My glass is always half full. Many days my glass spills over the top lip and runs onto the floor. “How can that be possible? It doesn’t make sense. You have secondary progressive multiple sclerosis; someone has to transfer you with a mechanical lift from your wheelchair to and from bed everyday; you lie in bed at night on your back and cannot turn or rollover; someone helps you take a shower, get dressed and make your lunch; you sit in your wheelchair 15-18 hours every day; and you type with your pinkie finger of your non-dominant right hand. With all these limitations, you smile and never complain.”
Most of these words sounded unfamiliar to me. Yes, my disease created these needs and conditions. Do I like being so needy and dependent on others? The answer to these questions was very simple-no. While it took several years, present day acceptance of my physical limitations propels me through the treacherous, unknown waters of a chronic disease. But more important than acceptance were my two secret weapons-hope and attitude. These words define my life.
“Why do you call hope and attitude your secret weapons?”
Who is this voice that questions every word I speak? My hope and attitude were wonderful gifts inherited from my tenacious mother. She, too, had MS. Medical professionals categorized her type as primary progressive MS. My mom lived in a nursing home for over 13 years once my dad could no longer provide the proper care for her at home. After I told her that I too had MS, her first question was whether the disease impacted my ability to be a good father. She had no tears from my news and showed genuine concern for me instead of herself. My mom was the epitome of a role model.
Hope provides me with forward-looking inspiration that drives my ability to heal. Everyone hopes for better days in the future. My hope is multi-dimensional. I hope to walk again, drive again, hug people with two arms, write with my left hand, take long walks with my wife’s fingers interlocked with mine, travel again to exotic international destinations, get out of bed by myself, shower and dress without help from others, and renew my self-confident can-do attitude.
“Wait a minute. Everyone hopes for better days. Be serious, how does your attitude help you heal?”
Can this voice be real? Attitude is the foundation of my daily life. When I wake up every day, my subconscious daily planner down shifts into low gear and determines everything I want to accomplish during the next 15 hours. Attitude is a very powerful elixir for me. Whoever I know or meet has never encountered anyone with a stronger positive attitude. My stellar attitude hatched while in junior high school. Three powerful words found their way onto a scissor cut rectangular piece of white paper taped on the shade of my desk lamp-POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE or PMA. My exceptional attitude emerged once my older and younger brothers and I began competing for our parents’ attention. I am four years younger than my older brother and five years older than my younger brother. Persistent, ambitious, independent and overachiever best described the character ingredients for gestating my attitude.
My attitude forms both the present day and future path of how I live my life. I think about PMA a lot. Giving up and succumbing to my brutal disease would be too easy. Being positive and fighting back are the only options on my cafeteria menu. Four hospitalizations within ten months certainly challenged my PMA, but what’s the alternative? Since I will never stay or sleep in a nursing home like my mom because the memory of her inactive Holocaust-like skin and bones body haunt me, proactively managing my life with hope and attitude provide straight forward answers to a complicated fact pattern.
For example, one of my 2012 New Year’s resolutions was to use my therapeutic standing table at least twice a week for 15-30 minutes per day. Standing tables are designed to
support a patient’s weight and promote vertical weight bearing activities and upright posture. I know I will walk again; it’s not if but when. Western medicine needed to catch-up to me since five of the seven FDA approved medications designed to slow the progression of MS were unable to slow my aggressive disease.
In order to keep my leg muscles strong in anticipation of walking, a standing table provided me the best opportunity to strengthen my legs in a safe environment. Enter my world of daily mental gymnastics. After my certified nursing assistant helped me take a shower, brush my teeth, transfer me to bed so he could dress me and stretch, Nathan asked me, what’s next? My heart knew the right answer but my mind told me something different.
“Take it easy. The standing table will exhaust you and make you ineffective for the remainder of the day.”
That’s it. I had enough of this nonsense from the unproductive voice in the back of my head. It was time to fight back and overcome these negative words. It was time to begin fulfilling my promises to myself. What a concept: honor your internal commitments and believe in yourself!
Once I realized the voice in my head would respond to my instructions, amazing things happen. I train my mind to do what I want it to accomplish. Whenever someone asks me about life in a wheelchair, I always tell him or her, “My wheelchair is temporary because I will walk again. I know I will.” My satisfaction comes every waking moment when I remember my dreams. I am always walking in my dreams.
Please join me in my epic battle against enemy number one-me. This comment also applies to you. Everyone has days when they find their trough of despair. How long you wallow in this trough depends on your attitude. Be honest with yourself and others. When you are ready to fight back, you will. Remember your secret weapons because you can control your outcome. Hope for better days, use your PMA, and whenever necessary, borrow some of mine because my cup always runs over the top!
This Essay was recently published by MS-My Story – A collection of Inspirational Voices
David Sloan recently published One Day at a Time, an inspirational autobiographical story of fighting MS with hope and attitude. In 1998, David was diagnosed while working as an investment banker for oil and gas companies in Houston, TX. Soon after, he moved with his family to Colorado to escape the heat and humidity that created debilitating symptoms. Through all the adversity created from his disease, David’s attitude has never been stronger. Find out more about David and One Day at a Time by visiting him at his Facebook Fan Page, www.facebook.com/pages/One-Day-at-a-Time-by-David-M-Sloan/138040392961368, or via e-mail at dsloan.oneday@ gmail.com.