Dennis Williams watches as his mother grows weaker from the effects of multiple sclerosis. And he watches her grow stronger at the same time.
I often see this terminal disease as more of a definition of my mother’s character than a handicap. It wasn’t until my first visit to the University of Dayton did I see how much it had affected her. She collapsed in the aisle of the plane headed back to Maryland after a day of tours around campus and even after I was able to pick her up and place her in her seat she covered her face in an attempt to hide the tears. But she pushed her body to the extreme for my benefit and her disease pushed her to the extreme for what reason?
My mother was not diagnosed with multiple sclerosis until 5 years ago so my childhood shows no reflection of the condition. Her age at diagnoses is not uncommon; the average age of in which people are diagnosed is 37 among the 400,000 people in the U.S. who have the disorder. Although my mother’s body was weak before the disease, which led to more progressive symptoms. Memory loss is a shared symptom among carriers, but experiencing this first hand was a much more abrupt warning.
“Where does Khalil live?” My mother asked me. Khalil was one of my good friends and my mother has driven me to his house over 20 times. As hard as she tried she could not recollect the two miles of directions and there was nothing she could do other than to learn the route again.
By definition multiple sclerosis is defined as, “a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.” By my understanding multiple sclerosis is a subtly paralyzing disease which often impairs speech and disables muscular coordination leaving its host with a very small tank of energy.
“I take 80mg of Vitamin D a week, my Vitamin D deficiency is an 8 on a scale of 85,” Angela said as she stuck a 5-inch needle injection into her left thigh. I knew the drill, “Don’t move,” she uttered as I sat on the bed next to her. Her practices were routine now, not only to her but the people around her. Even though she carries the disease it’s a group effort in coping with it day by day.
I look at the multiple sclerosis’ involuntary canvas as a body of perseverance not a sufferer, Angela’s crutch not as a form of assistance but a fashion statement, and loss of memory not as a negative symptom but more of a reason to live in the moment. Seeing my mother live everyday with this unwanted guest is hurtful, probably more me than her, but she’s a stronger woman for that very same reason.
Photo by Wimena Kane / flickr