Day 29 – After 15 years, unlikely thanks

Yesterday was a personal day of note on more than one level. Yes, it was a bittersweet day as I joined my husband in the final goodbye to his father, and we were thankful for much. For me, it was also an anniversary I don’t exactly celebrate. On July 30, 1997, I was given a final diagnosis. The preliminary diagnosis had come on June 3, so it wasn’t a surprise… but it was indeed a life changing moment. “Yes, Angie, you have multiple sclerosis.”

This statement has meant a number of things. I will be very honest: I was not thankful for MS, and that has not changed. Why would a person be thankful that her immune system had become misguided, attacking the wrong places? Through these fifteen years, though, there are certainly things I have come to appreciate.

MS itself may not join the thank you list, but here are five things that will make the cut.

Day 29: 5 things I’m thankful for: not MS, but…

1. nurses –  I may be a little biased with a mother who is an R.N. herself, but I am particularly thankful for Carma and Cheryl, the nurses in the neurology practice where I visit monthly for an infusion. These ladies always provide encouragement while skillfully assisting the doctors with their jobs. Just today, I was reminded by one how much there is to be thankful for here, as the MS didn’t used to have ANY medications that would help delay progression. Today, there are more than five.

2. doctors – I know that I am biased here, growing up in a house where Dr. Dad was a well-loved physician in our community. But today’s thanks is for the talented, caring neurologist I have come to appreciate since the day he first shared my diagnosis fifteen years ago. Dr. James Stevens is compassionate, well-learned and realistically encouraging. While I was in today, in fact, the good doctor let me know of a medication on the horizon that could be just as effective as my current regiment. And it doesn’t involve needles or monthly infusion trips.

needles – this is proof that one can be thankful without liking something. I do not like shots of any kind. Really, I don’t. So why am I thankful? Without hypodermic needles, medicines couldn’t be delivered directly into the bloodstream, and many other medical procedures simply couldn’t happen. All five of the MS medications I’ve taken require needles, and their effectiveness depends on this.

unplanned testimony – living what may have appeared to be a charmed life, facing MS and sharing this journey with others gives me a way to teach in ways I never anticipated. This is a type of “lesson” I never planned to file in my lesson plan binder, but I hope to follow the Lord’s path along this journey and be the “teacher” He wishes for me to be.

relationship growth – I’m still not thankful for MS and what it does to my body. I don’t like fatigue and weakness and loss of coordination… but I’m quite certain that the relationship between my husband and me is deeper and stronger than it would be if not for this adversity. We have both learned how to face limitation and smile; we’ve found how to laugh in the face of frustration. He has been forced to learn patience, I have needed to accept change, and these things have made us stronger. He loves me more with MS than he did before, and he’s become quite adept at offering tissues when I am overwhelmed all too easily. MS has taken some things, but it hasn’t removed ability to love – I love you, T.R.