This time of the year used to be, well, this time of the year.
No extraordinary significance. A part of Spring, a few days past taxes, a lot like the days before.
Kinda normal. Unremarkable.
But things change.
Three years ago around this time, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Officially, Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.
It seems my immune system does its job well but is confused about who the enemy is. For the record, I kinda like my brain and spine. For some reason though, MS doesn’t.
And to be perfectly candid, I’ve struggled with the anniversary of my diagnosis. Not the reality of it, or how to remember it – I process stuff by writing – but what to say.
There are so many others who face far more difficult issues, so how do I process my reality without making it all about me?
How exactly do you take a picture of yourself and it not be a selfie?
Here’s what I keep coming back to.
You point out the others in the frame. And just say thanks for them being there.
Thank you to my immediate family.
My wife and two girls see me in the good times and those other times. When the glass is half-full (most days), and when it’s completely empty.
They can explain the importance of a myelin sheath, what cognitive fog looks like, and why running and being active is so important to me.
When unpredictable is a new normal, their consistency is a rock. And they do it while dealing with important things in their own lives. Things like dreams and desires and difficulty. Their own or mine, they handle them. And better than I do.
I think of this often when we end the day. Praying together before bed is a ritual. But what they don’t know is that when we do, sometimes I don’t close my eyes. I just look around at each of them.
And silently say thanks to the other One who’s listening.
Thank you to my extended family and friends.
I have people who wonder how I’m doing, check on me, and ask questions. Thanks for doing that. What you say and ask, validates. The world needs more genuine concern. You understand that. And demonstrate it.
And some are people who pray. And they do. For me. By name.
I know “thoughts and prayers” is easy to say, and in some cases has turned into a political punching bag, but let me go on record and say I’m grateful for both.
If riches are measured by the kindness of others, I’m very wealthy.
Thank you to my doctors.
The phrase “my neurologist” still sounds weird, but I’m grateful for Michael Levy. He’s patient, kind, and accessible. And has forgotten more about MS than I’ll ever know.
And the other doctors at Hopkins. Those who run tests, sample my blood, check my eyes, provide counsel, and are friends. They remember that the guy from Baltimore is a boy from Chicago with questions, uncertainty, fear, and anxiety. And they continue to come alongside. I know it’s what they do, but they do it well. To those men and women, what you do, and how you do it, matters.
Thank you to other people in Maryland and the United States.
How’s that for a catch-all?
Hold on, let me explain.
My disease-modifying treatment includes daily medication. Pills that are expensive. Really expensive. Think close to $60,000 a year.
At the risk of TMI, my family and I don’t make a ton of money. We receive health insurance through the State of Maryland. And our insurance covers everything.
I’m going to write that last sentence again. To remind me.
Our insurance covers everything.
And yet I recognize that while I don’t pay anything, someone does. Free is only subjective. The reality is my neighbors and friends and total strangers, inside my state and beyond, help me and my family to fight a battle they’re not involved in and we never expected. I know tax policy can (and should) be vigorously debated, but underneath it all are people. People like me. Whose struggles of feeling financially inadequate are surpassed by feelings of gratefulness for people I’ll probably never meet, but who, whether they realize it or not, are helping me navigate this season of life.
So to you, known or unknown, thank you.
And thank you to God.
It’s interesting, isn’t it?
“God.” That one word conjures up as many ideas and feelings as there are people. And it spans the spectrum. Everything from an occasional thought, to an irrelevant concept, to convinced non-existence, to the centerpiece of life.
Count me in that last group.
I just believe God is real. And that God is interested in my life.
But my faith didn’t sneak up on me. It’s a choice I made. And still, make.
And as I’ve risked being wrong about the authenticity of God, I’ve discovered a day-to-day reality that suggests I’m not.
There are just things that can’t be explained away. A text. A call. A conversation. Encouragement in MRI tubes. Assurance when unpredictability reigns. Peace in the midst of the crazy.
It’s life though. And sometimes life and preferences don’t match.
Though I ask for it, God hasn’t healed me. Yet. But he has helped me. And the book that helps me understand God promises that that help will always be available. And always is good. And so is God.
So many thanks to many people. You’re in my picture. You’re tagged. And I’m glad we’re in this together.
Let’s run on.