When You Get Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis So Does Everyone Close to You

How MS Affects Friendships

By Penelope Conway

I woke up this morning thinking about the past five years of my life. I get discouraged sometimes thinking about everything that has happened. I have days when I feel as if multiple sclerosis has flipped my world upside down and inside out. That my life, plans, dreams, and hopes have all changed more than I ever thought possible and I wasn’t prepared for the changes.

Many people go through life wishing they lived a life much like a scene from a movie where everything falls perfectly into place. Where they have the perfect job, with the perfect family, and the perfect friends, living in the perfect neighborhood, and simply living happily ever after. But real life doesn’t work that way. Real life is filled with pains, burdens, heartaches, and just “stuff.” In the real world MS exists.

I discovered that all the fears, worries and anxieties I was struggling with, those close to me were going through much of the same things too. MS not only changes your life, it also changes the lives of those around you. It impacts family and friends in different ways but everyone close to you is affected. I always say, when you get diagnosed with MS so does everyone close to you.

Talking about all the changes can be hard for some people to manage as routines change, relationships get strained, dealing with insurance gets harder and doctor appointments become the new norm. I find that being honest and open about MS, the problems it causes, and about the feelings we each have helps everyone better handle the changes that are taking place.

How are people close to you dealing with your MS? Maybe they are afraid or angry, just like you. Maybe they feel helpless, anxious, or unsure of what they can do to actually help. It eases the stress for everyone when each person can talk about their fears and concerns. You may want to meet with a counselor who can help you talk through the things that are happening. Many people find that, even though it can be hard to do, they feel closer to each other when they deal with MS together.

Amazingly, you discover who your real friends are once a challenge like MS comes along. They will either stand by you and hold you up or they will walk away dropping you like a hot potato. If they choose to walk away, let them. You don’t need anyone pulling you down. MS is doing a good enough job of that already.

Someone has said that if you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand, don’t take them for granted and if you can count them on one finger you are truly blessed. The tough times can’t break true friends apart or tear them down, it strengthens the bond and deepens the roots of friendship.

Do you have a friend like that? Someone that, even if you fall flat on your face, they will offer a helping hand to pull you back up and dust you off; someone who will smile with you, laugh with you and cry with you; someone that holds your heart with the most gentle of care knowing how fragile it truly is; someone that will stand beside you when everyone else has walked away?

Don’t let another day go by without thanking them for being a friend…a true friend. Don’t let another hour, minute or second go by without doing something to show them just how much you appreciate that they are your friend. Send them a letter, an email, or give them a call to just say, “Thanks for being my friend.”

Focus on family, friends, and the things that bring you smiles. This way, when change comes (because we all know it will), you will be able to make it through those times surrounded by the people that matter the most to you.

There’s only one today but there is a potential for lots and lots of smiles to help you through this mess called life. Choose to find the smiles.

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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 www.mymsaa.org or call (800) 532-7667.


  • Cecelia A. Kacmar says:

    I really enjoy “Positive Living with MS”. I was diagnosed 40 years ago this October. I was in the clinical trial for the first approved drug – Betaseron.
    I am still mobile with a cane and a walker and scooter for long trips.
    Your stories and info are all so true. And I love all the quotes!
    Thank you.

  • Peggy Wills says:

    On target as you always are Penelope!
    Thanks for the reminder and I count you as one of my friends! THANK YOU

  • Juana Driver says:

    Thank you for sharing! As always words of truth and the struggle is real. But smiling still!

  • Rodger Ashton-Smith says:

    Thanks Penelope we do live in changeable world and things have to done differently. If we don’t adopt these changes then nothing will happen and you will devolved in your self pity.

  • Evelyn DeSadier says:

    Hi Penelope! Your words always sum up what I sometimes have trouble saying. I was diagnosed in 2012 but was told that likely I had MS for several years… probably at least 20 which explained SO much! I was glad to finally have a name for “it” but I literally had no idea what I would experience… my grown son didn’t understand why I couldn’t just do things like before. He had a friend diagnosed with MS about the same time as me and a year later she ran in the NYC marathon! Yup…not happening!

    So, I’m writing to send you hugs and to thank you for your blog! It has helped me see myself as I am. Some days are better than others. Some people have fallen off my radar. But I still manage to laugh at myself, sometimes through tears but still smiling.


    • Penelope Conway says:

      Thank you so much Evelyn. I’m so glad to hear you are still smiling. 🙂 Never stop!!! xoxo

    • Penelope Conway says:

      Thanks Evie. I’m so glad to hear that you are still smiling. Never quit!!! Sending hugs your way today. xoxo

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