Out Of The Closet, Finally

F. Theresa Gillard

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What my MS diagnosis did was broaden my ‘inquisitive excursions.’ It’s an integral part of my nature to seek answers. Like, when I was a pre-schooler and my mom wanted me to believe that a strange man in a red and white suit skipped around from house to house in a sleigh with flying reindeer leaving Christmas presents. For real?” F. Theresa Gilliard

Status: Quo Minus

By F. Theresa Gillard

What I don’t get is how everyone always blames everything on God.

What I don’t get is how everyone always blames everything on God.

Note: This column first ran back in 2010, which means F. Theresa Gillard has been living (in her own inimitable style) with Multiple Sclerosis for yet a further three years since first coming out of the closet with the disease. Without her support, Weekly Hubris would not continue to be, so I, her editor, take this opportunity to re-run her brave article of three years ago, and thank her, my former student, dear friend, and fellow Up-country South Carolinian, for all that she is and does.

BOSTON Massachusetts—(Weekly Hubris)—12/2/13—You know, I keep sitting around wondering where all the dead people are. Yeah, I know, they’re either in limbo, heaven or hell, right? I’m a believer, meaning I believe in one supreme, divine being.

What I don’t get is how everyone always blames everything on God. I know He’s all powerful and He could certainly prevent things from happening, but why blame it on Him when He doesn’t intercede?

I usually avoid religion and politics like the plague of locusts. Yet, I cannot help myself here. If there’s a hurricane that wipes out everything and everyone in its path, you’ll hear people saying we can’t explain why God does what He does. And, I’m thinking, um, is it just me? Because, from what I understand, a hurricane is a naturally occurring weather phenomenon and if we had not inhabited that particular area in the first place, the destruction would be victim-less.

As we’re all aware, we are all transients in this world. Based on biblical teachings, this worldly life is not what we should be treasuring. When we depart this existence, our so-called treasures, our stuff, will remain here.

I do get the reasoning. And, of course, there’s the book of Job. Yet, I still protest.

I have a sound basis for my protest: recently, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I admit that my first question was, why? But, I wasn’t asking God, because I didn’t and don’t blame God for MS; MS, this frustratingly vague disease that will likely lead to devastating results. There’s no rhyme or reason to MS. Really, are there any diseases, conditions, or illnesses that come with well-defined rhymes and reasons?

What my MS diagnosis did was broaden my “inquisitive excursions.” It’s an integral part of my nature to seek answers. Like, when I was a pre-schooler and my mom wanted me to believe that a strange man in a red and white suit skipped around from house to house in a sleigh with flying reindeer leaving Christmas presents. For real?

I questioned her mercilessly. I knew for a fact that there were little bad kids who got presents. Not to mention that there were many homes without chimneys. And, what about the poor and hungry good kids?

I found it much more believable that there was a God, because He seemed more real. He punished and rewarded. He was vengeful and had emotions. He had no problem wrath-ing here, there, and everywhere—destroying sinful cities and such.

The guy in the red suit was a different story altogether. One I refused to buy into. Now, here I am with this dreaded MS and I don’t have a choice. I’m in, hook, line and sinker. Whether I believe or not, my MS is real. My annual MRIs confirm this.

By now, you may be wondering how we got from death to my coming out of the closet with MS. Well, first and foremost, I’m quite crafty vis-à-vis the jumbling together of words and memes (case in point).

No, really, all of these phenomena—death, God, and MS—lend themselves more to questions than answers. The first two are easy to solve. All I have to do is die. Upon death, I’ll know where our souls reside and I’ll be able to ask God if He should be blamed for everything. Or not.

That still leaves MS. It’s a horribly frustrating disease that daily keeps me wondering about my moment-to-moment. My MS med is hell in and of itself. I inject daily. The injection, upon entry, and for approximately 20 to 30 minutes afterwards, feels like a hundred wasp stings. I’m nauseated on and off throughout the day, and my injection sites are golf-sized-hardened-itchy-painful maps of my treatment commitment. It just plain sucks. Hear that, God? This sucks!

Still, I know it could be so much worse. Even in this, I feel I am blessed to have MS—as crazy as that sounds.

My “MS blessing” started with weird sensations, mostly in my left arm. It felt numb, or that’s the best way I could describe it. I visited my primary care physician. He suggested an MRI of my brain. He told me it could be any number of conditions.

I’m not one to worry prematurely. So, I had the MRI and waited for my follow-up appointment. But, prior to the follow-up, my doctor called me around 9:30 p.m. I knew right then I should hang up. Why was he calling me at night?

Was he saying “multiple sclerosis” on the phone? A condition that one of my aunts has endured for over 30 years? I checked out. He was saying something about a referral to a neurologist.

I immediately called my Aunt Corine and asked her . . . why? And, what was I supposed to do?

At my Aunt Corine’s insistence (she’s always insisting on something), I shared my diagnosis with my immediate family . . . exclusively (my stipulation). I didn’t want them to be constantly worrying about me. Turns out my family is golden; my family’s status quo. Another blessing, and a rare one.

So, there I was, sitting at my neurology appointment, looking at an MRI of my brain. There were some fuzzy-looking areas. My neurologist confirmed my primary care’s diagnosis. Great. But, another flicker of hope: she said that since I’d never had a brain MRI before, there was nothing to compare it to. Thus, she wanted to wait six months and do another MRI before moving forward.

