b'Life with MSYYoouu,,ttoooo,,ccaannpprreevveennttMMSSiiddeennttiittyytthheefftt By Tamara Kaye SellmanAt a virtual writing conference last spring,However, at one point, a workshop moderator I attended a workshop series designed toposed this prompt in the chat: Do you identify address specic obstacles faced by writersas disabled? with chronic illness and disability. One panel,I rate a 3 out of 10 on the EDSS, the disability for instance, discussed the challenges disuentscale commonly used to assess functionality writers face when performing their work.especially walking abilityin people with MS.Following my last relapse, Id experiencedIntellectually, mine is an instinctive response: speech and word-nding problems distinctlybecause Im technically not disabled, it stands related to relapsing-remitting MS, which leftto reason that I wouldnt identify as disabled. me impatient and frustrated. Id always beenEven if I have MS, I can still walk.an adept speaker, able to perform spoken word,Yet, the wheelchair remains the chiefand often unrehearsed, in ways both articulateloadedimage conrming disability in MS.and entertaining. Now I even needed a script for remarks made before and after I read anyMany folks, upon diagnosis, imagine their passage.future paralyzed. They perceive MS as a death For writers, this can be extremely distressing.sentence, even though the majority of those Being able to perform ones work aloud is thediagnosed with relapsing-remitting disease chief way a writer can captivate and inspire andont end up stuck in a wheelchair. audience. When a writer experiences dystonia,For me, having access to an assistive device dysarthria, or stuttering, this serves as both a a wheelchair, rollator, cane, crutches, poles, or performative roadblock and a reason to be leftbraces,even a souped-up van or recumbent out of the scene: other performing writersbike with hand controlsencourages pathways and audiences seem incapable of listeningto independence.with intention to people with speech pathologies. Will I ever need a wheelchair? Quite possibly. The workshops ultimately gave me someOdds suggest my relapsing disease will ip insights for how to move forward as a writerto a more progressive model within the next with chronic illness. 10 years.msfocusmagazine.org 44'