I’m starting to get used to a life of change. Don’t you just hate it when “normal” keeps changing on you? My normal today is drastically different than it was last year at this time. Comparing milestone markers in my life like looking at my progressions from year to year, and sometimes month to month, is the only way I can actually determine just how much my disability is changing.
For me, last year at this time my left leg was fairly functional. This year it’s mostly numb and I have to convince it to move with a lot of concentration and hard work. My right hand now has a tremor that sometimes is hard to work around, although I have created a weighted wristband that helps to control some of the shaking.
My voice is softer, my thinking slower, pain has increased and sleep is difficult. I have a tube coming out of my belly attached to a urine bag since I have lost control of the muscles needed to empty my bladder by myself, I no longer wear an AFO brace on my right ankle since the drop foot has shifted to being stiff rather than floppy, and my breathing is shallower but still going strong. I’d say that’s a lot of change.
But looking back over my life, change has always been happening…even before Multiple Sclerosis came into the picture. Seasons change in our lives and what we considered normal changes right along with it.
No matter how much change has been happening, you have made it this far in life because you hung on even when you wanted to give up. Look back at all you’ve been through then give yourself a giant pat on the back for sticking it out. You have pushed through some truly difficult and impossible times.
I always think of Florence Chadwick when I feel like quitting. In 1952, she attempted the impossible. She stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She was already the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways, so surely she could do this.
The weather was foggy and chilly making it hard to see the boats that were accompanying her. Fifteen hours she swam, stroke by stroke, exhausted and still only able to see a few feet in front of her. She begged to be taken out of the water.
Her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was close and that she could make it. Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It wasn’t until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away.
At a news conference the next day she said, “All I could see was the fog…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”
Can you relate to those words? Sometimes we feel like giving up because we don’t have the strength to stay afloat any longer. We can’t see where we are heading and we are tired of the fight.
I want you to know, I am proud of you. You are a champion! You were put into a fight you didn’t ask to be a part of and each day, regardless of the struggle, you come up swinging. Sometimes you get knocked out before you even step out of bed, but you fight anyway. That’s what warriors do.
If today is a difficult day for you, remind yourself of how far you’ve already come. Stop looking at how far you still have to go or the fact that you can’t see the finish line. The important thing is that you are moving forward…even if it is only at a snails pace.
You are conquering today one moment, one step, one stroke at a time.