Mom’s M.S. Made Me Appreciate Each Day
Imagine waking up with the feeling that something terribly wrong has happened to you but you don’t know what it is or how it occurred.
You discover you can no longer make yourself a cup of coffee.
You can’t remember where you keep the peanut butter and jelly that you use every morning to make your child’s lunch.
After finally managing to get ready and drive to work, you realize you can no longer remember where your desk is or how to answer the multi-phone system that you have answered every weekday for the last year.
The things you once loved doing are now so exhausting they no lomger appeal to you.
Your life as you’ve known it has changed dramatically, and over time, you realize it will never be the same.
Six Years ago my Mother experienced all of this and more before she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. As she struggled to make sense of it all and adjust to new limitations, she also found the strength to reach out and help others who have been diagnosed with this terrible disease.
When I look back on that time I see extreme difficulty, but I also see some positive results of my mother’s fight with MS. My perspective on life has changed. I ‘ve come to realize the importance of family. I try to appreciate each day.
That September day in 2002, mother’s birthday, I came home from school to find my mother and grandmother sitting in the living room with blank expressions on their faces. I knew something had changed and it wasn’t good.
Gram had come to visit for Mom’s birthday, but she ended up living with us for about a year because my mother needed help with everything. That afternoon I learned Mom hadn’t been to work the last two days. Little did I know she wouldn’t be returning to work for a very long time.
Gram told me Mom had been diagnosed with MS, and she explained exactly what that meant physically. The doctors still didn’t know the extent of my mother’s disease, but they did know it had dramatically affected her cognitive skills. She could no longer read. Anything having to do with numbers or writing was impossible for her to comprehend. MS had pushed her back to grade school and she was forced to learn everything all over again.
That first year was hard on the whole family. Not sure what to do with herself, my mother became extremely depressed. This was a woman who would leave at 5:30 each morning so she could fit in a workout before her full-time job. Now she would get frustrated trying to do the simplest of daily chores, like making a bed.
Her disability forced me to take a major maturity leap. I became a second mother to my teenage sister. I had to make sure all her homework was done and that she wasn’t staying up too late. I had to join the gymnastics car pool and drive my mother places because she was no longer safe behind the wheel.
My mother gradually improved, regaining some reading, writing and computer skills. However, she still can’t drive. Grandma moved back to Idaho. Our lives have slowly fallen back into place.
Mom just got a job recently at a senior living center, caring for people who can’t care for themselves. She’s determined to help anyone who needs it because she knows how difficult it can be when illness turns your world upside down.
I’ve learned that everything we do on a daily basis matters. We can never be sure how much time we have on this earth or when our lives will turn for the worst. We get so caught up in the day-to-day that we don’t stop to think about how blessed we are…blessed to have one another and blessed to have independence and the ability to function on our own.
I also realize, no matter what out misfortune or how bad we think we have it, there is always, always, someone who has it worse. On those days when I’m fretting over homework, money or not being able to see my boyfriend, I remind myself that things could be a lot worse. In a way, I am reminding myself to be happy.
This year marked our fourth MS Walk in Seattle. Through experiences like these, I’ve grown closer to my Mom and grandma. I now believe that everything happens for a reason and you play the cards you are dealt in the best way you can. You live each day to the fullest and you don’t let anything stand in the way of your happiness. It could always be worse.
Ashley Farner, 23, takes online classes at Bellevue Community College and is working toward a degree in elementary education. She hopes to write a book about her family’s experience with MS.