If you haven’t read the first part of this two part series, go ahead and get caught up by reading Part 1.
To pick up where we left off before. . .
My husband had just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and we were both venturing into new and uncharted territory for the both of us. Neither of us knew anyone living with MS so we didn’t really have anyone to bounce ideas or questions off of. Therefore, I set out on a journey to learn as much as I could about not only his disease but also what steps we could take to manage it. Despite the fact that it wasn’t going to change it, I also wanted to know if there was any credible research on what caused his MS.
The funny thing about MS (okay, it’s not really humorous kind of funny) is that they still haven’t pinpointed its cause. While you’ll find content that will point to all sorts of different reasons or causes, most seem to be speculative, in my opinion. After doing my own research and talking to Dan’s neurologist about it, it seems that MS is just kind of. . .luck of the draw. I hate saying that but there’s really no credible information to support that any one thing or series of things can be pointed to as the source of why he has MS. And trust me when I tell you, we considered and asked about a lot of things. Was it where he grew up? Was it playing football all those years? Was it genetic or hereditary? Do we need to worry about “passing it on” to our son or future children? Is it a result of eating (or not eating) certain things as a child or as an adult? The list of questions went on and on. Well, in all fairness, I asked most of the questions. I believe my husband really only asked one question: “Can I still drink beer?”. Yeah. . .priorities. 😉
Like I said, the answers to those questions wouldn’t have changed anything in terms of the diagnosis. MS was here to stay and we just needed to figure out how to make it our new normal. But, I pressed on a little bit to get as much information as I could regarding how/why people get MS so that I could at least know and maybe make changes that could positively impact our son or any other children that we might have. I never got definitive answers to that question but it did impact the way we proceeded with making positive changes to our lives.
I’m partially writing this post (or this series) to provide a bit of insight into how/why we are adopting this lifestyle of embracing a more simplistic lifestyle and minimizing the extra “stuff” in our lives. I suppose I’m also writing it in support of anyone who might be in the beginning stages of their journey. When we were in the very beginning of learning about the diagnosis and how to make those first steps forward, there were people who came from all sides wanting to share information with us. Some have MS themselves (and we never knew it!) and some “knew people with MS”. Some had uplifting stories to share about their journeys with MS and some had stories or information that scared the shit out of us. I started noticing that it was the people who have MS (or a close loved one has MS) that were sharing the uplifting or encouraging stories. The ones that scared the shit out of us usually started with “My great aunt Edna’s cousin’s best friend’s sister-in-law’s neighbor’s church pastor’s wife, Bertha Jean, had MS and died from it”. No offense to anyone’s great aunt Edna or the church pastor’s wives out there but. . .most of these stories were riddled with misinformation and were just plain wrong to share with someone who had just begun their journey. Oh, and people don’t die from MS. . .just sayin’.
Here are a few things that we’ve learned and incorporated into our lives as a result of Dan’s diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis:
*Disclaimer – most of these things apply no matter what the diagnosis. I’m also not a doctor. Consult a doctor for medical advice.
- Most importantly, Do your research but don’t believe everything that you read on the matter. Educate yourself as much as you can but also build great relationships with your medical team. Lean on the professionals as a resource to answer your questions and help you identify other useful resources (support groups, studies, literature, etc.) which may be helpful.
- We don’t define ourselves by Dan’s diagnosis. Instead of allowing MS to become the front and center facet of our lives, we have opted to incorporate it into our lives along with everything else. Dan didn’t cease to be a father, husband, son, friend, colleague or neighbor when he learned he had MS. Therefore, we weren’t going to let MS change the way he interacted in any of those capacities.
- Luckily, Dan’s doctors all agree with that outlook. In fact, one of the most impactful things that I remember the neurologist saying about Dan’s diagnosis is that he has the vast majority of the control in the progression of his disease. To encourage a slower progression it’s going to require that he stay strong and take care of his body by eating right, minimizing stress, staying active and just generally living a healthy lifestyle. I have yet to learn of any case where that’s not advised for a person.
Since the doctor’s orders essentially included driving toward a healthier lifestyle, I set out to figure out how I could help my family to make iterative changes that would help us to drive toward that. While I won’t go in-depth during this post on each of these items, a large part of the reason we do these things. . .
raising chickens for eggs
growing a garden
being very selective about the ingredients we use in our food/recipes
eating in vs. eating out (as much as possible)
buying beef, chicken, and pork from sources we know & trust
buying organic when produce, meat, or milk needs to be purchased (at a minimum, items from the “Dirty Dozen” be purchased as organic)
eliminating chemicals from our household cleaning and personal products
is stemming from Dan’s diagnosis. I will share that each of these items has been iterative and are still very much in process. I am not 100% on all of these items yet. Some days I wish I were further on my goal to 100% implementation on all of the above items (and more!) but it’s not entirely realistic to completely change the way your family lives their lives overnight. Luckily, we’re in a position where we can make strides in some areas (like raising chickens for eggs or growing a garden) a bit quicker than others (like buying all of our meats from local sources or completely eliminating any chemicals from our household) and that gives me comfort on days where I am growing frustrated with myself or our progress.
So, how has MS changed our lives for the better? Well, that’s both a simple and a complex answer. Simple because his diagnosis introduced the motivation to make positive changes to our lifestyle and the way we provide for our family. I have yet to run into anyone who disagrees that feeding wholesome, real, organic (in some cases) food to my family is a bad thing. Will a lifetime of wholesome, real, organic food eliminate the risk of future illness or disease? Probably not. Will it help prevent some future health problems? Yes, I believe it will. It’s a complex answer because in order to get there, it requires time and patience. It entails learning a new way of doing things in some cases and patience with yourself that you won’t always have the answers right away. I’ll throw in the importance of grace, too. Giving yourself grace for the “mistakes” that you might have made previously simply because you didn’t know any better. For example, I used to slather all sorts of different creams and peels and masks all over my face in search of. . .well, I don’t know what I was searching for exactly. I look back now and I shudder at how many chemicals, preservatives, and just overall yucky things were in those items. I have to remember to give myself grace, though. I didn’t know any better. Now that I’ve researched and learned, I make different choices. I’m not saying the choices that I’m making now are right and the choices I’ve made in the past were wrong, I’m just saying that I may make different choices in the future. That’s all.
I also want to be clear that I am NOT judging anyone else for their choices. It has taken me FOUR YEARS to make progress on some of these goals and I’m still not there with everything. I’m sure there will likely be more goals added to the plan as I continue to learn and explore this new lifestyle, too. I never want to be one of those people that anyone else looks at and thinks that I don’t “get” what it’s like to be a beginner or trying to learn something. I am always learning something new and I am generally always a beginner at something.
Ultimately, what started out as something really difficult for us to digest has become the catalyst to a number of positive changes in our lives.
What about you? Have you had any experiences that you initially thought were going to be tough but ended up being a blessing in disguise?