Sometimes the what walks through the door before the why. It’s when our experience precedes our understanding. Thankfully somewhat rare, it’s also rarely comfortable. When it happens, ready or not, we find ourselves running a race in very unfamiliar territory, not exactly sure how it’s all going to turn out.
In all candor, I’ve wrestled with how to address this publicly. The nature of social media can be quite narcissistic, so my desire in writing about this is to inform, but while doing so also avoid inadvertently shouting “Please look at me and my family!” My intention isn’t undo attention.
So, I’ve decided the best way to bring it to the surface is to state my concern up front about how to do it, simply describe what’s happened, and most importantly as best I can, offer some encouragement in addition to the information.
Here’s my new reality:
On Friday, April 22, 2016, I was diagnosed with Relapsing/Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.
As my wife and I sat on the 5th Floor of Johns Hopkins that day, I felt like I was drinking from a fire hydrant. Terms and treatments and timelines and tests…it caused my head to spin, with the number of decisions ahead of us only surpassed by the number of questions inside of us.
For those who don’t know, MS is a disease affecting the central nervous system and while chronic, it isn’t fatal. In fact, the top two causes of death for those with MS are the same as the top two causes of death for those without MS – heart disease and cancer. Though medically incurable, multiple sclerosis treatment focuses on managing the progression of the disease, with great advancements over the last couple of decades in the effectiveness of the various options.
The irony of it all is that my diagnosis has occurred at a time in which I feel as healthy as I’ve ever felt. Running – the kind with a GPS watch and Brooks Adrenaline shoes – continues to be one of the great joys of my life and an integral part of the way I stay fit as I get older. Quite simply, there’s never been a day I went for a run that I regretted the decision. There are a bunch of miles out there. I’m still going after them.
I also am taking inventory on what’s really important in life, and learning lessons that, while sometimes tough, are extremely valuable to experience. And remember. And apply.
Let’s live today. A lot can change in a day or a few hours or a few minutes. The bottom line is, we don’t know. We don’t know all that we’ll experience. We don’t know what the day after today will bring. We can and should plan, but, ultimately, things may happen that add a wrinkle we didn’t anticipate. So while planning, scheduling, dreaming and working hard, let’s not forget to live. Every day. Contrary to what we may believe, the world’s orbit doesn’t rely on our perfection. Relax a little bit more. Appreciate the normal stuff. After all, there’s more of it than anything else, so embrace its simple beauty. Let’s capture more with our eyes and hearts than with our cameras. Likes excite, but being present, lasts.
Let’s get surrounded by people who care. We were meant to live in community with others. There are men and women around us who will come along side us and just be with us. Ask them for help. Let’s let our guard down. Let’s call our tendency for isolation what it is – pride. Let’s allow our needs to trump our fear. Get in a group of people and make yourself vulnerable. Don’t worry, your real friends will find your honesty honorable, not weak.
Let’s (re)discover faith. I’m fully aware that not everyone who reads these words thinks or believes like I do. I’m not into debating. In large part because changing a mind or heart rarely if ever involves volume, and in fact, is something I can’t do anyway. But I know what I’ve experienced over the last few days…I’ve found profound help in processing things unexpected by praying to a God I choose to believe exists, knows what’s going on, and loves me. A God who listens to a messy mix of frustration, anger, doubt and trust. A God who at times is silent, waiting for me to finish, and at times providing gentle reminders when I don’t know what to say. My diagnosis isn’t his fault. I believe he knows about it, he has the ability to take it away, and ultimately can give me the grace and strength to make it through, if what I prefer is for whatever reason not realized. If you’ve never explored genuine faith in someone bigger than yourself, or if it’s been a while, take a step in that direction.
Finally, if you’re the kind of person who prays, thanks for mentioning me and my family occasionally.
And thanks for running whatever race you’re in, one step forward at a time. It may be a test of endurance you didn’t sign up for. But you’re not alone, and I believe you’re going to make it.
Let’s run on.
“…since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the things that so easily trip us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” – Hebrews 12:1-2