Monday, February 2, 2009

Victim Of A Disease

by Donna L. Watkins

The book, Lifting a Life Above Illness - Blindsided - A Reluctant Memoir, by Richard M. Cohen, is the story of a young man's journey with multiple sclerosis (MS).

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Morningside Living History Farm - Jersey Cow
I could very much relate to this autoimmune disease since I've dealt with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for a couple of decades. Illness takes away our identities in a sense and forces us to adapt and become who we need to be. All in all in actuality we become victims of a disease.

Cohen writes, "My life with MS has now been under way for more than sixteen years. Coping with multiple sclerosis by now had become the long march, surviving and trying to shield the important people in my life from having to deal with it any more than necessary. Managing illness was routine, a day-to-day affair. Exacerbations were more challenging than they were upsetting. MS patients learn to wait patiently for trouble, recognizing inevitability but in no hurry to suffer."

As the disease progressed, Richard had to give up pieces of his lifestyle. Things he could no longer do. I look back and see so much of that .. and am even more aware of what I cannot do, simply because I am now able to do some of those things again. Getting out of denial helps to move one forward when it's time.

However, I saw so much of myself in Richard's book when he went hiking in the mountains at a time with the disease that wisdom would've said not to. He says, "My illness, so long centered in my eyes, was moving firmly south to my legs. More would follow. My calm felt different from numbness. I felt. I accepted. [This] incident gave evidence to the sad fact that hiking across any rough terrain .... should be and would be out of the question. And there was little but tough climbing before me in my life. My mission, as always, had been to prove that I was fit and right as rain, that I could still do things with the best of them. I could not pull it off, however, and the time to learn that lesson was as high in the sky as the desert sun."

I look back at how hard I tried to keep life normal, although normal became whatever the lifestyle was that fit with the progression of the disease. The switch from the retail store to the internet business and working at home. When kitchen work was no longer bearable, I claimed to need a new season of life after having spent so much of mine in the kitchen.

My lifeboat and life vest was my husband, Randal, who flowed with the ever-changing routines like it was just a bend in the river of life. Always willing to help and assist, although rarely were his offers accepted. Anybody with such health challenges knows that the coping is a family event. Each member is also a victim of the disease in some form or fashion, especially a spouse and children within the same household.

After Cohen's neurologist announced him in deep denial, he shouted back, "I deny that," saying, "the weak attempt at humor obscured my flash of anger that this man would so dismissively deconstruct my carefully choreographed defense against the psychological ravages of MS. Of course, the neurologist was correct about my denial. But he did not understand its evolution. I was selectively ignoring limitations. I knew what I was up against. My life was changing. I wanted to keep up with the change in my body by fighting the word no."

I am grateful that this body of mine is working hard to leave the symptoms of RA as a memory. More than that I relish the wonder of the glory of God in my life and His grace to have walked this path. Our days on earth are a drop in the bucket compared to eternity, but we do them them moment by moment and some moments are agonizing for many - emotionally and physically. My heart is with those called "the sick" not only for the disease they carry within their bodies, but for the acceptance of it.

I was blessed to have a doctor for a friend when I lived in Alabama and was diagnosed with the disease. She knew I had no interest in medical treatment since I'd lived a natural health lifestyle for more than a decade before knowing I had RA. I would not consider swapping one disease for a list of side-effects that would require yet more drugs.

My mantra now as I do my rebound exercise daily to keep my energy high and the rebuilding moving along, is Psalm 91. Memorizing Truth is key to keeping your mind filled with it.

Related Article: The Good and Bad of Denial

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