Your Choice: Exist with It or Live with It

“I know this is going to sound like an insanely ridiculous thing for a wife to say, but I would appreciate it if you would stop doing the dinner dishes.”

Well that actually does sound like an insanely ridiculous thing for a wife to say to her husband, but I said it nonetheless. It was another baby step in my overall plan to take back the life that MS would destroy if I allowed it.

After the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and MS patient-advocacy groups unleashed a mountain of printed material and videos upon us, and we set about the task of learning all we could. Even prior to diagnosis, our suspicions of MS lead us to online research. We began with well-known and well-respected medical sites, then gravitated toward something less formal but slightly more tangible — other people with MS.

Hard research and doctors’ advice are valuable tools, but nothing helps you to understand the reality of life with MS better than people who are living it. Although the stories are varied, the kinship and the lessons to be learned are invaluable. The common theme is that people are living with MS, not merely existing. I wanted to join that crowd.

So back to why I asked my husband to stop doing the dinner dishes. Some of my symptoms were quite severe. My limbs didn’t want to cooperate and I was perpetually fatigued, but my husband willingly took up the slack. Giving in to this thing would be the easiest thing in the world, but I knew in my heart that would not be wise. I decided to get myself back in the driver’s seat of my own life.

I pledged — to no one but myself, really — that no matter how difficult my day was, no matter what else I could not accomplish, I would manage to have dinner on the table, however simple it may be. Then I thought about all the things that had become too much for me, and then about the things that were a struggle, but still manageable if I set my mind to it. Dinner dishes fell in that category.

“You already do so much, and the dinner dishes are something I can handle, no matter how bad off I am. I’ve got the stool so I can sit and take as long as I like. It’s just that you move faster than me and always beat me to it. It makes me feel so guilty.” I believe I even detected a hint of joy in my husband’s eyes at this win-win situation.

That old MS guilt is a force to be reckoned with. It’s always ready to poke away at your self esteem. It’s not like I asked for MS, or that I enjoy my downtime, but I feel guilty anyway. Caution is required. If there ARE things that I can do, then I can’t allow myself to slack off. I figure that’s a sure fire way to fall into a trap and become increasingly dependent, something I desperately want to avoid. If I wanted to take more control, that was as good a place as any to begin.

The thing about relapsing/remitting MS is that your abilities and disabilities are always evolving. You have to learn to adapt to new situations very quickly. Change is the name of the game. Finding a comfortable rut and staying there is just not going to happen. Reevaluation of life, taking the temperature, as my husband would say, would have to become the constant theme.

Baby steps in the form of chores would turn to giant steps in the direction of my life as I reclaimed the driver’s seat. No, things would never be the way they were, but they are good — very, very good. I don’t merely exist with MS. I live with it!

March is Multiple Sclerosis Education & Awareness Month. Read all about it:

Writer Ann Pietrangelo embraces the concept of personal responsibility for health and wellness. As a person living with multiple sclerosis, she combines a healthy lifestyle and education with modern medicine, and seeks to provide information and support to others. She is a regular contributor to’s Reform Health Policy blog in Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo


Jane Warren
Jane Warren5 years ago

After a debilitating car accident that has required a long and arduous (partial) recovery. I learned: "If you don't use it, you will lose it."
The thing is: you might still lose it (that is, the ability to do whatever) even if you do make an effort.
But if you do not make an attempt, you definitely will. And sooner than you would without those attempts.

Ms.R. S.
MsR S.6 years ago


Lori Sanders
Lori Sanders6 years ago

Thank you so much for this article! It doesn't matter whether someone is suffering from MS or any other debilitating disease, it is a great way to explain how important it is to do as much as you are able to maintain your self esteem! I sent the link to my husband because he always thinks he is being "helpful" when he relieves me of some chore like doing dinner or dishes or planting flowers. I've tried to explain that he is robbing me of the joy of accomplishment that I get from doing it myself. I'm the best judge of what I can and can't do and when I can and can't do them! Maybe he'll understand better from this article than when I try and explain :-) Thanks...Lori

June H.
June Higgins6 years ago

Oh, THANK YOU ANN! I think that this is what we all try to do, once we come to terms with the disease. I have been trying to increase my activity a little each day, before my legs fall out from underneath me. I found that if I do everything in the morning, I am better off. We each need to find what works best for us. As a former practicing nurse, I never really understood the plight of my patients with MS. True understanding of another person's problems is impossible. It is a wake up call. MS is such an epidemic, that we can all provide support for each other, through the many MS websites. What a group of strong people. Keep writing Ann...You are an inspiration.

Helen Snyder
Helen Snyder6 years ago

Keep up the good work, Ann .. you will never go wrong when you are doing the best that you can.

Dr Kathi A.
Dr Kathi A.6 years ago

TY for article. This lady has the right attitude. She took over when her body was yelling for her to give-in & she refused to do so. The spirit of the human can push us when we think we are not able to do so physically. Even in severe pain, we can do more than we think we can, when we have to or when we force ourselves to do so.

Believe there will be a cure for M.S.

Ann Pietrangelo
Ann Pietrangelo6 years ago

Thank you all so much for the lovely and supportive comments. I am a very fortunate woman.

charmaine c.
Charmaine C.6 years ago

You are an inspiration!

Genevieve H.
Genevieve H.6 years ago

A great lesson in how to live our lives. Thank you for this post.

Judith Crofts
Judith C.6 years ago

Good on you.