Lets be clear, my wife is going to kill me for posting this picture. She wont think it’s very flattering and I’m sure she will note that her hair isn’t perfect. My faithful readers know that my wife is often a large part of my ramblings so she may even think that this is going to poke fun at her – but she is wrong. The fact is, this picture is one of the most amazingly beautiful images I have ever seen, and I will tell you why.
My wife has recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, or MS. This is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the central nervous system, damaging the myelin sheath that protects the nerves and thereby limiting and impairing the nerves ability to transmit messages to the muscles. About three years ago my wife was on the losing end of this battle with MS, only suspecting this was the cause of her finding herself bedridden without warning on many days. She started having trouble with her job that she normally excelled at – she went from an awarding winning top performer to someone who couldn’t make it in to work because she needed to lay in a dark room in complete silence, hoping and praying that the pain would end. With endless tests and doctors appointments, trips to see specialists and new medication trials and failures, there was still no clear answers. MS can be a difficult disease to get a firm diagnosis on as the symptoms can be so different between each and every person afflicted with it. In fact, they call it the snowflake disease because no two sufferers are exactly alike. So while time marched on and outside help didn’t seem to be coming (not for lack of trying!) my wife slowly slid down into a dark hole of despair, her balance growing worse by the day. Her fear of falling led to more time wasted simply sitting in a bed or the tub, waiting for an answer that wasnt there. That all changed one day when a neurologist told her something that she hadn’t heard before; something that resonated inside her and changed both of our lives forever. He told her that she had to “lose the weight or lose your legs.” She needed to get moving. She needed to exercise more, not less. The more she thought about all of our outdoor adventures, hiking, taking the dogs to the lake, snowmobiling, camping – all of it made her determined; losing the use of her legs was not an option. She decided that she wanted to fight – and fight she did. She joined a bootcamp that was willing to work with her limitations, letting her push at her own pace. She started walking, 15 and 20kms a day quite often. She changed our eating habits and I found myself cooking better, with whole foods, no more processed crap out of a box. This journey of diet and exercise deserves a blog on its own and that day may come, but for now I won’t go into great detail; this is about the photo.
The improvements came a little at a time. Having gone off work on long-term disability, this fight was now her full-time job. At bootcamp she could measure herself and quantify her improvements easily, counting pushups and timing laps, but the real changes were at home. She could stay up late to watch a movie with our family and not have to worry whether that would mean she would be bedridden the next day. We could go out for dinner in a noisy restaurant and stay long enough to enjoy visiting without having to run for the dark quiet of home. As an added bonus, the pounds began to fall off of both of us. To be supportive of her I had signed on to this new lifestyle 100% and it has changed me as well, again another story for another time. Slowly she found herself able to get back to doing the things she loved. That’s not to say there aren’t bad days of course. They still happen occasionally, and we still have to be careful with the stairs – she has bounced down them enough times already. But for now, with a conclusive diagnosis of MS finally in hand and with her most recent MRI showing no further damage, we can live for today. She continues to fight everyday knowing that the physical health is only part of it – the mental health is also important and keeping active is a great way to stay positive. My wife has become the most driven and positive person I have ever met, overachieving at every turn and surprising almost everyone along the way. They say that a picture speaks 1000 words and the moment I saw this picture it became a symbol of this entire voyage we’ve been on. It shows how far my wife has come, from lying in a dark and silent room, curtains closed, dreading the 12 steps to the bathroom to this: Actual running. It shows the most amazing, focused person I know doing something that she shouldn’t be able to do. It shows the result of literal blood, sweat and tears. It shows a fighter. And I couldn’t be more proud.