The National Institutes of Health defines multiple sclerosis (MS) as a central nervous system disease that disrupts communication between the brain and other parts of the body. The first symptoms usually appear between ages 20-40, and can include vision, balance, and cognitive impairments, and muscle weakness in extremities, to the point some people can’t walk or stand.
“Luke” requested anonymity for this column. His version of MS has been chronic progressive, meaning his symptoms are always present and worsen over time. While in his 20s twenty years ago, he was diagnosed after having balance problems. Now Luke uses a motorized wheelchair and is legally blind.
He said, “About two weeks after I was diagnosed, my wife said we would one day have to get a legal separation because of my MS. I was shocked and didn’t know what to say. It was hard to believe what I was hearing.” His wife eventually left and divorced him.
His biggest challenges today are mobility-related. He said, “As for my (motorized) wheelchair, it doesn’t take much for me to get stuck, especially in winter. Last summer, I went to a local park by myself and hit a soft spot in the grass. I couldn’t move anywhere. I yelled, but no one could hear me. After about a half hour, I ended up having to call my personal care attendant, who came to give me a push. My cell phone has come in handy quite a few times and has become a necessity no matter where I go.”
For companionship, Luke leans heavily on a faith-based group, his pastor, and his dog. As for his dog, he said, “She never talks back and she’s not demanding. She’s just easy-going and loveable. And when I was stuck in the hole in the park last summer, she was right there with me.”
Like many people with disabilities, Luke has a faith in God that gets him through life. He has joined the Christian Motorcycle Association, and a local chapter has a weekly meeting in his apartment during winter months when the group isn’t out riding. He receives monthly visits from his pastor, too.
Surprisingly, Luke said MS was the best thing ever happening to him because the disease woke him up to having a relationship with God, which he values most. Through his disability, he learned patience and is more accepting of others.