“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
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.