Grieving the Old You, Embracing the New You

The “Gifts” in a Diagnosis

By Alene Brennan

There a lot of emotions you experience when you’re diagnosed with an incurable, neurological degenerative disease.

I remember shortly after my diagnosis of MS, I read an article that talked about patients grieving the loss of the life they had and the life they imagined.

It struck such a cord, because it’s how I was feeling.

What do I have to stop doing now?

I knew my love for hot yoga had to go. Because I finally got an answer for why I would feel lifeless for days after a single class. It felt like a part of my identity and something that brought me great joy and balance in life was being stripped away.

What do I have to erase from my bucket list because of this diagnosis?

And what about my dream to travel through Europe? By the time I have the money to go, would I have the energy and the mobility to walk the cobblestone streets?

Of course, nobody had the answers to those questions, but I realized that I wasn’t going to stop dreaming or setting big goals in life because I believe so deeply in the power of mindset.

In fact, I remember my mother’s oncology doctor telling her at the beginning of her battle with cancer, that they very best thing you can do for herself, outside of the medical treatments, was to have a positive mindset.

There’s actual science that backs this theory up.

So, I accepted the changes I needed to make – avoiding the heat, managing my energy to help avoid the extreme bouts of fatigue and adjust my diet to support my healing – and I did so without building a story of resentment around it. It was tempting to go into a “poor me” mindset but I knew it wouldn’t help anything.

What was interesting though, is that I found myself prioritizing rest and more importantly, not feeling guilty about it. This ended up being one of the greatest “gift” that MS has given me.

I previously would run myself into the ground – and in all honestly, I believe it’s one of the lifestyle habits that triggered the disease to express itself.

Now, rest is a part of my daily routine and because of it I actually show up differently in the world. I’m more patient with those around me. I have more time for friends and family. And most importantly, I feel better in my body.

I always found it odd when people would say that they received a “gift” from a health crisis or felt they were living a better life after a diagnosis, but I get it now.

I certainly would love to be living without this diagnosis but it’s here like it or not. What I can control is my mindset around it and choosing to find the gifts within it.

Have you found gifts in your diagnosis?

*Alene Brennan works with individuals living with MS and other autoimmune diseases to create a diet and lifestyle that will support their healing and disease management. She holds four certifications: nutrition coach, yoga instructor, personal trainer, and natural food chef. You can learn more about her work and follow her blog, recipes, and more at Check her out on Instagram and Facebook, too!

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About MSAA

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit or call (800) 532-7667.

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