Mothering Through MS

By: Meagan Freeman

How will my children remember me?

Isn’t that a question every parent asks? We want to set the best example for our kids, leaving a legacy behind when we are gone. Often, this is one of the main reasons people choose to become parents in the first place. One of the first fears in the minds of parents who are diagnosed with MS is: “How will this disease affect my ability to parent?” Followed soon by, “Will my young children remember me when I was healthy?” MS often strikes in the prime of adulthood, when most people are finally successful in a career, finally married, or starting new families. This is the cruelest aspect of this illness, the theft of young optimism. We want our children to recall these years of health, vitality, energy and strength. We want them to remember vacations, playing ball, swimming, and dancing with us. We want them to remember us as young, beautiful adults who never failed them; however, illness interferes with that image, and creates an image of inability and dependence.

Mothers with MS face an incredible challenge, coping with an incurable illness while tending to the needs of little ones, putting the needs of others before their own. In my own family, I witnessed the strength and perseverance of two mothers, facing incredible odds, refusing to give up no matter how difficult life got. MS was no match for these incredible women I am referring to, my grandmother Bette, and her daughter Susan, who happens to be my own mother. My grandmother was diagnosed with MS in the 1950s, and she had 7 children at the time. As a child of 5 or 6, I have vivid memories of visiting the home of my grandparents. We spent many holidays there, the home where my mother and her 6 siblings grew up. My grandfather Stan was the breadwinner, and my grandmother Bette struggled while trying to raise her children. She had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the 1950s, when there were no treatments available. She was basically told to “get in bed and stay there.” Faith, love, and hope were the keys to their success, and my grandparents were a living example of heroism and true love despite devastating life circumstances.

When I feel weak, I think of them. When I feel overwhelmed with my lot in life, I think of them. When I want to give up, cursing the universe for the bad hand I was dealt, I think of them. When I question whether truly unconditional love exists, all I need to do is recall this life story and look at their pictures. Despite MS, my grandmother dedicated her life to her children, instilling love and values that remain to this day. You see, what matters at the end is our life story, our legacy; the story that will be told to future generations. Each of us is slowly writing a story that will be told someday, and it is incredibly important that we write one that we will feel proud of.

My mother was the oldest child in her family. Due to her mother’s progressive MS, at age 12, she took over a majority of the household chores and duties, becoming a surrogate mother for the 6 younger siblings in the home. My mother needed to grow up quickly, and assume the role of a parent at a very young age. At the time, there was simply no choice. Rather than playing, my mom would cook, clean, and help younger children bathe. She sacrificed her own needs for those of her family, and she never failed in her duty. The defining characteristic of a mother is the resolve to care for her children and protect them from harm, no matter what. My mother continued to care for others when I was born, and she was the most wonderful mother anyone could have asked for; I truly don’t know how I got so lucky! She provided me with a beautiful childhood, and gave me all any child could ever need, always putting my needs before her own.

My mother set a wonderful example for me, and I try to carry that on each day. I struggle with MS daily, but despite those struggles, I can still enjoy my children. I see their innocence, their desire to see the world as a beautiful place. My goal is to continue to allow them to see things as awe-inspiring, breathtaking and amazing for as many years as possible. I try to share openly and honestly with them, letting them see certain aspects of my disease, but shielding them from others. I am fortunate to have witnessed two incredible examples of motherhood in my own family, and I think of these incredible women every day. Each mother with MS is going above and beyond, coping with physical challenges while sacrificing daily for her children. Thank you to every one of the MS moms in the world; each of you is a true hero. Thank you, Grandma Bette, and I love you, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day to all…..

*Meagan Freeman was diagnosed with RRMS in 2009, at the age of 34, in the midst of her graduate education. She is a Family Nurse Practitioner in Northern California, and is raising her 6 children (ranging from 6–17 years of age) with her husband, Wayne. She has been involved in healthcare since the age of 19, working as an Emergency Medical Technician, an Emergency Room RN, and now a Nurse Practitioner. Writing has always been her passion, and she is now able to spend more time blogging and raising MS awareness. She guest blogs for Race to Erase MS, Modern Day MS, and now MSAA. Please visit her at:


Lesson from a Mom with MS: You’re Stronger Than You Think

By Hannah Cusworh
2013 Swim for MS Participant

You’ve heard of all the banal platitudes like “Never take ‘no’ for an answer,” “If you fall off the horse, get right back up,” and ”When there’s a will, there’s a way” – I’m almost certain my mother coined all of those phrases.

My mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at a young age when she started losing vision in one of her eyes. Fortunately that symptom subsided and she continued living her life as she intended. Four kids and a few decades later, the disease awoke again with a force to be reckoned with. Our warm summer beach vacations were moved to cool mountain ranges in order to minimize her exhaustion. Our Sunday afternoon bike trails shortened. Our floor-level card games moved to higher ground. Afternoon rests became a daily routine. Our everyday Mom activities had changed forever. At least that’s how I saw it.

My mother, on the other hand, never let that be the case. She never sought out pity from others, she never asked for help. Anything we did before, she’d find the strength to do it in her own new way. She wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer, she got back up on her horse, and she found a way. Yes, her everyday mobility has shifted towards a slightly different way of living, but life hasn’t changed.

While many cases of MS can be much more debilitating than the one my mother battles, I encourage those suffering from this life-changing disease to maintain the strength my mother has shown me. In honor of her continuing battle and as a tribute to her perseverance, this April I took on a personal “Swim for MS” challenge to swim 500 laps and raise $1,000 in 30 days. Sound hard? Not when you have this kind of inspiration.

Read more about Hannah’s Swim for MS on her webpage today!



Mother’s Day is Almost Here

Mother’s Day is almost here!

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. – Abraham Lincoln

Mother’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to honor the special mothers in your life. They could be your own mom, a sister, grandmother, daughter, friend, or co-worker. While these caring individuals deserve to be recognized every day, we can pause and give thanks on this very special day. Honor these special women with a donation to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA). Your donation will enable us to fulfill our mission of improving lives today for the entire MS community. With each donation, you will have the option to send a personalized online card to the person being honored, letting her know of your support of MSAA.

Your gift supports vital services and support such as our toll-free Helpline, equipment distribution, MRI assistance, and more.

“Thank you so much for making such an impact on my summer. I have 4 kids and I have been able to do a lot with them this season because of the cooling vest. Even take them swimming in the humidity. I appreciate your kindness.”
– I. P., North Carolina 

Please make your special Mother’s Day donation today! Improve lives today by honoring the special women in your life.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Thanks Mom…

She brought you into this world. She changed diapers, fed you, and most importantly, coddled you when you needed it most. She watched you grow up; through years of school plays, sports games, dances and recitals. She held your hand to keep you safe. She offered a shoulder to cry on when things didn’t go right. She gave advice and words of wisdom, even when it wasn’t what you wanted to hear. She could be tough at times but only to help keep you in line. She always seemed to know when you were lying or trying to hide something. She listened to your stories, goals and hopes for the future. She tried to be a role model in hopes that one day you would offer the same guidance to your children. She raised you to take advantage of opportunities and make your own mark on the world, similar to the one she made by bringing you into it.

So this Mother’s Day, think of the things she did to help you grow and learn in order to become the person you are today. Maybe it was not a mother but with the help of a grandmother, an aunt, or a sister that you were able to grow surrounded by such care and devotion. Remember these moments of influence and care and not just on Mother’s Day, but every day. And remember to say “thank you.”