You can’t compare one multiple sclerosis journey to another

Have you ever had something like this happen?

You share your multiple sclerosis journey with someone and they proceed to tell you how their approach to MS or some other ailment is the only way you should be living? That because you go to doctors and take meds, you are doing it all wrong? That you wouldn’t have the struggle you are having if you would just do things their way? That if you only ________ (fill in the blank) you would feel better?

It can get extremely frustrating when someone assumes they know your body and your journey better than you do. Comparing illnesses or even progressions of the same illness between two different people never works. You just can’t fit one person’s life into someone else’s box and think they will be able to function the same. Life just doesn’t work that way. MS doesn’t work that way.

Think about it like this. Two car accidents happen on the very same day. Both involve being rear-ended and both happen during early morning rush-hour traffic. The first accident totaled both cars injuring everyone involved. The second one was a minor fender-bender.

Both were accidents. Both involved cars being rear-ended. Both happened on the same day. But once you get past those facts, they are vastly different. You simply can’t compare the two after labeling them as accidents.

The same goes for a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Two people can experience similar symptoms. Two people can show clusters of lesions on MRI scans. Two people can go through a similar path to diagnosis. Yet both will face different progressions and struggles.

One might be able to function okay for years with only minor limitations and another may progress rapidly as MS ravages their body. Did one person eat better, choose a better method of treatment, follow a better exercise plan?

The answer…NO!

You can’t compare two cases of MS and assume that MS can be managed the same for everyone. You can’t even assume two different people living with the same progression of MS will experience the exact same struggles or recovery. After determining MS is the cause of a persons difficulties, there’s just no comparison. Two different people, two different environments, two different bodies, two different DNA structures, two different lives.

Most people with MS may not be able to run a marathon, but for those that can, I am extremely proud of you. I’m excited for your enthusiasm to accomplish such a tremendous feat and am cheering you on as you go.

But I’m also cheering on the ones that struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I’m rooting for the ones that need hours just to shower and get dressed. I’m standing with the ones that can’t stand…even though I’m only standing on the inside myself.

Each one of us have our own daily accomplishments to be proud of. Just because mine involve less strenuous activities than someone else doesn’t mean I’m not pushing with every ounce of strength I have left in me in order to complete them. My Mount Everest may appear to be an ant hill in comparison, but to me it’s a monumental moment when I conquer it.

I may not finish first, tenth, or sixty-seventh. I may be the last one crossing the finish line as I use the final bits of strength that I have left…but I’m making it.

Never let anyone cause you to feel unimportant, less-than or as if you should be doing things differently. You are amazing just as you are. You are a champion beyond compare. I’m cheering you on as you take your Everest and I’m proud of your accomplishments in the face of the impossible.

15 replies
    • Rita
      Rita says:

      Now, neither do I. I think she removed the part. The statement that I mentioned was a copy and paste from her text.

  1. Lynne W.
    Lynne W. says:

    Thank you, thank you! Your thoughtful insight and encouraging words are just what I needed to receive today.

  2. Rodger Ashton-Smith
    Rodger Ashton-Smith says:

    Thanks again and forever Penelope. I haven’t had that problem yet but I know it exists and don’t need it at all. I have a fungible in my toes that is being treated, but with so many different people treating me it is so confusing as to what I actual need. And that is just an infection caused by something that no one really knows. It could be from the retention I have got from a blocked urethra tube or something else. And this is not the same as anyone else with this ;problem, so with MS it can’t be the same for different people as we are all different. But others with this mess can have ideas that may help us live a better life that we don’t know about. I will be going back to our local MS and P center next Thursday and this will will be interesting to say the least. I will let you know next Friday.

  3. Bren
    Bren says:

    Don’t ever stop your blog. You write the thoughts in my head and although we haven’t met I feel you are a friend. Maybe if we meet one day…. I’m sure we would have instant rapour and lots of laughter…
    Thanks for being you Penelope🙂

  4. Carla L Broadbent Rogers
    Carla L Broadbent Rogers says:

    Again your visits to my computer screen are always welcome. MS is “My Stuff” We all have an uninvited stranger in out bodies. Mine invited a buddy…Shingles. This is not an easy journey for any of us. Stay true to you. Most of the time that is all we have. Be well.

  5. Rita
    Rita says:

    With all my respect, Penelope, I need to say something: your intention was good, but you just did the same thing: comparison. Look at what you wrote above: “You can’t compare two cases of MS and assume an aggressive form of MS can be managed the same as a slow progressing form of the disease.”
    Yes, exactly, we can’t.
    I have what you called “the slow progressing”. Daly, I take a powerful medication, with serious side effects, including brain tumor, blindness and death. Every three months, I have to do a blood test, since the drug causes modifications in my withe cells and make me more vulnerable for infections. Oh, by the way, before that I need to take daily injections, that hurts so much that I really thought about giving up of live.
    In another hand, people with, what you called, “the more progressive MS”, as far I know, don’t take any medication. None. Therefore, there is no side effects, no brain tumor, no risk of infections. So isn’t that better? No drug, no side effects, no brain tumor? How do you feel listen me saying that? I am sure it hurts.
    So, the true is: There is no comparison. It doesn’t matter – Progressive or Relapizing MS, Diabetes Type 1 or 2. All of them are terrible.
    Like my neurologist told me, when I asked her “So, are there two types of MS?” She answered: “No, there are millions types of MS, because each MS is unique”.
    I am sorry Penelope, again, but that comparison among MS hurts me.
    I still love you and the hard work you do to help so many people. Thank you, Rita

  6. Mary E Slavik
    Mary E Slavik says:

    Thank you, Penelope! I needed this today. Along with MS I have had a stroke which has slowed me down more, but I won’t let it stop me! Again, THANK YOU!!!!!

  7. Carole K.
    Carole K. says:

    Thank you for an awesome, inspiring pep talk!
    This one should fuel me for a very long time.
    Again, thank you!


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