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Why I Compare Life With Multiple Sclerosis to a Sports Game

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As a young boy, I remember my father and mother teaching me about the importance and value of “teamwork.” Since I can first remember, I have always known that I am not alone in this world. I am not an “island unto myself.”

My parents taught me to always make sure that I had a good team around me. Whether it was in Little League Baseball, the church basketball team, a science project in school, or a personal problem or challenge, I was taught to always seek the aid of a strong support team.

That life lesson of teamwork has been of inestimable value to me since my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS).

It wasn’t long after my neurologist said, “John, you have MS,” that I began dealing with this challenge of living with MS in terms of the concept of teamwork.

It may sound trite to you, but in my 31 year long journey with MS, I have to honestly tell you that my wife has been my first, only, and best “coach.”

The dictionary defines “coach” as, “A person who gives private instruction; a private tutor.”

Well, I am certain that you all would agree with me that what is shared between you and your significant other is private. Those thoughts, emotions and feelings that you experience in your walk with MS are shared mainly with your spouse or significant other, and are meant to be and remain very private.

The dictionary goes on to say that the term “private tutor” is a pun on “getting on fast.” To get on fast, you take a coach. You cannot get on fast without a private tutor or coach, and a private tutor is the coach you take that you may get on quickly.

In my early days of my MS, I am sure that I was numb. I was unable to react or respond to the shock of being diagnosed with the condition. So, I really did need a coach to enable me to get on quickly, to help me get on the fast track as I live with my MS.

Without my wife and coach, my personal “game with MS” would have been chalked-up in the lost column long ago.

Now, continuing on with my analogy of living with MS as a team concept, we come to the “quarterback” and the “front line” – the guards and tackles, the ends or receivers. And, finally, let us not forget the “cheerleaders.”

The quarterback would be the person with MS. I am the one who are carrying the load, if you will, to win the game. No one else can take the responsibility of making the call, whatever that call or decision might entail.

Now, the front line in the game of football is made up of the guards and the tackles. In my analogy of MS and teamwork, the front line would be Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, Rebif, and Novantrone. These are the five FDA approved medications recommended by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for treating Multiple Sclerosis.

Next on the team are the “ends.” In the game of football these are the receivers, or the guys who catch the ball. And, in my living with MS, I like to think of my receivers as those to whom I throw my problems to, such as anger and stress, when they become a little too much for me to handle.

And, in this area I have several people on my team. They might include such people as my pastor, priest, rabbi, or clergy-person, a good psychiatric counselor, a stress-management consultant, or, even a very good friend who is willing to really listen.

These receivers are the persons who are there for me to help handle any stressful situation or problem which, at the time, may seem a bit too overwhelming.

Last, and certainly by no means the least, are our “cheerleaders.”

As we all know, any good game, or challenge needs to have good cheerleaders. They are someone to cheer you on as you face your challenge; someone to encourage you as you live out your day-to-day life with MS.

Now, the cheerleaders can be, and usually are, a variety of different people. In my walk with MS, my cheerleaders have been, first and foremost, my older brother who also has MS. Secondly, my first-rate neurologist. Then there’s The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, my local MS support group, my close friends who are also living with MS, the and nurses in both my neurologist’s office and my personal care physician’s office. Other cheerleaders can include members of my church who support me with their prayers, and last but not least, good friends who live both close and far away. There may even be many others of whom I may not even be aware.

You see, friend, you may have this mountain of a challenge with MS now facing you. You may have just been told that you have to come up with a new “game plan.”But, you do not have to play the game alone.

You have any number of team players who are standing ready to be called off the bench to help you win your daily walk with MS.

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Thinkstock Image By: skodonnell

Originally published: May 1, 2017
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