neurology…There are also going to be days you can’t get out of bed because you are too down to face the world or because MS has decided that today is a ‘rest day’, days where you can’t cope with being around people, days when you can’t string a sentence together or think clearly. There will be days when your legs won’t move the way they used to and you’ll look clumsy and unco-ordinated and times when your body lets you down so badly that your cheeks will burn with embarrassment at the mere thought of it. You’re going to get so frustrated and so angry that you just want to stamp your feet and throw a temper tantrum like a self-respecting toddler in the prime of his toddlerness. I say ‘DO IT!’ You have a right to all of these feelings and more. You have the right to mope (for a while!) and to feel sorry for yourself (for a while!). But then make those plans and live your life..because you are a warrior!
It’s not what you have in this life that defines your character but what you do with what you have. You have a choice to make. Multiple Sclerosis is a life sentence, not a death sentence! You still have air in your lungs and a spirit that is as strong as you will it to be. Your choice is to either lie down next to MS and become bed-fellows or you can choose to stand on the opposite end of the battlefield and wage the fiercest battle of your life. MS can take away many things that you once took for granted but it cannot take away the most important things. Hold onto those things and hold on tight because when the nights are dark and the days are long you will need to remind yourself of all that is good in your life. Your strength will become your talisman and a beacon of hope for others.
And when the dust settles and you have a little respite, when the calm does come over you again , because it will eventually, you will realise that you also have the right to be kind to yourself, the right to be gentle with yourself and the right to tend yourself. You will realise that you are not broken, merely altered and you’ll realise that you are a warrior, a fighter, a survivor. You’ll fight…not because you have to but because you want to! You will learn to stand up (sometimes metaphorically!), stare MS in the face and say “You may have taken over my body but you will NEVER have my spirit!”
Congratulations, you are officially a MS warrior.