The philosopher John Lennon famously wrote, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." The life we imagine for ourselves isn't always the one we live. Our paths make sudden turns down unexpected byways, leaving us to survive unchartered territory.
March is MS Awareness Month, a time to remember over 2.3 million people worldwide living with an unpredictable and incurable disease. Strength, love, hope and courage -- those are the words to be mindful of this month.
And of course a cure.
As February drew to a close I didn't know what I'd write about to honor this important month-long event. I mean, what else could I write about MS that I haven't already written? And what positive spin could I put on it, because that's how I choose to live with MS.
Then it dawned on me.
Like Clarence the Angel granting George Bailey the ability to see what life would have been like if he'd never been born, I wanted to write about how different my life would have been without my diagnosis.
- I would never have known the joy and unconditional love of dating someone who proposed marriage to me despite my recent diagnosis.
- I would never have felt the compassion and understanding of family and friends who loved me at my worst.
- I would have missed out on knowing extraordinary nurses who went above and beyond anything they learned in nursing school.
- I wouldn't know people in the MS community, and other health-related communities, who continue to inspire and educate me every day through their strength and courage.
- I would not have had a reason to use my love of writing to inspire, educate, and make a difference to others about living a positive life after a devastating diagnosis.
- I would not have had an opportunity to write for health-related websites and online publications that allow me to write about something I feel passionate about.
- I wouldn't know the generous and caring women in my blogging community who accept me for who I am, warts and all.
- I wouldn't have had an opportunity to quickly chant my elevator speech about ability and disability to people who've made an impact on the world. Alan and Arlene Alda, John Gray, Goldie Hawn, Mrs. Gene Kelly and Steve Wozniak, to name a few. I "name drop" only because I respect and admire each of them for stepping beyond their creative work to make a difference in the lives of others.
- I wouldn't have been able to teach my son, by example, that disability doesn't mean inability, and that tolerance, compassion and understanding always matters most.
I look forward to the day when I can finally say, "I used to have MS." That will be the greatest day of all. In the meantime I'll be mindful that despite my diagnosis I'm surrounded by many blessings.
And, like George Bailey, I cannot be a failure because I certainly do have friends - near, far, virtual, professional and furry.
I am thankful for my diagnosis because it taught me self-compassion, survival, to remain curious and to always keep hope in my heart,
ABOUT MS AWARENESS MONTH:
National MS Education and Awareness Month is an effort by the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (MSF) and affiliated groups to raise the public's awareness of multiple sclerosis. The vital goals of this campaign are to promote an understanding of the scope of this disease, and to assist those with MS in making educated decisions about their healthcare.
To inspire others to create a world free of MS, click here to share your thoughts on The National Multiple Sclerosis Society's website.
Learn more about what MS is and find the latest research from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke page called Hope Through Research.
Cathy Chester has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis since 1987 and uses her writing to advocate and encourage others to use their abilities to live a healthy and vibrant life. Read more of Cathy's work on her award-winning blog, An Empowered Spirit.
Follow Cathy on Twitter at @CathyChes
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