17 Life Lessons Parents With Multiple Sclerosis Have Taught Their Children
More than 2.3 million people live with multiple sclerosis (MS) worldwide, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. A chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, MS has no known cause and no known cure. But we do know how drastically it affects people living with the illness.
The Mighty wanted to learn more about how MS affects families, too, so we teamed up with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, an organization that supports people living with MS. As part of their #WhenYourParentHasMS campaign, the organization asked its readers what they’ve learned from having a parent with the disease.
Here are some of the responses:
1. “Always have patience. Always do research and always make the person living with this disease feel like they aren’t alone in this world. Make them feel loved, make them smile and make them laugh every day, even if you’re sad.” — Chirag Lalwani
2. “Never to take anything for granted. Health isn’t guaranteed. Just because someone looks healthy doesn’t mean they are. Never park illegally in a handicapped parking space. Everyone should know CPR and first aid. There’s always something to be thankful for, no matter how bad it gets. When someone offers help, take it.” — Lexi Hafften
3. “Each person has his or her own journey in life. My mom taught me it’s OK to let go without sorrow. She taught me that death isn’t scary. It’s the process of life.” — Charlotta ‘Madsen’ Bernau
4. “I grew up learning to appreciate the good days, the good times. And I learned how to laugh, even when it wasn’t one of the good days. Now I’m the parent, and I was diagnosed with MS two years ago. I’m grateful for perspective and patience.” — Sarah Sorensen
5. “I’ve learned to appreciate every moment I get to spend with my mom, especially on her better days. I’ve become more empathetic toward others when they’re having bad days. MS is so multifaceted. It’s a part of our life in every way, and I do all I can to help my mom stay as healthy as possible.” — Amber Lively
6. “It’s heartbreaking to helplessly watch the decline, but it’s amazing to see his faith, spirit and positivity. It provides the rest of us with new perspectives. We celebrate the good days and push through the tough times. Memories can be made no matter what kind of day it is.” — Page Almond
7. “Not every disability is visible. Life is beyond precious, and you need to live each and every day to the fullest. Though my mother has never had a relapse, it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. She’s taught me that not all heroes wear capes, and no matter how bad things are in life, like being diagnosed with an incurable disease, there are so many more positive things.” — Marian McWilliams
8. “It’s a disease that is different for everyone, so learning to deal with it is different for everyone. I have come to learn to be at peace with MS, support my dad as much as I can and continue with making memories for him. It’s a disease that affects families, not just the person who has the disease — my mother is his carer, and I often forget that she too can struggle and need help.” — Debi Allen
9. “Humor plays a large part in how one handles the challenges of MS. You can take a lot in stride with humor.” — Vicki Knudsen
11. “Cherish every moment… I know tomorrow is not promised and, in the MS world, tomorrow could mean her not being able to walk or use her hands. But watching her play with [my children] on a good day is the best thing ever.” — Tiffany Richards Riesenberger
12. “Your mom or dad may change, but you have to learn to let go of who they used to be before MS and embrace who they are now. It hurts, but you have to come to grips with what’s going on and try to open your mind. Get to know your mom or dad again.” — Toca Bell
13. “Be grateful for her good days, accept her bad days, and [be] grateful for [your] own health. Just because someone doesn’t ‘look sick’ doesn’t mean they aren’t. But mostly, I learned that my mama is just as good as anyone else’s. Her disease never stood in the way of her being a good mother.” — Maddy Harsh-Burgerpatty
14. “Family can be a backbone of support. We rally together and support one another through this.” — Alexandra Marie
15. “Appreciate the important things in life. In school, having the newest [shoes] didn’t matter, but helping at home and trying to make my parents’ life a bit easier was so important.” — Natalie Reeve
16. “[I’ve learned] how strong my mom actually is. She is constantly in some sort of pain or is utterly exhausted, but never, ever, does she let it show. She doesn’t let work, family or life get in the way… Never will I give up, because my mom never has.” — Sarah Morris
*Some responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
For more information about MS, visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website and Facebook page. For more information about what it’s like to have a parent with MS or to share your own story, search the hashtag #WhenYourParentHasMS.