I was diagnosed with Relapse and Remitting Multiple Sclerosis nine years ago today. I thought about what I wanted to write to honour today and the following letter to my multiple sclerosis is what came out. I hope you enjoy it. I published this letter on Two Steps at a Time, my blog where I write about having multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. I thought it was good enough to share here, too.
Dear Max Shadow,
It’s hard to believe that you are nine years old today.
I still remember the first time that I met you. The moment of your birth came a day before my birthday. I didn’t have any presents to give you, but I knew that something was arriving that day. I just had no idea of what would be happening to me that day.
Except that’s not true, is it? I knew what was coming, but hearing it said out loud, having the doctor name you, well no one can prepare for that. I told myself that I was okay, and I was and wasn’t at the same time. The doctor was very gentle as he handed you to me. I looked down at the clipboard showing the test results and knew only a subtle kind of peace.
You had me convinced that I was crazy, that the lack of control over my body could be all kinds of things and when the doctor named you, I knew blessed relief. I was not crazy; I was not losing my mind. What was wrong with me had a medical name, even though what you did to my body could change in an instant, depending on your mood.
Quite often, you tried to speak through me, twisting my mouth so that I had difficulty speaking. Sometimes, if you felt like it and you often did, you would increase the pain levels within my body so that everything felt as if it were on fire. You would take away my sight so that everything was blurry or out of focus and no matter how many times I rubbed my eyes, the blindness would stay until you let it fade until everything became clear again.
For months, I lost myself in the forest, unable to see past what was happening to my body and what you were doing to it. When the doctor named you, I cried, but there was joy within them, the salt contained in my tears cleansing me as they flowed through my body and fell from my eyes. The salt burned away a large part of the forest, the salt in my tears chasing away the dark shadows that had surrounded me for so long.
You never intended to help me, you were only interested in taking from me, like all the bullies that I have known throughout my life. So, I did the only thing I could think of doing: I chose to stand up to you. I chose to fight against what you were trying to do to my body. You had taken away most of my control, but I did whatever I could to control what I could. You took my memories from me, so I made new ones. You were unkind to me, so I showed the world kindness. You took my balance away, so I found a new way to work with my body. You made people look at me with pity, so I learned to love myself. You took away the direction I was going in life, so I chose a new one. You had filled my world with sadness, so I chose to look at the world with joy.
I also gave you a name of my own. The doctor had called you Multiple Sclerosis, but I chose a different name for you since I knew you so well, so intimately. I chose to call you Max Shadow. You liked to hide within me and rarely came into the light, letting me do all the work. I believe in a lesson I learned from one of my favourite book: fear of a name only increases the fear itself. With a name given to you, I no longer feared you.
I know that I’m a better person now than I was nine years ago. You taught me how to be truly grateful for everything I have in life and how to be thankful for every moment, every simple gift and small joy that came my way. My life may have taken a direction I could never have foreseen when I met you, but I am so thankful and grateful for you, Max. I am thankful for you because I have the life that I do now and I’m grateful because had I never met you, I have no idea where I would have ended up.
I’m not going to say that everything happens for a reason. I really hate that phrase. There is no reason for the suffering that I went through because of you. However, without you I would not have grown into the person that I am now. Without you Max, I would not have learned to overcome or to thrive instead of just survive.
For your birthday, I am giving you my thanks because of what you have taught me. I hope that is enough. For myself, I turned this day into a celebration so that I can remember what you took from me and how I have thrived because of you.