I tell you that during this six-month period, I tried to will the fuzzy spots away. Yet, six months later, my neurologist was discussing my MS treatment options.

Almost three years later, I’m reluctant to share (with you) that I have this disease. I’m fiercely private and don’t need or ever want pity. It is what it is.

Then, I’m forced to remember that I’ve accepted my MS as a blessing. And, whence do we get blessings? Man, I cannot even believe that somehow I’m debunking my own thesis.

Blessings are meant to be shared. I’m sharing my struggle with MS so that there might be more awareness of this disease. I am intentionally not providing further details. To find out more about this disease, go to the National MS Society’s web site (www.mymsaa.org).

Join us in the fight to rid this world of MS, to rid the world . . . of this particular blessing.

Note: The image used to illustrate this column derives from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-p-sherouse/a-prayer-for-peace_b_3634137.html.

F. Theresa Gillard

About F. Theresa Gillard

F. Theresa Gillard characterizes herself as a Black—not an African American; born/raised in South Carolina; currently residing in New England; never married; no children. Her day benefits-gets-her-bills-paid-job: a Director at a university in Boston. She proclaims herself to be a passionate never-gets-around-to-it writer who is a Rap-House Music/Cheeze-It junkie. What she writes is who she is—meaning she is a take-it-or-leave-it, yes-or-no, with-no-maybe-or-possibly person: basically, she feels it all comes down to that initial “F.” Email Theresa: StatusQuoMinus@WeeklyHubris.com
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6 Responses to Out Of The Closet, Finally

  1. Danny M Reed says:

    In college classes I was amazed at a young blind woman’s ability to find her way through the maze of the building based upon a four dimensional map in her head. We sat next to each other in a class about people with special abilities. These were referring to disabling conditions of ALL kinds as truly “special abilities” because of the special qualities needed to function with disabling conditions. She also had MS. We “watched” an audio/video presentation about another amazing woman that is severely Autistic from birth and some one noticed she spelled out words although unable to speak or even appear to be engaging anyone in communication at all. She eventually went to school and even went on to get her first PhD. Her IQ was 160. Recently, I have been diagnosed with multiple disorders of the mind and body that have not acquired safe, effective, affordable treatments nor have they any cures yet. It does not take special powers to know what Death is because there are two pieces of evidence that can prove precisely what it is: Observation of “road kill” is clear that when a creatures life functions cease and never return, it begins to return to earth. Second is a document called Ecclesiastes by King Solomon that states in chapter nine and verses four, five and six, “There is hope for whoever is among the living, because a live dog is better off than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing at all, nor do they have any more reward (or are conscious), because all memory of them is forgotten. Also their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they no longer have any share in what is done under the sun.” Death is the end of living and the return to earth. After that, the “hope” is in an Act of God, rather than inherent immortality or Science class. As for false religious doctrines or false logic that the Book is merely a holy bronze age fairytale and the gods are dead, neither they nor Science and Medicine have “hope.”

  2. Will says:

    What fine writing; what a fine mind. And what a pleasure to find The Peach at the head of an essay!

  3. F Theresa says:

    * Danny M Reed – Thank you. If I didn’t have my belief, I would have no hope.
    If I didn’t have hope, I would just curl up and await death.
    * Will – Yeah, you gotta love that Peach. Although, I don’t believe anyone loves it more than EBH :-)
    ftg

  4. Elizabeth Boleman-Herring says:

    I DO loves me some giant peach! F.T., I KNOW you haven’t seen the “House of Cards” series, but the peach plays a mighty featured role therein, and The Huffington Post actually DID run my column about SC BBQ, The Peach, House of Cards, etc., before all but shutting me down (I, like you, have too much “F.” in my soul for their liking). Woman, you keep the faith for us both. I cannot believe both of us are living in The Frozen North, afflicted as we are. But, we just . . . go on, even if Status Quo Minus. Love you always. ee-bee-ache

  5. Jane Miller says:

    The article and posts are beautiful. I savor the content and the writing ability of all. My new step-daughter has been fighting MS for about 10 years and is now 60. It is a hard struggle because she has no insurance, cannot work and lives day to day in her father’s house where her 37-year-old son is her primary helper. I won’t say caregiver because she isn’t quite to that point yet. She has lost an eye and has had 10 transplants to the other eye because the first nine did not take. She is now facing another transplant because the first one is beginning to deteriorate. She doesn’t know if she will still have her sight after the surgery. Daunting. She has to use Medicaid transport for all her many, many appointments with numerous specialty doctors.

    But this is one of the most optimistic, bright, energetic people I have ever known. She is also a believer and that is part of her hope and joy. She amazes me every time we visit her or I talk to her on the phone.

    This is a tough diagnosis and a tough life to live, and I pray for anyone who carries this with them. May you have peace, strength, comfort and hope for today and always.

  6. F Theresa Gillard says:

    * Jane Miller – Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your step-daughter’s battle with MS. I am praying for her, her son and your family. I applaud her spirit and gain strength from her strength. I shun the storm clouds that MS sends to dampen my days and I carry-on. I have so much love around me, as does your step-daughter. I treasure my life and every opportunity I have to live it with my family, friends and the people that I meet along the way. I do not deny the struggle my MS poses moment to moment, but I am blessed beyond blessings. Take care and may you have all that you have wished for me and much more.
    ftg

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