In October, I invited readers to pen their own column for publishing here. The first reply came from Virginia Mariani, who reads this column in the Grand Island (NY) Dispatch. I edited her piece for space and clarity. Here is what she wrote:
“Do you remember the old Tim Conway (comedy) skits where he did everything in slow motion? That’s how I feel my life is, but it’s not so funny now. I have myotonic muscular dystrophy. It takes me two hours every morning to shower, dress and coif. I mentioned that to a friend with arthritis who walks slowly, and she said that at least in slow motion we had time to stop and smell the roses, unlike some people who move so fast life passes them by. I think that is a great way of looking at life.
“I was diagnosed with myotonic muscular dystrophy in my fifties. The diagnosis stunned me. I was ashamed to tell anyone outside my immediate family and I feared the future. Eventually, I had to give up singing in the choir. My husband and I could no longer take long walks, care for a garden, or go to the zoo with grandchildren. My diagnosis was my husband’s diagnosis, too. It changed his life almost as much as mine. I use a walker or a scooter now and need help getting in and out of a car.
“A few months after my diagnosis, we attended a week-long spiritual renewal program. Through it, I realized I wasn’t completely (disabled), but that God was steering me in a different direction. Although my walking was limited, my mind wasn’t. Soon, we found ourselves involved with a Christian (spiritual) program. We had skills the program needed. I found myself at the computer writing press releases and publicity brochures.
“Before my diagnosis, I became annoyed when people walked slowly or blocked my path. I wasn’t paying attention to the people who were struggling and trying to make a difference in the world in spite of challenging limitations.
“Now I’m focused on what I can do. My husband and I spend time with our six grandchildren. From our many new connections (through the Christian program), we have more friends. We moved to a smaller house and discovered container gardening, so now we have more time to stop and smell the day lilies, petunias, and the roses.”