Multiple Sclerosis. Two words that changed my life forever.
When I learned I had relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis four years ago, it was the scariest moment of my life. I was only 26 years old, I had just become a father and I thought my whole life was in front of me – but there I was, being told I had an incurable and often debilitating illness. I had so many emotions and so many questions, and, frankly, I was terrified of the unknown.
Today is World MS Day, and I’m proud to say I’m doing okay. I certainly learned a lot since my diagnosis, and I am thankful to have been welcomed by this inspiring community where I can now pay it forward through my work on the You Don’t Know Jack About MS campaign, in partnership with Teva Pharmaceuticals. As I reflect back, there’s a lot I want to share about my experience to hopefully help others.
After I was diagnosed, I turned to my family first, and then to the Internet. I tried to gather as much information as I possibly could on what MS is, how it manifests and what that would mean for me. I was overwhelmed, and it was a lot to process and digest. My family was an incredible support system for me, helping me understand and wrap my head around the disease, and to them I am forever grateful.
Whether you’re living with MS or not, the most important thing to realize is that knowledge is power. In my eyes, the more people who know what MS really is, the better. People with MS can live normal or near-normal lives. By simply understanding more about this disease and spreading the word, you can be a great advocate for yourself and others.
Looking forward, I would like to remove the stigma associated with the disease that has prevented so many people from pursuing their dreams. Unfortunately, it’s still very common for people who are suffering with MS to keep it very secretive. Especially in their place of work. It’s days like today that can help change all of that – share your story and let’s band together to encourage one another to keep after our dreams.
In my eyes, World MS Day is just as much about our family and friends as it is about everyone living with MS. It’s not just individuals who can suffer. My wife and kids are my reason for wanting to endure whatever this disease throws at me. They are with me through thick and thin, and vice versa. So many caregivers and family members make such a selfless sacrifice in order to help make a life possible for many people living with MS. They are the heroes to me, in this battle. So to all my family and friends who had supported me and been there for me, I’d like to say thank you, I love you. This day is for you as well.
I will never say that I am thankful for MS, but I will say that without MS, I don’t know if I would have made the necessary changes in my life that have changed me for the better. I believe that one day we will all celebrate a cure together, and what a day that will be.