Multiple Sclerosis Requires a New Path For Coping

One October afternoon during my first year of teaching seventh grade, it happened. I could not stand; I could not feel my legs.

I was 22 years old when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. As my MS progressed, I met each physical loss by adapting to it. When I turned 40, I began using a cane. When my legs weakened, even more, I adjusted by using a walker and later an electric cart. Today I also use hand controls to drive my wheelchair van.

Despite these setbacks, I continued to lead a fulfilling career. I taught for many more years, finished my masters in music and started my congregation's Communications Office. Today I've found a very fulfilling calling as a counselor for people living with a chronic disease. I write articles, blogs and essays related to adjusting and overcoming these challenges. Most of all, I listen to and support those who need someone to claim their fears or share their stories. I've replied to dozens of phone calls and emails from those who've read my articles in various publications. My responses have one purpose: to soothe people's anxiety and help them look for a "new normal".

My own doctor refers to newly-diagnosed multiple sclerosis patients to me for advice and support. I encourage them to talk with their health care professional before they try any health protocol; I suggest creative ways of coping with physical losses; I offer spiritual wisdom and insight when I can. My credibility arises from the fact that "I am one of them", and I speak from the experience of living with my own disease. All I can do is share my own path for coping...through prayer, family, good friends and becoming involved in the world, looking outside and beyond myself.

From the smallest infant diagnosed with a brain tumor to a child facing leukemia, from young mothers suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer to our aging seniors-all age groups in our society face losses. For many, seeking and finding God in the midst of pain and loss is a challenge. I am honored to walk with them-even in some small way, on that journey.