This week, I have renewed hope for my life with MS. That statement is much more profound than it may appear. I have been in Vail, Colorado attending the CAN DO MS Program. This program, run by CAN DO MS (formerly known as the Jimmie Heuga Center), is geared to help people with multiple sclerosis "Discover the Power to be More than your MS." At this point, I am inclined to agree with this tagline.
Before I continue, I have to say that I have always resisted referring to it as, "MY MS." That phrasing makes it seem as if I'm possessive of the disease, and to my mind, indicates that I define myself by this uninvited, unwelcome , despised disease. I don't want to identify too closely with MS. I already was much more than MS, even though at times, it did feel as though I had been taken over, even 'possessed,' if you will, by MS. But the inescapable truth is, the disease challenges a person's self-image and self-esteem, to such an extent that it's easy to forget your personality outside MS. The CAN DO MS Program is designed to provide assistance in getting that essential selfhood back.
The program in which my husband and I have spent the past 5 days, and which will conclude tomorrow morning, has taught me:
- things I didn't know (muscle stiffness in my ankles has contributed to my worsening gait) ,
- confirmed things that I suspected (it's okay to resist "accepting" a diagnosis of and life restricted by MS, but wise to ADAPT to the challenges wrought by MS), and
- broadened my knowledge of how to combat the continuous, insidious ways in which MS wreaks havoc on a young person's life.
The effects of this program have been profound, and I believe that, with time, will show themselves in even more ways than I have yet imagined. Once we get home and my spouse and I begin to make changes and implement ideas to make life better, I'm certain that this intense, focused period will yield even more benefits, to me, to my husband, and to my entire circle of family, friends, and co-workers . For that reason, I will not attempt to adequately document the value of these past 5 days in one or two entries here. That would be an injustice to the commitment and deep knowledge imparted by a very long list of highly trained professionals who made these days possible.
For now, I invite you to learn more about the program by visiting the website of this organization (http://www.mscando.org) and searching for information about Jimmie Heuga, a remarkable world-class athlete, whose contributions to the well-being of people with MS have been tremendous. There have been many heart-warming stories created this week, and many more to come, and I intend to share a few of them with you.