I have Multiple Sclerosis.
If I were standing there in front of you without my cane, you may never know. When I do have my cane people tend to think, “this dude probably hurt his leg skating or snowboarding!”. I wish that was the case.
MS is all about the lesions: scarring that the body leaves on my spinal cord and brain. Many people with MS only get a lesion or two and progress very slowly; however, my first set of lesions invited all their friends. I continue to get a handful of new lesions year after year. My first set of MRIs found 10+ lesions on the spinal cord and a few scattered throughout my brain. MS affects everyone differently; for me personally, my limbs are always numb and I can't see much of anything out of my left eye.
There is no way to plan or prepare for how to deal with the wrath of a chronic autoimmune disease. The first few years were tough; I harbored a lot of bitterness and resentment. At 25, I was a young dad and husband, trying to keep up with the demands of daily life.
I watched my friends' lives ramp up as mine slowed down, anticipating each new flare up. It was brutal, but I decided that I couldn't let this disease take away my happiness. With the help of my family I learned to enjoy the little things in life, because sometimes those little things were all I had. I began to see that happiness doesn't come from the external — it comes from within. So, I started using my MS as a catalyst to show the world that a disability doesn't have to limit you. I reached out to share my story with whoever would listen. Four years after my diagnosis I launched Wheels & Red with my photographer wife, a blog where we share our journey living with MS in the Pacific Northwest. Being open and honest about my life has helped me to see the importance of connecting with other people. Once those connections were made I started to see all the struggles other people were going through and overcoming. I realized that I am not alone; I was never alone. No matter what life throws at us we can find strength connecting with others.
I used to judge my life on the things I was able to do; but doing that caused me to constantly live in the past, creating and sustaining a cycle of resentment. Living in the moment and realizing tomorrow isn't guaranteed for anyone has inspired me to live the life I want. Whether it's hitting the road to adventure around the beautiful PNW or spending time with friends and family, my power comes from within. MS has given me a unique filter to view the world and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Inspiring others to be creative and live their best life has been worth every struggle; we truly hold the power inside of us.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, "if you really want to live, why not try and make yourself?"
- Wheels & Red