falling down

I never thought I would be living with a chronic illness

Something that never crossed my mind growing up was being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It wasn’t even something I thought about…or even knew about. I never thought a chronic illness would end up forcing me out of a career that I loved causing me to have to stay home much of the time because of mobility and accessibility difficulties and requiring regular visits from a home healthcare nurse to help me manage everyday life. My plans were so much bigger than that. I dreamed of greatness. I was going places. I was doing things. I had arrived.

It’s important for people to understand that our journey in life can change at any given moment…for the good or for the bad. It will be filled with victories and defeats. It will twist and wind through the mountains as well as plummet into sink holes and ravines.

Yes, the journey is important. It’s great to have goals and plans, to be able to reach for something bigger than yourself, to dream. But what I have found to be even more important than winning and losing, bigger than the highs and lows in life, is learning how to handle those victories and disappointments. That’s what matters. It’s not the actual winning or losing that counts, it’s how you win or lose.

I grew up in a huge football town. We took winning seriously and losing hard. When our team won we would have victory parties in the town square with everyone excited and partying through the night. When we lost, although the atmosphere would be more solemn and there would be a lack of cheers through the crowd, we still gathered and celebrated in our loss.

I learned how to win big and lose gracefully.

So when life threw me a curve ball and brought an end to everything that I thought was wonderful, instead of screaming “Why me?” or becoming bitter and angry at the dramatic change, I shifted with the change to find something to celebrate…even in my loss. I learned how to dance when the music stops.

Sure, I lost my mobility, strength, career and many friends, but I gained something through it all. I found that I was more resilient then I ever thought possible and that I was actually strong in my weakness. I learned how to smile in the pain.

How did I do that?

I decided that regardless of the disease that is ravaging my body and changing my life, that I would find something each day to be grateful for. It may be something little and at times minuscule, but it’s still something.

Today I’m grateful that I woke up to clear skies, birds singing outside my window and a fresh cup of coffee to be able to sip on as I write to you. I wish it was something more than that like I won the lottery or multiple sclerosis was cured while I slept, but I’ll take what I can get.

There is always something to celebrate in a day. Find yours and choose to rejoice in the small victories rather than wallow in the defeats…even if you find yourself laying in a hospital bed, sitting alone on the couch or trudging through rush-hour traffic.

Hold your head high and know that regardless of the speed bumps, the pitfalls and the unexpected turns, you can still find joy in the journey if you look hard enough.

21 replies
  1. Peggy
    Peggy says:

    Thanks for this message! I woke up to a text from my sister in law telling me she hadn’t been a letter to get back to me about my brother (who was recently in hospital) because her sister had broken her arm! Sounds bad too required surgery and plates?!? I’m just so thankful for my situation that I’m not dealing with that on top of my MS!

  2. Brett Simpson
    Brett Simpson says:

    Thanks for your words 😊
    After 28 years living with this crap disease I’ve been through ups and downs .
    It’s been a battle but I’ve been lucky compared to others and dont reflect on what has happened and look forward to the future.
    I’m a very optimistic person and believe in myself
    Stay strong guys 🥰

    • Michelle
      Michelle says:

      25 years, here, and still pressing on. Yes, it’s hard but giving up is harder! I keep trying to do my best in everything i do. I consider myself lucky, too! MS could be way worse or, if I never had it, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

  3. Roland R Clarke
    Roland R Clarke says:

    My positive motivator for the day – and month. Beats coffee. I know where to come when MS gets me down. Thank you.

    P.S. MS gave me the time to write my first novel without the distractions of a job.

  4. madeline newton
    madeline newton says:

    such a wonderful page, for this is how i feel and deal with it …we live our lives for what should matter most, our love of family and friends…. happiness is what we can make it and that is all up to us …why think of what we can’t do now for that can change tomorrow or the next …we find new ways if we loose some and maybe will find it wasn’t as important as we thought it was…life is like you said looking outside at the sunshine or snow what makes our live so magical….i love the sun but again i love the snow so much more and all of the flowers and life outside that is living their lives for what they can do or not they are alive …so are we …love and happiness is what we make of our days ….

  5. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Penelope thank you so much. I needed this. I needed to be reminded to be thankful for the smallest things to help me to get through my day and that all is not lost. Thank you and God Bless you😊🙏

  6. Janet
    Janet says:

    I try my best not to “sweat the small stuff” but it does become overwhelming at times. My friends and some family members have forgotten about me or choose to put up blinders and not see my disabilities. Just because I don’t have the energy, strength, stamina, mobility etc. anymore doesn’t mean I don’t want to get out of the house, talk on the phone, or welcome a visitor for coffee. And thru it all I try my best to hold my head up high and keep on pushing thru “the small stuff”.
    I am grateful for the little things that bring a smile to my face and make me push forward and fight this crazy roller coaster of a disease.
    Thank you for these posts and positive reminders. 😊

    • Penelope Conway
      Penelope Conway says:

      Thanks Janet. So glad my posts make a difference. Sometimes it’s those closest to us that we need the most and yet they don’t realize how much the little things matter. Thinking of you and believing for better days ahead. xoxo

  7. Jan
    Jan says:

    Penelope, Your article today meant so much to me at this moment as I received more bad news on top of what I’m already dealing with. But I somehow find the strength to keep going. Survival instinct? Today I celebrate you and I’m so thankful for your articles. ! Many Blessings, Jan 😘

  8. Marcus B.
    Marcus B. says:

    I’m raising my hand because I can completely relate! Prior to my diagnosis most of my friends would complain about their job. Not me. Never. I loved my career! Loved it and I was good at it then one day POOF! It was gone…

  9. Christie Sproba
    Christie Sproba says:

    Such an important message today. I can relate in every way. It’s all about perspective and gratitude is essential.


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