I always wanted to climb a mountain. I dreamed of reaching the summit and gazing far into the horizon. I imagined the intense clarity and perspective on a life viewed from the peak. My body may not be able to take me up the crest of a mountain; however, living with MS has provided many steep obstacles to overcome, each with the promise of a new view from its summit.
My name is Jewls and this is my MS story.
At 34 years old, I had already faced many challenges. I had settled into life as a single parent of two kids (ages 8 and 11) and was looking toward the future. There was some, albeit chaotic, rhythm to our lives. I had scouted the path ahead, gathered my resources, and set off to climb the next hurdle. The kids were doing well, my full-time work covered our expenses, and I was applying to graduate school to pursue my dream of becoming a counselor. All seemed to be finally on track.
Then a new obstacle arose before us—MS. The disease was a cold, granite monolith that emerged without warning. It blocked our path and changed the course of our lives. I worried that I would not be able to be the mom my kids needed financially, physically, or emotionally. I was afraid that I would lose my sense of identity. I did not feel prepared to tackle Mount MS.
Four years have passed. My children and I only vaguely remember life prior to the arrival of the seemingly insurmountable Mount MS. As I look back on the journey thus far, I see many hills and valleys, mistakes and triumphs. I am fortunate that I did not have to climb Mount MS alone. Family, friends, and the National MS Society acted as my ropes and carabiners. Their support gave me strength and provided footholds when I was too weary to continue the journey.
After my diagnosis, I found my house was not accessible. I sold it and bought a gutted fixer-upper. The kids and I lived with my mom while we finished our new home. My 80 year-old grandpa widened the doorways and did the finish work. My mom and I did all the tile work. The kids helped paint. When our new home was finished, I felt confident that I would be able to stay there regardless of how my MS progressed. My home is my base camp.
My boyfriend, Josh, and my kids taught me that I am still the adventurer I always was. We continue to enjoy fishing and camping. When we go hiking, I usually have my wheelchair and use adapted trails. Our trip to Glacier National Park in the summer of 2007 demonstrated that we are still able to do what we love, just in a new way. The acceptance and resiliency of my children is one of my strongest footholds.
Recently, I discovered the generous support of the National MS Society. Last summer, I had my worst relapse to date and was not able to walk. I turned to the Oregon Chapter of the National MS Society for help. The Equipment Loan Closet provided an electric wheelchair. I discovered that the chair gave me the freedom to do things with my kids that I had abandoned, such as going to the zoo. I am grateful for the constant support and encouragement of the staff and the MS community.
Since graduation, I have been privileged to work on the Parents with MS project through the Oregon Chapter of the National MS Society, providing support to parents with MS. I hope to help parents with MS identify footholds in their lives and provide support as they climb their own Mount MS. My goal is to help the entire family system navigate through the many demands of MS and scout their own path for the future. To this end, I bring my education, professional experience, and personal story to the program.
I look forward to the future now. While I may not be ready for all of the chasms in Mount MS, I know that my family, friends, and the National MS Society will be there to help. As I look around from my place on the mountain, I am grateful for the lessons learned from each vantage point thus far. And I am eager to view life from the next crest on Mount MS.
About Multiple Sclerosis
About the Oregon Chapter, National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Studies show that early and ongoing treatment with an FDA-approved therapy can reduce future disease activity and improve quality of life for many people with multiple sclerosis. Talk to your health care professional and contact the National MS Society at http://www.defeatms.com/ or 1-800-344-4867 to learn about ways to help manage multiple sclerosis and about current research that may one day reveal a cure.