Editor’s Note: We are giving away a copy of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis by our awesome blogger Ann Pietrangelo. Check out this excerpt and commentary from the author, and don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win the book!
When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at the age of 44, all previous assumptions about health, work, and my new romance were suddenly up for grabs. No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis, is a story — my story — of acceptance and change and a basic truth — good health and life are fleeting, but love and humor trump all. Every second matters, a point driven home by yet another life-altering diagnosis.
How do you plan for lifeís second half with a body youíve never met before? One precarious step at a time.
An excerpt from No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis:
ďYour test results are all normal. At this point I would consider the three treatment options we spoke of. There is no hurry in making this decision, but would like to hear back from you in the next couple of weeks. If you have any questions or concerns please call me. Thanks.Ē
When I was a kid, doctor shows were all the rage on television. Iíd seen the pronouncement of diagnosis hundreds of times. The kindly old doctor touches the patientís hand and looks into his eyes as he breaks the news. He might put an arm around the patientís shoulder, or comfort the worried spouse. The camera would then zoom in on the patientís face so we can see the emotional impact up close and personal.
But it seems weíre not going to get our Marcus Welby moment Ö or anything that even vaguely resembles one.
The email that changes everything lands in my inbox on January 28, 2004, at 2:19 p.m. Just another email mixed with a batch of well-worn jokes and plenty of spam.
The test results are all normal. It is one of those good news/bad news situations. In this case, however, normal does not translate into a clean bill of health. It is in this instant, through this most impersonal exchange, that normal takes on a whole new meaning for me.
The email comes as no surprise. Diagnosis or not, life as I know it has already been altered beyond recognition. Still, the doctor doesnít actually use the words. The meaning of the email, prompting me to decide on treatment options, is clear Ö but not clear enough. I want to hear the words, or at least read them. I want and need this diagnosis to somehow be declared official before I make any decisions. This is a very big deal.
The news is, for the moment, known only to the doctor and me. I fantasize briefly that if I delete the email, that if I pretend I donít know, it wonít be true. If ignorance is bliss, maybe I can simply refuse to accept the information Iíve been given, like a child who ignores her motherís call.
Until this moment, I could still hold out hope that it was all some colossal mistake or overreaction on my part; just one of those things that happens and is soon forgotten. Sure, Iíve had health problems like everyone else, but nothing like this.
Even while these thoughts run through my mind, Iím aware of another stream of consciousness floating alongside. I consider these feelings as being a normal first response because, after all, nobody plans to be disabled or sick. Itís just the luck of the draw and on this particular day it happens to be my turn to draw the short stick. I was never one of those ďit wonít happen to meĒ types. Iím more of a ďwhy not me?Ē kind of gal. I always figure Iím as good a target as anyone else, for both bad and good life events. Now, when itís put to the test, is my chance to see if I truly subscribe to that philosophy.
My fantasy of just ignoring the news is short-lived; the realist in me wins out and I return to the task at hand. I hit the reply button and type, ďThank you. Does this mean I have a definite diagnosis of MS?Ē I marvel at my own matter-of-fact attitude. I am not about to let emotion rule the day and my stoic New England heritage is firmly in control.
Thatís right. An email. Thatís how I learned I have MS. But my story is no tragic tale of woe, thatís for sure. From the impersonal diagnosis by email to a wedding presided over by a funeral director, the book, like relapsing/remitting MS itself, alternates between the serious and the silly.
No More Secs! may strike a familiar chord if youíve got multiple sclerosis, or love someone who does. Still, it is only my story, not your story, and certainly not THE story of MS. Oh, and itís not all about MS either. Really. Thatís because life marches on whether we feel up to it or not. Mine sure did and, whether or not Iím ready, it keeps on marching. Yes, every second matters. At its very heart, this is a love story. Romantic love. Love of family. Love of life.
If you take a leap of faith and give No More Secs! a read, it is my sincere hope you come away from it on a positive note. Maybe itíll even make you smile. Now thatís when Iíll know Iíve really done good.
Thank you for the support, Care2. And a hat tip to my husband, Jim, for his beautiful cover design!
Image copyright and book cover design by WebCamp One LLC
For more information, or to buy the book: No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis and Like ĎNo More Secs!í on Facebook.
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