Something happened the other day that caused me to take pause and reflect upon the last 9+ years since my MS diagnosis. The other day I received an email from one of my girlfriends. Since it seemed to be about a medical website I blew it off thinking it was something to do with her work. A day later I received another email so I read it more closely. It talked about her choosing Caring Bridge instead of another, less user-friendly platform. Knowing what Caring Bridge is, I gave her email my full attention although no details were present. Immediately I reached out to her to inquire about what was happening. To my shock, especially since we had all been together only 2 weeks ago and everything was fine, she stated she had been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and was beginning a 4-round series of oral chemo this week. If that is successful and she goes into remission, she will then have a stem cell transplant which will hopefully “buy her” 10-13 years. That’s not a very long life in my opinion. My heart was heavy as I thought about all her hopes and dreams that may not be given the opportunity to come to fruition.
As is only natural, when I hung up the telephone my thoughts turned to memories of our recent family vacation which have been shadowed by my father’s life-threatening decline in health. And I’m reminded of a weekend 10 years ago spent with my mother in celebration of her 70th birthday – everyone, to my recollection, was healthy then. Wandering around my house that afternoon, I reflected on all of my family photographs and what life was like at the time they were taken. So much has happened over the years. Lots of change; some good, some not so good.
Even when days seem to drag on, the years seemingly fly by faster and faster as I age. I’m told this is common which is personally poignant because lately I find it challenging to make the most of every minute, not wasting precious moments. To lift my father’s spirits, I created a collage of family photographs. It reveals celebrations, parties, jokes, and all the fun we have together. Hidden behind the photographs is the sadness of the people we’ve lost in addition to the pain, anguish, illness, surgeries, diagnoses, etc. that we’ve all experienced. Sometimes the older we get, the more daunting the future becomes.
This summer my MS has been somewhat of a nuisance; causing vestibular issues that are interfering with my daily life. Although I am not overly concerned with the immediacy of this issue, it does bring to mind the question, “How well will I be in another 10 years?” People with certain illnesses that are not chronic usually either experience remission, are healed, or pass away. It’s a bit more finite. My friend with multiple myeloma and other people like me with chronic diseases learn to live with their illnesses; making friends with the proverbial elephant in the room who never leaves. Regardless, everyone’s got something and life goes on until it doesn’t.
As I anticipate the next decade of my life I am filled with joy, excitement, and a touch of sadness and trepidation. There is so much potential and I am eager to see what happens. As my friends and I move toward and through the age of retirement and are exposed to greater loss and illness amongst our families and friends, I hope the most interesting years are still ahead of me. As I’m sliding down the hill of life I will no longer stand in the shadow of those before me; I am now coming into my own with increased confidence and am hopeful that I will remain well. My vision does leave the door ajar for the limitations of MS and aging although I’m hopeful those will be limited at best.
I guess that my reflection needs to include practicing what I preach; my ‘go to’ mantra of, “overcome adversity and recognize the gift.” Challenges force me to dig deep inside and discover how strong I really am. Over the years I’ve always landed on my feet regardless of the obstacle, and believe me, there have been many. I realize all of these are stepping stones to having become the person I am today and will become tomorrow. I’m always changing or evolving and that’s a good thing. Life definitely is a journey filled with lots of potholes as well as smooth pathways. Here’s hoping that my navigation skills continue to improve and that I don’t fall into too many potholes during my next 10 years.