I never asked for this disease. As far as I know, I didn’t do anything to bring it upon myself.
So much is not known about what causes Multiple Sclerosis, I can’t even justify my diagnosis as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It just happened.
Poor, poor Dan.
I sobbed so incredibly hard the day the radiology report indicated my symptoms of numbness in my hands, feet and chest, “most likely was MS.” And I cried just as much when nearly two months later my neurologist confirmed all that I feared: I, without a doubt, have Multiple Sclerosis.
Within a couple days, my crying stopped.
Some may argue it’s because I drained my tear ducts dry but I, in part, credit the lessons Charlie Sheen learned from Patrick Swayze in the 1984 movie Red Dawn.
The Internet Movie Database describes this classic movie from my youth as, “It is the dawn of World War III. In mid-western America, a group of teenagers bands together to defend their town, and their country, from invading Soviet forces.”
It’s funny how memories and experiences from your youth still have an impact on you decades later, but the scene from a movie I first saw when I was in seventh grade helped push me beyond the devastating sadness of my MS diagnosis.
In the movie Sheen’s character, Matt, is the younger brother of Swayze’s character, Jed. A turning point in the movie comes when Matt observes a group of captured townspeople, including his and Jed’s father, being killed by a Soviet firing squad.
That night as the teenagers are crying and reeling from the shock of their loss and lives turned upside down and forever changed, Jed powers them through with a charged command.
“Don’t cry! Hold it back! Let it turn into something else! Let it turn! Let it turn!”
So I, remembering this scene, stopped crying and chose to turn my losses, anger, frustrations, fears, confusions and hatred into something else.
Today, some 12 years later, I spent the day enjoying a few of those something elses:
• A loving marriage with my beautiful wife, Jennifer
• Meeting with friends at a monthly MS self-help group that I helped establish shortly after I was diagnosed
• Writing and emailing news releases to promote the book Despite MS, to Spite MS, which Jennifer and I wrote to help others move beyond the challenges they’re facing
• Eating lunch with a friend who took many of the photos in our book and was visiting from his new home in Texas
This isn’t to say that I don’t ever cry when the challenges of the disease prove to be more than I can handle. I do.
But the words from Red Dawn, which was remade and is set to release this winter, still help to carry me through and refocus on turning the feelings of defeat into empowering celebrations.
So now it’s your turn: When times get tough, what helps you to move forward? Movie lines? A song? A person? Please share here so you can give others and us ideas for ways to move beyond this disease.