Living Well with MS: One Woman’s Reflections

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Eleanor O. has been meeting physical and emotional challenges of life after menopause, moving forward with grace, elegance strength, and style!

Living Well With MS by Eleanor O.

A few years ago when I was watering the plants in the front porch window boxes of our home, the precocious six year old daughter of my new neighbor came over and sat on my front steps. She looked at me in great earnestness and asked, “Why are you in a wheelchair?” I replied, “Because I can’t walk”. After thinking about this for a few minutes she replied softly, “You must be awfully old.”

I was taken back a bit and asked her how old did she think I was? Thoughtfully she said, “My grandmother is in her seventies and she’s not in a wheelchair so you must be in your 80’s!” I told her that I was sixty eight and explained that I was in a wheelchair because I had a disease called multiple sclerosis. She just looked at me and ran home.

When I went back inside I headed for the mirror and looked at myself. I was in a wheelchair because of the progression of multiple sclerosis, but I didn’t think I looked eighty years old! And she was just a child… yet, through the eyes of a child sometimes a little bit of truth is often revealed! Yes, there were some wrinkles and my neck was a bit crepe-y. Okay, my eyebrows and lips were thinning. But, my skin was clear, even though it wasn’t tanned. I definitely wasn’t overweight and I thought I was sitting up straight.

So I looked in the mirror again. My hair was graying with white accents. Hmm, when I was in my forties I had dyed my hair auburn. At the time I just felt I needed a lift. Dying my hair, and making other changes in my life (like doing graduate work) had sure helped me then when I needed a boost. Perhaps I needed another life lift? It had worked in my forties, and again in my fifties when I wanted more control of my life and started my own Physical Therapy contracting business. I also had become a strawberry blond! Funny how things start and end with the hair!

But, after I retired I had stopped dying my hair and putting on makeup and jewelry around the house. I was busy doing the things that I had waited till I retired to do, like gardening, reading, reconnecting with my brothers and sisters and getting comfortable with my computer and the internet. I was so excited to be able to use my computer and internet knowledge to become closer to my family. I developed a website with our family history with pictures and memories. And by putting it on the internet as the pages were completed we all read it and shared in its development.

But thanks to my young neighbor, I became aware that, yes, I was neglecting myself. I figured it was about time to make another change. So I again dyed my hair, this time blond, changed my eyebrow pencil, lipstick, foundation, etc. And most importantly I started putting on my makeup and a little jewelry daily. Of course this led to new clothes. But the best ego booster of all was the purchase of my electric wheelchair! I zipped around inside and outside and as a result, I wasn’t as tired. I felt and looked younger too!

Facing reality and making the necessary changes can be very difficult at times but is also very, very empowering. Change is a part of life! When we were young change was hard too, but we were also looking forward to the expected rewards of being grown up.

As we mature we want to keep advancing. But a look in the mirror and certain milestones of age remind us that things are, and most likely will continue to change. And we don’t want that change! We don’t see there are rewards in aging. But age we will!

The Buddhist’s believe that the greatest unhappiness in man is related to change. We cling to what we feel comfortable with even when it’s time to move on. And we push away the changes that we feel we can’t or don’t want to make. But when we do make those changes and learn to love who we are no matter where we are in life, life is good!!

So, is there a life after 40, 50, 60, 70…..of course there is! Each decade presents new challenges and opportunities but it’s up to each of us to learn how to make best use of them. Is there also a life for people who have chronic diseases and are disabled after 40, 50, 60, 70? Of course! There may be more challenges and limitations but you can still make it a life well worth living.

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