How These 4 Words Help Me Live With Multiple Sclerosis

Lately, I have been extremely tired. On Tuesdays I attend a multiple sclerosis aquatics class but, this particular day, fatigue had me in a bad way. So instead, I opted to go to the gym and use the NuStep. I love this machine because it’s a sit-down, step exercise apparatus that works both my arms and legs.

The goal for the day was 10 minutes. Just 10 lousy minutes! That’s what I usually do on good days. What made me think I could do that today even though I was too tired to go to the pool? I don’t know. Maybe it was denial, wishful thinking or both?


I entered the gym and, without hesitation, went straight to the NuStep. Within the first two minutes I quickly changed the tension level from 2 to 1, which is the easiest intensity.

Then five minutes in, I saw my husband, get up from his chair to stand closer to me. I thought to myself, “I must be swaying.” So I began concentrating on keeping my balance.

At seven minutes, I could feel myself winded and sweating, and my heart rate was through the roof. And I was still on the easiest level! Then, I made a smart move. I pressed stop. I thought a break was called for.

My husband asked, “Are you finished?”

“Nope”, I replied.

He gave me a sip of water; I caught my breath and started again.

“Only three minutes to go,” I said to myself. I needed to believe, I can do this!

I was really getting into it, when suddenly both my feet slipped off the machine. I lost my balance. My heels, legs and butt were on the floor. With the bottom half of my body on the ground and the upper half still on the machine, my workout had officially ended at eight minutes.

I just want to get better and in my delusion, this is one of the exercises that’s key to making it happen. I know you know multiple sclerosis doesn’t work like that. I know this, too. But I still keep searching for an answer.

I’m living with an unpredictable, incurable disease, so I have no choice but to go with the flow. If I don’t, I just create more turbulence for myself. And who needs that? I know it’s tempting to lean toward anger and frustration. But we help ourselves so much more if we don’t.

Despite knowing this, in the car on the way home, I lowered my head in defeat. Then I muttered to my husband, “I couldn’t make 10 minutes.”

He smiled and said, “It’s only a number.”

For some reason, hearing those four words really cheered me up. It helped me look at my new limitation in a new way.

The fact is, I may no longer be able to exercise for 10 minutes. And that’s OK because there are still other things I can do. If I can just hold on to that frame of mind, my acceptance of change will be easier.

As we continued to drive home, every time I thought about my failed gym excursion, I silently repeated to myself, “It’s only a number. It’s only a number. It’s only a number.”

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” ~ Arthur Ashe

Follow this journey on My New Normals.

 The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one unexpected source of comfort when it comes to your (or a loved one’s) disability and/or disease? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

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