Monthly Archives: January 2011

Why I’m Walking in the MS Walk This Year

The short answer is:  Because I can.  The long answer is much more complicated.

(If you don’t want to read this entire post, let me take this opportunity to ask for your help with sponsoring my walk on April 11th.  Go to my Walk Page, read my story, and donate if you can.  Thank you so much.) [[The links from my personal page last year are no longer available.]

Ready for the Long Answer? (I’ll get back to the short answer just ahead.)

I’ve had multiple sclerosis since 1990.  Not many people outside my family and close friends and associates knew it all those years.  I had a mild form of MS (relapsing/remitting) and experienced few exacerbations over the years.  Because I was relatively symptom free, it was easy for me to not have to disclose the fact that I have MS.

I don’t particularly want to use the word “hide”; but some may think that was what I was doing.  Whatever you want to believe is fine by me.  I prefer “non-disclosure.”

A Short Tutorial

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system.). There is no known specific cause.  There is no cure.

Part of the definition of MS (provided by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society) includes this statement:

“The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.”

About 400,000 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with MS.  Worldwide, it’s thought to affect 2.1 million people.  It’s not contagious or directly inherited.  MS is 2-3 times more common in women than in men. Most are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50.  (I was 37 when I was diagnosed; but as I look back, I exhibited some symptoms 7 years earlier.)

That’s One Reason I’m Walking

For a number of years I’ve wanted to walk; but I never did.  A couple of years ago I volunteered to be at the Walk site in Reston assisting with the proceedings (checking people in, handing out T-shirts, cheering walkers as they crossed the Finish Line).  It was a long day and incredibly hot.  Heat and MS don’t mix well.  Becoming overheated can sometimes bring on MS symptoms, if only for a brief period; but I don’t want to take the chance.

I decided that an approximately 2-hour time commitment (walking) would be better than six hours (or more) being at the site.  Plus, I could do a little fundraising [this link from last year is no longer available] as well.

Now, the Short Answer

The reason I’m walking is, literally, “Because I can now.”  The quotation above about the unpredictability of MS is one of the reasons I use the word “now.”  I can walk now (albeit with a couple of falls in the last few years); but, with MS, you’re never sure it will last.  I don’t want to tempt Fate; but I’m enough of a realist to understand that nothing can be taken for granted with this disease.

The unpredictability of the disease is something that is always in the back of my mind.  When I “forget” about it sometimes, maybe that’s when the tingling in my fingers gets a little worse as if to say “Ah ha! And you thought you could forget about it! Well, not so fast chickie.”

Want To Know More About MS?

A great place to start is the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  They have a wealth of information on their huge site.  A good place to start is with “What we know abut MS” section.  There is also a very good multimedia section on the site.

Resolutions? I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Resolutions!

The Thought for the Day on January 3rd said the following:

I once listed all the good things I did over the past year, and then turned them into resolution form and backdated them.  That was a good feeling.                                  — Robert Fulghum

That sounds appealing, because I’ve never really liked resolutions.  They’re so heavy and almost have Failure written into them (or at least implied).

I noted in a New Years Eve Tweet the I didn’t need resolutions.  My weekly and daily lists would get me there.  I’ve found that lists work for me when I’m trying to get things done.  (And for some reason, the more things on the list the better I am at completing the list. 🙂 )

So, the only (little-R) resolution I’m making this year is to keep the spiral notebook front & center throughout the day, every day.

Expiring Soon

I just noticed that the laundry detergent I’m using today has an expiration date. I guess it’s a good thing I’m washing the sheets before 02/06/11.

I find it had to believe that laundry detergent expires, so I investigated a little.

Most of the sites I checked gave guidelines of “unopened: 9 months to 1 year” and “opened: 6 months.”  But I searched for “why does laundry detergent have an expiration date?”  Most of the sites I checked left the question “Why?” unanswered.

Does it become less effective? Does it become toxic?  Is there really no reason, and they have built in an artificial obsolescence by providing an expiration date?  One site, however, proclaims that it “will not deteriorate or lose its effectiveness, as long as it’s kept in its original packaging.”

Is this the voice of sanity in the wilderness of everything-must-have-an-expiration-date?  And how were we “protected” when there weren’t expiration dates on laundry detergent?

It is worth mentioning that one site (FunAdvice) provides a stern answer that it can “chemically degrade into something else” and perhaps become toxic.  Well, I guess that settles that!

Where are some other places you’ve seen expiration dates that you didn’t expect?

Traveling Lighter?

Non-attachment.  The word came to my consciousness sometime on New Years Day. It came unbidden.  It just arose.

It might have had something to do with the need to offload some of my extraneous possessions, to simplify my life and my home, and to do without objects or things that have been part of my life for several years.  Never mind the genesis; the concept is what is important.

To be able to let go of possessions, personal ties, and other longstanding associations is difficult unless you understand that what is being let go is not important.  The fact of letting go is what counts.  Non-attachment is an important teaching of Zen Buddhism. His Holiness The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying:

“Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.”

Someone took a lawn ornament from our yard between Christmas and New Years Eve.  The ornament, a small wooden Santa that my now-deceased uncle made, was a sentimental piece that made its way to our front yard every year and signaled the beginning of “Christmas decoration season.”  The wooden stake had been replaced twice because of rot; but my husband always fixed it so that it could be placed in the ground each year.

But this year it was stolen.

I had a brief pang of loss, regret, anger.  But then I thought: “It is what it is. I guess we weren’t meant to have that possession any more.”   Does relating this story undermine somewhat my non-attachment to the Santa? When will I stop looking at nearby curbsides while driving to perhaps spy the errant Santa? Have I truly achieved non-attachment.

Do even my final words here defy non-attachment?

I wonder if the “new owners” will get as much enjoyment from this simple wooden ornament as my family did.