The Secret Way I Wish I Could Connect With Other People With Multiple Sclerosis


Out here in Texas there aren’t many fans of Washington, D.C.-Virginia area sports teams, so whenever I wear any Nationals or Hokies gear, it stands out. 

Last week, while I was at the store, an older man started a conversation with me. “Go Nationals!” I heard him exclaim as he was staring at the Washington Nationals hat I had on. Within moments, we were discussing where in Virginia we grew up, how we found our way to Texas and the chances of the Nationals winning the World Series. 

Something as simple as the hat I was wearing forged an instant connection between two strangers.

Later that day, I went out to eat with my family, and a young man entered the restaurant with his wife and two children. He was about my age and his wife and their kids were a similar reflection of my own — but he was walking with a cane.

As the hostess sat them at a table near ours, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Does he have multiple sclerosis?”

Living with a chronic disease can be a lonely battle for me. I’m blessed with family and friends who I can count on for love, support and understanding. But I think it’s impossible for anyone to truly get this disease unless they actually have it.

When I meet another person with multiple sclerosis, there’s an instant connection, like we root for the same sports team. It doesn’t matter if they are male, female, black, white, short or tall — if they’re living with this disease, they get it.

But, unlike a favorite sports team, people with MS don’t typically wear shirts or hats that boldly proclaim their connection with the disease. There was no polite way of introducing myself to the man who sat near our table to ask him if he had MS. So after dinner ended, we both went our separate ways, and I’m left to just wonder — does he? 

That night got me thinking: Wouldn’t it be nice if those of us with MS had a secret nod, wink or handshake to alert each other of our medical condition?

Social media does create countless opportunities to connect with others who have MS, and various support groups exist where I can meet and talk to others living with the disease. But to just give a special “I got MS, too” wink, nod or handshake to the man or woman sitting next to me at a restaurant? That would be magical.

Instantly, I’d no longer feel alone on my MS island. They, too, would likely understand the fatigue I face as I struggle to find the energy to just read the menu or the dizziness that comes from all the movement within the restaurant.

It’s not the first time I wondered if somebody else has MS, and I know it won’t be the last. The neighborhood pool, grocery store, church, ball game — countless times I’ve seen another person and couldn’t help but wonder, “Do they have MS, too, and know what it’s like?”

We all want to be happy, loved and understood.

(Wink.)

Follow this journey on A Life Less Traveled.

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