By Laura Kolaczkowski
When we talk about relationships it’s easy to immediately think of partners, children, and other family members and how our time with them is impacted by our multiple sclerosis. The twitter hashtag #WeHaveMS rings true because having MS affects everyone in our close family circle.
Then there are other relationships that develop because of our disease – that would include the ongoing contact we have with our care team. Our neurologists, nurses, medical assistances, billing clerks, and everyone else in the MS clinic are people we become familiar with and dependent upon in more than a passing basis, and we develop a long-term relationship with them as well.
As important as our family and our providers are in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships, there is one group that holds more importance than these others – that would be the people who make up the MS community. People living with MS understand what it’s like to live with this disease, the struggle to make peace with this disease, and how to celebrate and live a full life in spite of this disease.
The relationships I have within the MS community are some of the strongest and most important in helping me to live in a positive way, despite having MS. I’m fortunate to have made friends, thanks to my MS, who are usually available at any time to stop what they are doing to take my phone call or answer an email.
Many of these friends I have never met in person, but we have that common bond of living with MS that cement our relationships. More than once my family has looked at me as if I’ve forgotten all the warnings of “stranger danger” and the internet safety while I’ve forged new friendships and comfortable relationships with total strangers.
Being alone with a chronic disease, and particularly with MS, can be bad for us psychologically and often even our physical health can suffer. Creating relationships with others who also happen to live with MS gives us strength in many ways that can’t be measured but is felt deeply. If you don’t already have a special relationship with another person who has MS, I strongly encourage you to join a local support group, an online forum, or even one of the many Facebook groups that focus on multiple sclerosis. Lasting relationships might not develop quickly because those have to be tested over time, but stick with it and I have no doubt you will connect with people of kindred spirit.
*Laura Kolaczkowski was diagnosed with MS in 2008. She is the co-principal investigator for iConquerMS and the lead patient representative. Her interests have taken her into the world of patient centered research, which is meant to deliver answers that are meaningful to the MS community. She is medically retired from the University of Dayton thanks to her MS, and lives with her husband in Ohio. She invites you all to join iConquerMS and help solve the mystery of MS.