MS and I just got home from a lovely ladies' retreat at a local camp. If you've never been to a retreat and it sounds like something really wacky, let me interject to say...it's really not. There are typically a couple of speakers who deliver a message, then you sing a couple of hymns, give some personal insights on a scripture here and there, eat food, drink coffee, stay up too late, rinse and repeat.
I've always attended this particular retreat but never stayed overnight. I now understand why that was. Guess who else comes along? You betcha. MS.
Over the past 12yrs of living with ms, my body has become comfortably accustomed to the 10 approximate feet that separates my bed from our toilet. I'm blessed to say that my brain and bladder have formed an excellent partnership. My bladder senses urgency and reports to my brain the following message: "Wake her up. Now. Please and thank you." My brain then advises my legs to swing to the side of the bed, where feet are told to shuffle and hands are advised to activate their Wondertwin powers...form of...curb finders! I stumble through the dark and, instinctively, thud myself upon my padded toilet seat. The flood gates automatically open, my bladder releases what it darn well pleases, and I make my way back to bed until the next communication. It's become a well-oiled machine, really.
Until you're in a cabin. 50yds from the bathroom. In 48 degree weather. And have cabinmates. Do I have to finish this part of the story? If you have ms, you inferred that I wasn't quite making it to the bathroom in time. Also, if you have ms and are sensitive to cold, you inferred that my bladder went into survival mode...increasing its typical "once an hour" emptying to "once every 20 mins". My entire neck started to vibrate. My right hand wouldn't stop shaking. And that walk to the bathroom became longer and longer. I decided to grab my suitcase and head to the car. It was the only way to settle my CNS, to not pee all over my favorite sweatpants, and to ensure that my dear friends/cabinmates would get a decent night's sleep.
By the time I reached my car, I felt like the Terminator when he was short-circuiting? Nothing was computing. I put my heater on "MELT" and stuck my hands and face directly into the path of the vents. It was 1:30am and I was dressed in pajamas (aka my husband's sweatpants, long sleeve t-shirt, short sleeve t-shirt over top, and fuzzy red socks). I took a moment to pray to God for 3 specific things. Please, Lord. Don't let me be hit by a drunk, don't let a deer run out in front of me, and don't let me be pulled over. I will never be able to explain this outfit. He heard and answered.
I made it back to camp in time for the first speaker, and thank God for that. She took the stage and began her testimony of how her life has been "interrupted" (that was the theme, "Life Interrupted") and how God has brought her through it. With strength and poise, she informed her audience that she was diagnosed with ms. All that could be heard immediately following? Were the cascades of gasps.
Geez. That's not very comforting, right? Kinda like when someone thinks they have it, so they come to me to say, "did you feel like this? And that? And did this happen?"...then, (praise God) they have clean scans and report back by saying, "I don't have ms! I was hoping for anything but that! That would be the worst thing ever!" Once I was even told, "I'm so thankful! I'm not ready for my life to be over!" It was everything I could do to refrain from informing this excited gal that my life, the one I'm living with the very disease she was terrified of having, may be different...but it's far from over.
Anyway, back to this fabulous speaker. Several of her statements hit me right in the gut. Things I experienced in the first several years of coming to terms with this condition. Things I didn't wish to remember. I identified with her every word, completely. Common circumstances, similar symptoms, identical faith. As much as I hate that she has ms...as much as I hate that anyone has it...as much as I hate that I have it? Is as comforting as it was to see such determination and perseverance in another ms'er, sitting upon a stage, speaking to 250 tearful women who collectively gasped at the sound of those 2 lower case letters. I overheard a whisper of, "How does she do it?" I knew the answer to that one: Through He Who strengthens her.
What an awesome way to spend my weekend. My spirit is recharged! I cherish the time I was able to spend with my friends! And I have a new appreciation for my padded toilet seat! I really do live a blessed life in so many regards. It's funny how I can forget that sometimes. It's equally funny that ms reminds me. But what's not funny? Is peeing in your sweatpants. Okay. Maybe that's just a little funny. Because they're my husband's sweatpants. If they were mine - totally not funny.
Be well, friends!