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Giving MS credit where credit is deserved

By Dan Digmann

I hope you will learn from a lesson of my failure to see the broader picture when it comes to living with multiple sclerosis.

First off, if you’ve read any of my writing here or in any other publications, I’ve consistently said those of us living with MS shouldn’t give the disease more credit than it deserves. Such as when I drop something, was it really because I have this chronic progressive disease of the central nervous system or was it just the result of my hands being wet, or I was just plain clumsy?

Why should MS get all the accolades for such personal imperfections? Does it really deserve it?

Yes, there are certain things only MS has the power to do to me. Such as when I trip going up the stairs because MS has caused the numbness that makes it so I can’t really feel my feet. Or when MS fatigue instantly shuts me down and I fall asleep as I fast forward through a commercial break.

Even with these moments, I still am cautious about claiming MS is the root cause of my mishaps. 

But wait. There’s more.

For as much as I want to distance myself from MS when it comes to my perceived shortcomings, why am I so quick to pull it into the conversations and share in the glories when I succeed? Such as when I finished 5K races. Earned my graduate degree. Landed a new job. I often have failed to let my accomplishments stand for themselves.

“Not bad for a guy who’s living with MS,” I would say to myself or even point out to my wife, Jennifer. 

What the heck, Dan? I began to think this line of thinking was the exact reason I get so frustrated with Michigan State University fans. Total transparency: I’m a fan of MSU’s interstate and Big Ten Conference rival University of Michigan. They are huge and bitter rivals. 

So it seems any time the MSU Spartans win conference or tournament championships over teams that aren’t the U of M Wolverines, Spartan fans post things on social media about how great they are, commenting how much better they are than Michigan. I usually turn to Jennifer and say, “Why do they feel the need to say that? I mean, take the well-deserved championship as your own because you deserve it. Bringing your rival, who wasn’t even part of the game, into the mix actually takes away from your individual victory. It’s yours. All yours.”

Yet, I still feel the need to give MS some mention when I succeed. Do you? You know what? We absolutely should.

Here’s why: the only time it bothers me when MSU fans bring up U of M is when the Spartan victory isn’t against the Wolverines. If it’s a bona fide win against the interstate and interconference rival, brag ‘til you can’t brag anymore, Sparty.

Those of us living with MS are in competition with this disease every single day. So, yes, bring MS into the conversation with each achievement. Every victory. No matter how small or big, you made it happen in the face of all the odds. You. Your determination. It’s yours. All yours.

And it’s with this, I’ve realized where I’ve fallen short in my perspective on living with MS. For as much as we shouldn't give MS more credit than it deserves, we need to pause and praise ourselves more often for the all the attacks we’ve endured and everything we continue to accomplish.

Yes, especially in spite of MS.