My dear Aunt Rose passed away recently after being sick for many months. And just a short time later, another close family member passed after a long battle with cancer. Having to deal with the loss and pain felt by these family members in such quick succession has caused me to reflect on my own life and health struggles. Of course, my biggest health struggle is Multiple Sclerosis. It is always the elephant in the room, the monkey on my back, the looming dread in the back of my mind. Therefore, I am sure it is not surprising that my reflection had me wondering…if I was given the choice, would I rather have a life without MS?
Honestly, I am sure to many of you this seems like a no-brainer. Why would you ever actually want to have Multiple Sclerosis? Life would be so much easier without it. But, ultimately, I have a hard time saying I wish I never had MS. Even though it is definitely not easy to live with MS, I honestly believe my life is better because I have MS. I realize how corny and ridiculous this sounds, and I am positive there are people with MS who do not feel the same way I do. I also realize that I might only be able to say this because at this point in my life I feel that I am doing pretty well. This whole perspective might change down the road. However, for me, MS is the reason I began looking at my lifestyle and truly started prioritizing fitness and healthy eating. It made me dig deep and evaluate how I live and assess if how I lived each day was beneficial for my body.
Without MS, I would have never paid so much attention to my health and wellness. Without a pressing reason or concern to change our habits, why would anyone do it? It wasn’t that I led a super unhealthy lifestyle before MS, but looking back I am sort of shocked about how unconcerned I was regarding the food I put into my body.
After all of this reflection it is still difficult for me to answer the question with a simple yes or no. Either answer is hard for me to commit to. In the end, maybe this isn't the question I should be focusing on. Maybe my wish would be that we could all take the time to be healthy before we get sick and not wait until it’s too late.
Bottom line for me: without MS I would have never known what it actually means to be healthy. For that lesson, I am grateful.
Amanda Windhof, PhD is an MS lifestyle advocate who wants to ensure a healthy diet is accessible to everyone.