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What ‘Second Wind’ Means to Me as a Person With Multiple Sclerosis

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Think back to when you were 8 years old. What did you consider awesome back then? And how does that compare to what you consider awesome now?

Certain words or phrases take on different meanings as one journeys through life. I started thinking about this the other day when I told my wife I needed to find my second wind.

When I was in high school, having a second wind usually referred to finding the energy to struggle through another twice-a-day football practice that dominated my month of August.

In college, finding a second wind might have been referenced when I forced myself to stay awake while studying for finals.

Years later, married and striving for success in my career, what defined discovering a second wind had once again transformed. I often left home at 7 a.m. for work and didn’t return until around 10 p.m. I was tired after a long day at the office, followed by an evening class in graduate school, but I still needed to muster up the energy to study for a couple hours before starting the cycle again the following day.

Trolling for Energy

Fast forward to 2016, more specifically a few days ago, when I uttered the phrase second wind to my wife. I was using it to describe the energy I was hoping to find to go take part in a family activity. But unlike in years past, I wasn’t exhausted from studying late into the night or running wind sprints in the unforgiving heat of August.

Instead, I was lying in bed, tired from taking a shower and shaving my face, and I was struggling to find the strength to get up and go to lunch with my family.

In that moment, it dawned on me: The phrase “second wind” can describe pretty much every moment of every day for most of us living with multiple sclerosis (MS).

On any day, by mid-morning, I’ve already had to dig deep for a fourth or fifth wind. And although I’ve never tracked it, I’d wager that most days involve at least a dozen instances of finding yet another wind.

My wife understands this, as do our children — to the extent that children can process the struggles with my health and energy level.

At times, it can be hard to accept — I miss what it feels like to have energy in reserve. In my best moments, I’m present and able to focus on the moment at hand until I’m stung by a sudden waive of fatigue. I can literally feel the energy leave my body.

I can almost envision a troll-like figure, waddling up to me, laughing hysterically — exposing its decaying teeth. It wears a shirt that obnoxiously reads “Mojo Stealer,” and it merrily sticks a needle in me to sap out all of my energy.

Awesome Sauce

Thirty years ago, the list of things I considered awesome probably included fireflies, the Atari 2600 and the movie “Back to the Future.”

Life has changed a lot since then, and in 2045, I’m sure I’ll look back with fondness on the things I considered awesome in 2015.

With a few exceptions, of course. For example, you know what would be awesome?

• Waking up one morning and not already being tired.

• Spending time with my children without struggling to keep my eyes open.

• Standing, for more than a few minutes, without feeling shooting pains in legs.

• Actually looking forward to a holiday celebration or one of my children’s birthdays, instead of fearing I won’t have the energy to enjoy it.

• Losing the guilt I have from seeing my wife do more to support our family because of my disease.

• Having a day — even just half a day — go by that doesn’t require me to find a second wind.

Those definitions of awesome will stand the test of time.

Unfortunately, I’m getting tired just thinking about it, so please excuse me while I go fetch myself another wind. It’s going to be awesome!

Follow this journey on A Life Less Traveled.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: September 14, 2016
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