Yesterday when I arrived back to my office after a meeting, I found an envelope laying on my chair. It was a Christmas card from a colleague friend, Kim, whom I havent seen since August because she is on "extended leave" battling Multiple Sclerosis. Despite her latest setback, she's still winning the battle if the message in her card is any indication.
Kim was diagnosed several years ago after many rounds with doctors and specialists. From that day forward, she became an expert on all types of interventions and has never let the medical community take the lead on her treatment or her future. Instead, she has worked with them as an equal and quickly gained their respect as she doggedly attempted any and all that was available to her. When an experimental drug became available, she fought the insurance company to have it covered. When she learned of a Neuro Specialist renowned for his work in the field of MS, working out of Halifax, she made sure that she was one of his patients. When she experienced a "bout" and needed to be admitted into the hospital for some type of steroid treatment, she demanded that she be considered an "outpatient" so that she could be home with her family every evening. Everyone in Kim's medical world seem to be receptive to her requests and demands. And, it all comes down to her positive attitude and her unspoken belief that no matter who you are, you're no better or worse than me. She has the uncanny ability to "level the playing field." Kim has somehow maintained her absurdist sense of humour and has held tightly to her independence.
Her first serious setback was when she lost the sight in one eye. It happened overnight. That was 5 years ago. The Doctors told her that there was a high percentage rate in her sight returning. It didn't and it didn't stop her. In fact, it seemed to spur her on. With the added enthusiasm and love of her husband, Kim continued to work long hours, to travel to her dream destinations, to attend several rock concerts and events, to be actively involved in community organizations and with her daughters' schools, to write and create and to continue to be the nucleus of her extended family. A couple of years ago, when she decided to teach her daughter how to ski despite the tingling numbness, she fell and broke her leg. She was out of the office for a while, but continued to work from her home while convelescing.
There were periods when she would be overwhelmed by the fatigue and stress of this horrific disease. We just never saw that side of Kim. Instead, she would return to the medical community for another round of treatments, take some time to regroup at home and return to work upbeat and determined to reassure all of us that she was just fine!
Last August during the peak of the heat, which is an enemy of MS, Kim started feeling the symptoms of another bout coming on. In order to try to tackle it head-on, she contacted her Neurologist to arrange for another steroid treatment. It was scheduled to begin the next day. When she awoke that morning, she was blind. Her sight has never returned, despite the initial reassurances that "the percentages were in her favour." As soon as Kim woke that morning to the new reality of her life, she knew that the blindness would be permanent. She was right.
Since then, she has taken on the task of reorganizing her home in order to maintain as much of her independence as she can, while she leads her family through the process of acceptance of her new unsighted world. No doubt there have been rages and tears over the past couple of months. No doubt her family worries about her, as they rally around learning to cope. Based on the note tucked in the Christmas card, I have no doubt that Kim and her family have continued to hold onto their faith while reflecting on their reality and sharing some of life's lessons.
Kim writes: "Recently I began the task of writing our annual family Christmas letter to friends who live afar. Part of my preparation was to take some time and reflect on my family's experience that past year. Following is a summary of what we learned from our 2005 roller coaster ride. I thought some of our newly gained knowledge might also touch you.
- No time is better than the present to get done what you want
- From every negative experience comes positive lessons, if you take the time to find them.
- Worrying doesn't change situations, only actions can.
- Losing something doesn't mean you've lost. It provides an opportunity to discover what's always been there and ignored
- "What ifs" arent important -- "What is" should be your focus.
- You'll never know what you're capable of......until you try.
- Saying I can't is crippling. Believing I can.....empowering.
- Wishing for more isn't important. Being thankful for what we have is."
"Most of all I learned:
Somewhere, someone is envious of my life!"
She continues to inspire me.