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To My Mother Who Was Diagnosed With Multiple Sclerosis

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Since learning that you have multiple sclerosis (MS), we’ve rarely spoken of how I feel about your diagnosis, symptoms or neurological appointments. Almost as seldom, I’ve asked how you feel about them. Rather, we stick to the black and white of what is happening, which most likely makes me seem distant and causes you to feel isolated, so there are a few things you should know.

I see your symptoms, but not as much as I see the woman who played softball even after having a daughter, who nearly exhausted herself to be involved in PTA and who made it to every field trip. I see the woman I spent my entire childhood watching take first place in martial arts tournaments time and time again.

I still hear you telling the grade-school me that I know better than to leave so much white space in my drawings or asking me why I’m so “comma happy” when I wrote essays for class. Thanks to you, I’ve become an adult who paints her entire canvas and challenges herself to be better at what she does. I’m still comma happy, but hopefully I do you justice anyway. After all, I can’t forget the art and poems you crafted while I watched.

Since your diagnosis, you’ve expressed feelings of isolation, suspicions that you’re largely misunderstood or, even worse, invisible and insignificant. Understandably, you feel as though I forget about your illness sometimes, and, honestly, it usually isn’t in the forefront of my mind. This isn’t because I don’t pay attention. I just still see so many other things along with it.

Unfortunately, you don’t often get to see the fruits of your past and even current efforts. Even though I don’t get to watch you spar or paint murals on the wall anymore, you continue to influence your daughters, son and the world around you in other ways.

Your glowing spirit hasn’t dimmed. Your silly sense of humor still makes the world laugh. Each day, you get up before dawn, walk out the front door as gorgeous as ever despite the physical struggle that managing your curly hair has become and power through work with a smile on your face — all to touch the lives of students and teachers who need you.

I’m scared. I’m worried and sad and angry. I’ve had every reaction you’d expect, but you need to know that those feelings don’t dominate how I see you or how I conduct my relationship with you. The condition that robbed you of most of your vision, your athleticism and so much more hasn’t robbed you of the way your children look at you.


Your oldest (and obviously favorite) child

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Originally published: January 5, 2017
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