In 1998, the strongest woman I’ve ever known received life-altering news: She had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, which is comprised of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Through MS, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissue and organs. This means that the system that is made to protect you also has the power to hurt you. Because this disease is predominantly invisible, it is rarely known or discussed.
In 1998, I was three years old, my sister four, my little brother was a newborn and my youngest brother hadn’t yet been conceived. My mother had three young children, a fairly new marriage, and the statistics warning that she would lose all of this and more. Thankfully, what was supposed to break my mother has only made her stronger and more powerful. In this experience, my mother didn’t only have to learn how to live this new life, but my family and I acquired new roommate named MS.
In the beginning, MS was a pain to live with. She stuck needles in my mother and made her carry an IV. She made my mother dizzy and unable to stand or adjust at times. MS made my mom have to explain to her young daughters that we can’t go on the Girl Scout trip because my her eyes weren’t working that day. Occasionally, MS will pull on my mother’s legs, dragging on the floor, begging her not to forget that she’s still there. MS likes to stay in the car when we go out, prominently displayed on the dashboard telling the world that my mother is allowed to park there. MS told my mom that her marriage would fail and her family would resent her. But, MS, you were so wrong.
MS made my mom unable to walk longer distances. However, it taught me to stand by and be patient. MS made my mom limp on bad days, but I learned to always be ready to help. MS made my sister and I step up and do the dishes at four and five years old (we didn’t do a good job). MS made me insightful that everyone has their own problems, and that just because they’re invisible doesn’t mean they don’t exist. MS taught me the value of helping out someone else just because you can.
While MS may have taught me many things, my mother taught me that nothing is too terrible that you can’t carry on your day as a selfless as she is. While battling MS, my mother has never placed herself before anyone, only offered her struggles up to God. MS taught me through experience, but my mother teaches me time and time again through example.