Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Turning 50 With MS: A Time to Look Forward and Back

When I was 30 years old and living in Ithaca, NY, I had what felt like an epiphany. While walking past a renowned Buddhist monastery after a haircut one day, I was struck by the thought that I would not live to see 50.

I perceived this not as a reasoned assessment based on the fact that my father’s generation of his family was the first to live past 50 in over 150 years, but rather as a stop-in-your-tracks truth spoken from somewhere outside of my being.

In the years since, I’ve tucked away the memory of that moment and its sobering message, only recalling it now and again.

Gin and Tonics for Lunch

It’s a beautiful midday here in my corner of the world. The sun is bright, the clouds are few, the temperature is pleasant, and the light breeze carries the mingled scents of salt from the sea and freshly mown hay from the mountain fields. And I’m halfway through my first gin and tonic.

This is the last day I will spend in my forties … so if my long-ago epiphany is correct, why not have a gin and tonic for lunch?

I have no desire for this thing to come true. In fact, I’ve made a fair good few plans for the coming weeks and months (and next year) that I fully intend to see out. I’m not courting anything but a long life.

Still, milestone birthdays are as good a time as any to look back and to look forward.

Working Through MS Day By Day

I have lived with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) for more than 15 years — 30 percent of my life — and blogging about it with you for more than 10 years. If we were to go by the age at which my MS team reckons I had my first symptoms, I’ve had this disease for more than half of my existence.

You’d think that I’d have it all figured out by now but, alas, I’m working through it day by day, just like yourselves.

As many of you know, the past couple of months have not been very good ones for me and MS. I can definitely say that this spell has been the worst I’ve felt since my diagnosis in the spring of 2001.

I’m on the slow (much slower than I’d care to admit) upswing from the lowest of that stretch, but I’m still waiting to see where things will settle out. You have all been of great comfort and patience while I work through this (and get back to writing blogs as regularly as I’d like), and I thank you for that.

Finding Alternative Paths to Joy

By the time this column is published, August 16 will have struck somewhere in the world, and Caryn and I will have quietly marked the date. You see, we met at my 40th birthday party, so it’s also something of an anniversary for us.

In 50 years, I’ve crammed in a lot of life. MS has slowed the pace of new experiences, but it hasn’t taken away my lust for more. It’s just made some of my original plans unfeasible. But while it has blocked my intended paths, we have taken advantage of the situation to look about and find alternative avenues to great wonders and prolonged joys.

This is not how I’d thought or hoped I’d acknowledge half a century on the planet. But 20 years ago, I didn’t think I’d be here at all … so frankly, I’m quite happy with how things have turned out.

Looking Forward to Whatever’s Ahead

For about 14 years, I lived with MS and didn’t even know it. For the past 15, I have known, and for better than 10 of those years, we’ve lived with MS out loud and together in these pages. We’ve gotten good at some aspects of it together and we’ve had to relearn some other parts over and over again … together.

I’ve said before that living with an incurable disease is difficult, but until they find a cure, it’s better than the alternative. So I say with the only shred of wisdom I seem to have mustered in this entire journey of 50 years, “I have no idea what’s ahead, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Wishing you and your family the best of health.

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