Cathy Chester | An Empowered Spirit

Why I’m Thankful For My Diagnosis

The philosopher John Lennon (or whoever said it first) famously wrote, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” The life we imagine when we’re young isn’t always the one that we live. Our paths make sudden turns down unexpected byways, leaving us to survive unchartered territory.

butterfly MS Awareness Month 2015 March

March is MS Awareness Month, a time to remember over 2.3 million people worldwide who are living with an unpredictable and incurable disease. Strength, love, hope and courage – those are the words to be mindful of this month.

And, of course a cure.

As February drew to a close I couldn’t decide what I’d write about to honor this important month-long event. I mean, what else could I write about MS that I haven’t covered already? And what positive spin could I put on it, because that’s how I choose to look at my life.

Then it dawned on me.

thankful

It’s easy to GO ORANGE with Max!

Like Clarence the Angel granting George Bailey the ability to see what life would have been like if he’d never been born (you knew I’d think of a classic film reference, didn’t you?) I wanted to write about how different my life would have been without my diagnosis.

  • I would never have known the joy and unconditional love of dating someone who proposed marriage to me despite my recent diagnosis.
  • I would never have felt the compassion and understanding of family and friends who loved me at my worst.
  • I would have missed out on knowing extraordinary nurses who went above and beyond anything they learned in nursing school.
  • I wouldn’t know people in the MS community, and other health-related communities, who continue to inspire and educate me every day through their strength and courage.
  • I would not have had a reason to use my love of writing to inspire, educate, and make a difference to others about living a positive life after a devastating diagnosis.
  • I would not have had an opportunity to write for health-related websites and online publications that allow me to write about something I feel passionate about.
  • I wouldn’t know the generous and caring women in my blogging community who accept me for who I am, warts and all.
  • I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to quickly chant my elevator speech about ability and disability to people who’ve made an impact on the world. Alan and Arlene Alda, John Gray, Goldie Hawn, Mrs. Gene Kelly and Steve Wozniak, to name a few. I “name drop” because I respect and admire all of them for stepping beyond their creative work to make a difference in the lives of others.
  • I wouldn’t have been able to teach my son, by example, that disability doesn’t mean inability, and that tolerance, compassion and understanding always matters most.

I look forward to the day when I can finally say, “I used to have MS.” That will be the greatest day of all. In the meantime I’ll be mindful that despite my diagnosis I’m surrounded by many blessings. And, like George Bailey, I cannot be a failure because I certainly do have friends – near, far, virtual, professional and furry.

I am thankful for my diagnosis because it taught me self-compassion, survival, to remain curious and to always keep hope in my heart,

ABOUT MS AWARENESS MONTH:
National MS Education and Awareness Month is an effort by the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (MSF) and affiliated groups to raise the public’s awareness of multiple sclerosis. The vital goals of this campaign are to promote an understanding of the scope of this disease, and to assist those with MS in making educated decisions about their healthcare.

To inspire others to create a world free of MS, click here to share your thoughts on The National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website.

Learn more about what MS is and find the latest research from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke page called Hope Through Research.

 

 

 

 

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29 thoughts on “Why I’m Thankful For My Diagnosis

  1. Ruth Curran

    I just love that you found the perfect way to look at what was and is behind the door marked “diagnosis”. Instead of telling all of us that we have no idea what it feels like to live in your shoes , you patiently and compassionately show us and help us understand — even on those days where it makes you feel a bit vulnerable. You, with your selfless words, are showing us all how to live well with the hand you were dealt and make the most of the moments.

    Thank you for letting me be a part of that world — the one where your light shines and it warms us all!

  2. Tami Jerome

    Thank you for reminding me to be thankful for what I have and what I have accomplished. P.S. I love the classic movie reference.

  3. Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com

    Hi Cathy! And thank you for such an inspiring post that reminds us ALL that we can channel any experience into something positive. That does not make light of what you have gone through or what you face on a regular basis. But it is proof positive that we all have something to contribute AND that our lives can be better because of it. Thank you! ~Kathy
    Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com recently posted…The Truth Behind “You Create Your Own Reality”My Profile

  4. Helene Cohen Bludman

    You amaze me with your ability to reach beyond the diagnosis to embrace the lessons learned. Somehow you always find a silver lining. You inspire so many with your positive outlook, including me!

  5. Mithra Ballesteros

    Sitting with my leg in a brace after tearing two ligaments in my knee in an accident over the weekend and this post is just what the doctor ordered. You’re a brave woman. Thank you for setting an example. I’m done feeling sorry for myself. Now on with my day.
    Mithra Ballesteros recently posted…The GoldfinchMy Profile

  6. Rena McDaniel

    I couldn’t agree more what a beautiful post! You know I come to the same place from a different road but I too don’t think that I would change a thing. The gifts that I have been given in my life are such a blessing to change one would be to change it all. I think I actually began to live more after I was diagnosed than before. I think it takes a certain fear of failure away. I am so proud to know you!
    Rena McDaniel recently posted…A DEFINITE CAREGIVER FAILMy Profile

  7. Tam Warner Minton

    Ah, Cathy, you truly are an empowered spirit. There are few people who would look at it the way you do. But honestly, given the choice…wouldn’t you have preferred not having the disease? I have lived a lifetime in pain…it’s just the way it is. And I wonder what life might have been like if I had not had a congenital deformity of the spine…I have learned so much from it: compassion, tenacity, willpower, acceptance…and have taught tolerance and understanding to others. But…if I could go back in time, I would love to have a body without the pain. I can’t even imagine what it would be like. I’m a happy, positive person, but I wouldn’t choose it again (if Carol is correct and I actually did choose it.)
    Tam Warner Minton recently posted…Transplant World: Let’s try it again!My Profile

    1. shifrachester@gmail.com Post author

      Tam,

      Of course no one wants to be diagnosed with any illness. I think we’d be crazy if we wanted to be diagnosed. But we have to learn to live with the hand we’re dealt, and it took me a long time to make peace with a lot of health issues that were handed to me. It could be worse. It could be terminal. But it’s not. So life is still delicious, and there’s much to be thankful for. So I’ve decided to life a good life within the abilities I do have. And as many in the MS, and other health-related communities say, being positive goes a long way toward better health. That’s a CHOICE that we all have to make.

  8. Andi

    I can’t tell you how inspiring it was to read this post – I have chosen to live a positively-focused life as well but wonder if it would all crumble if something truly terrible, such as an illness, would happen to me. It is a test I am ready to face one day and I truly admire your attitude and approach as an example to others!
    Andi recently posted…Saturday Six #140My Profile

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