Amid the storms of life, some people find out that they have an illness that changes their lives. Sometimes their illness makes them realize they will not be able to live a normal life and do things they hoped to do. But for others, their illness makes them determined to live a full life.
In a Chicken Soup for the soul: finding your happiness book, Valerie D. Benko writes about her experience when she learned she had an illness.
It was just before her 30th birthday that she was told she had multiple sclerosis (MS) — a disease affecting the central nervous system. On her one hour trip to see the neurologist she wrote, “I read the results from my MRI ... and I cried. I cried because I was scared. I cried because I didn’t know what MS was or what was happening to my body. I cried for all the things I said I’d do some day and never did. I thought at thirty I would have it all figured out, and I didn’t.'
The neurologist was very encouraging and said I would still live a fairly normal life — “have kids, take vacations, and continue to work.”
She did have a time of recovery and was on medical leave for a time, receiving medication to remove the numbness in her legs. She became depressed and at times found it hard to function. Her husband said to her that she had two options: “Treat the disease and move on with your life; or give up.” She felt like she was giving up and was exhausted just from doing little things.
But them she writes, “In a fit of anger, I grabbed a pen and a notebook and I wrote a letter to my MS. I wrote about my fears and frustrations. I told that piece of paper exactly what I felt about the disease. I wielded my pen like a dangerous sword, telling no one in particular just how angry I was.”
It seemed like the more she wrote, the calmer she felt; and she felt stronger and more determined. As she wrote, “Anytime I felt dispirited, I sought comfort in writing. I started penning letters to the MS. By treating it like a real thing I could attack, I started to heal. Some where in my soul, a spark ignited a long extinguished dream.”
She recalled how, as a student, she had worked on high school and university newspapers, and had graduated with a degree in journalism.
Then she spent two years working with a newspaper. But that experience wasn’t satisfying for her, and she went into another line of work.
So when her doctor gave her the okay to return to work, she was now strongly motivated to become a successful writer. As she said, “I wanted to show the world that MS didn’t beat me, and it didn’t.” She had many stories she wanted to tell; and she was determined to tell as many of them as time would allow.
Her message to readers is that we have to choose the life we want to live, before life makes the choice for us.
May it be so for us!
Harvie Barker is a Penticton resident who writes inspirational columns for The Herald.