Saturday, April 09, 2011

I'm still here, and I'm still fighting.

I use my cane more often these days. Don't get me wrong, I'm still fighting...I'm just picking my battles more carefully. When I have my cane, I've got one more thing to help me avoid falling when I go off balance. And since my husband listened when I told him I want a cool cane, it's a touch of style. Ordinary canes can look sterile, but my multicolored one adds a touch of flair. Plus, it gave me an excuse to buy a cute Vera Bradley bag I wanted, since the bag has outside pockets that are the perfect size for a collapsible cane. Now I can keep the cane nearby in case I need it, but I look good in the process.

I also have a handicapped placard now that I use at work and occasionally when I'm out and about. The parking rules changes at work, and I needed to have the placard to be allowed to park on the first floor of the parking deck. At first, I was grumpy about having the placard, but I'm so grateful to have it now.

The common thread to both of these tools is energy conservation. Fatigue is an enemy for many of us who have MS. As a working mom, I'm even more aware of the need to make sure I'm using my energy where it matters. So yeah, I'll use a scooter in the supermarket or on vacation in Disney, so that I have the energy to get things done and have fun. I'll read books and listen to webinars that have tips for managing my fatigue so it doesn't manage me.

I could focus on what I can't do since I have MS, or focus on what I can do. Make lemons out of lemonade. So I'm not the best choice for chaperoning a school field trip. But that didn't stop me from reading to my son's class (and since I love using silly voices when I read stories out loud, I was quite popular with the kindergarten crowd). When we went to Disney, I wasn't running around with the parks like a crazy woman, but I joined my younger son on his first kiddie coaster ride.

I can even turn some parts of my conditions into advantages. Any parent can tell you how chaotic life with kids is and how many demands are made on your time to volunteer or get involved in extracurricular activities. It's easier for me to be selective on what I will or won't volunteer to do, but there are still plenty of ways for me to get involved. And since I don't want to overextend myself, I'm less likely to overcommit my kids. I know some parents who have their kids in a different activity every night and (at least) one on weekends. I just don't have the energy to shuffle them around as much as I might be tempted to do, which I think is good for them too.

I did some physical therapy in the fall, and my therapist said that I'm pretty high-functioning for someone who was diagnosed 9 years ago. But I know I could be doing better if I got some good habits going and took control of my health. The biggest challenge is pushing ahead even when I'm fatigued.

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