If I had to write this letter shortly after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), it would have had a much bleaker tone. I went from knowing little-to-nothing about MS to lying inside an MRI machine, waiting to learn what was causing those strange symptoms I had. Of course, I would later hear the words from the doctor confirming an MS diagnosis, and my life would change forever. That was terrifying at first – the thought of all the things that were about to change. I hadn’t known anyone who had MS, and before my diagnosis, I had never researched it either. I didn’t really have anything to relate to.
But I never felt alone. I had you by my side through my best times and my worst, my brightest moments and my darkest. I hated when MS made me feel my lowest, but you were there to help me push through. I remember after my diagnosis, when the reality of the situation was starting to sink in, I offered you an easy way out of our relationship. It didn’t seem fair to ask you to go through this with me; I didn’t even want to go through it.
Fast forward to now, I’m so amazed at how far we’ve come. The things we have been able to achieve keep me motivated. It took a lot of changes in our lives to get here: new medication, healthier diets, and focused exercise. But with each new step of the way, you took a step with me. We’ve learned to manage stress and how to communicate on a level that other couples strive for.
But I know it must take a toll on you to deal with the unexpected moments where MS shows its invisible side. The numbness and the pain, or the fatigue and the brain fog, come without warning and sometimes, I don’t notice it sneaking up on me. You still manage to take it all in stride. You were there for me when I pushed through work and other responsibilities as I experienced symptoms that my co-workers couldn’t see.
Fear can play such a huge factor when someone is first diagnosed, and it’s probably the hardest part to control and manage. I remember when I started using a cane for the first time shortly after my diagnosis – something anyone in their twenties would not be thrilled about. The fear of needing the cane was terrifying, but you helped me get through it. You gave me the power to get up and get my day started, even though I didn’t want to. Putting in the work to get to this point was the important part, and I hope every MS fighter has a Marc in their life to cheer them on too.
Now, we advocate for MS by being open about our journey and helping others who are newly diagnosed or living with the disease. I know that even the word ‘diagnosis’ can sound scary. I’m hoping that we can help take the fear and stigma away. I want to help encourage others to start making healthy choices and inspire them to sustain that lifestyle. I want a newly-diagnosed person to know that not every diagnosis is the same; you have to work with what you have, but the goal is to live a life that is fulfilling to you.
If I wrote this letter just after being diagnosed with MS, it would have been written from a dark place. To be happy in the place I am now makes me hopeful about what I may write in a letter twenty years into the future. I know that I would not be at this place without you, and I am thankful every day that I have someone as special as you!