For the Love of MS

Guest post by: Devin Meireles

It was the winter of 2012 when my girlfriend and I got ready for a new horizon upon us. It would be our last Christmas residing with our parents before moving out on our own. In the next month, we were taking a big step in our lives together–home ownership. It took four years of saving and preparation for our pre-construction condo, but we weren’t ready for the curveball that was flung in our direction.

Within a month of getting our keys, she was not quite herself. Feeling off-colour like a pair of worn-out jeans. All of a sudden, there was limited sensation at her feet and it was steadily rising up to her waistline, as if her legs were constantly tingling. Similar to how a limb falls asleep when pinched with too much pressure. It was concerning to say the least, but we initially brushed it aside. In my pragmatic conviction, I chalked it up as cold feet, presuming that she had reservations. My mind came up with a multitude of assumptions, only the worst kinds. Knowing her to be skittish, I began to question everything we had worked for. How insensitive I was! After a week of the continuous symptoms, her concern grew.

When she was admitted to the Emergency Department, I grasped how serious the situation was. I was stupefied while my conscience was guilt-ridden. There was nothing I could do. When visiting hours ended, I went to our empty condo to weep and pray that it would work itself out. I’m not religious, but it’s interesting how tough times may call for a prayer. My sobbing reverberated off the walls as if the unit was an echo chamber. I had to keep strong for her, I reminded myself, holding her hand while maintaining my self-composure.

Doctors ran a bunch of tests as if she was an experimental subject. Phlebotomists drew blood a handful of times. A series of medical imaging appointments had her pass through the CT scan and MRI. Worst of all was the lumbar puncture that was attempted twice. A group of residents were unsuccessful the first time. The pain she experienced was unbearable as they missed their target like some lousy dart players. She had to return to have it done correctly, lining up as they took aim again. A discharge date couldn’t come soon enough. She remained in the hospital for a week and left with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

What was supposed to be a happy milestone for us was overcast with this devastating news. Life seems to have a knack for testing us at the most inopportune moments, doesn’t it? Luckily, her sensation came back and she was swiftly put on medication to manage the potential of another MS attack. An injectable has been the most effective way to manage her condition day by day, complemented with mindfulness, and a healthy lifestyle. The silver lining was that she caught her ailment early on, otherwise things could have panned out much differently.

It’s been nearly a decade now and in that time we have achieved many tremendous feats, including adopting a dog, getting married, going on memorable vacations, and upgrading to a house. Most of all, her health has been good with some small lesions accumulating over the years. The annual MRI check is always nerve-racking, but luckily things have been manageable. Admittedly, it’s not always easy, but she has been brave and resilient through it all. Some days are harder than others, but there’s always something to be thankful for.

My wife has shown me the true meaning of unconditional love. You don’t quit on the ones you care about. There have been moments when she stood by my side and talked me off the ledge too. In sickness and in health, we support each other no matter what. As long as we are together, we can conquer any obstacle in our path. That’s how we have made it up until now. That’s how we have created a wonderful life that I am eternally grateful for.

Multiple sclerosis has not slowed her down. It’s a constant in our lives, but something we keep at bay and do our damndest to stay in control of. Some mornings present themselves like a coin toss; she may be feeling anything from extreme fatigue to tingling, to an adverse effect. Uncertainty can be a real kick in the teeth. Even her medication has some unpredictability attached to it. Any given injection could be a menace towards a good start to the day. That could mean that I need to support her more than usual, whether that be cooking, cleaning, or simply running errands. My productivity sometimes depends on her capacity, but in any event, she still works harder than ever.

Her devotion to her passions have been a real inspiration to me. I have seen her manage a full-time job while building her own start-up at the same time. She has long been enthusiastic about event planning and she’s a natural host. Weddings have been a howling success and the momentum continues to build. She even hosted a gala dinner in support of the MS Society of Canada. It was an eloquent extravaganza that raised thousands of dollars. I’ve helped along the way, but she is a real superstar at that stuff.

Now, with a reputation as an elite event planner, you can only imagine what Christmas looks like at our house! A delicious spread of treats and well-organized dinner is prepared for the family. Walls and exterior get decked with holiday decorations and lights. The tree takes the spotlight of the living space as the centre of attention. Everything gets dressed in classic white, just as the snow outside. Moonshine gets passed around as with tradition, and we indulge in the joy of another year together.

While it was the season in which despondency befell us in 2012, we don’t think of it like that. My wife certainly doesn’t. For it is not her illness that defines her, but her strength and courage. Her positive attitude was the catalyst to overcome and prepared her for greater challenges. That energy has been incentivizing for myself and she inspires me every day. Multiple sclerosis may have tripped her up, but she didn’t fall, and even if she does, I will be right there to catch her.

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