I have Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
I first realized something wasn’t quite right while driving down to Florida over Christmas break in 2011. Something was wrong with my left eye, I was steadily losing my vision. Nothing seemed to help.
An Army doctor (I was stationed at Fort Jackson, SC at the time) told me I was over-wearing my contacts. By the time I got to the Opthalmologist three weeks later, I could no longer see the color red and most of the vision in my left eye was gone. He everntually ordered an MRI and told me that the optic nerve was damaged. A few weeks later a neurologist told me I had MS, and I was being retired from the Army.
Why am I sharing all of this? Because I want you to know that no matter your financial situation, medical status or situation in life, you can follow your dreams and travel. I am going to do just that, and you can read all about it right here, ups, downs and everything in between.
Of course I was depressed and discouraged for a while after my initial diagnosis. It looked like my traveling days were over for good, but then I started to think about how much I have instead of what’s been lost. I can still work and I am thankful for a great job. Medical care and insurance from the Army for took another burden of away from me. I still have my sight and mobility. With all of that I realize that I can still do anything I set my mind to do.
There are good days and bad days, 3x a week injections that make me feel like I have the flu, fatigue so bad that it’s difficult to move, back and neck spasms so painful that they take my breath away, and mystery illnesses that keep coming and keep going. Even with all that, things could be much worse.
The cause of MS still remains a mystery. (although I suspect that my year in Iraq and multiple vaccines for anthrax, typhoid, and smallpox at the same time had something to do with it), and the course of the disease is random and unpredictable.
It took me a while to accept and work through the physical challenges, (essential oils, yoga, exercise, meditation, stress management, and a diet free of MSG and most chemical neurotoxins have all helped) but other challenges have been more difficult.
While the physical challenges can be managed, I definitely wasn’t prepared for the lack of support, distancing of family and friends, and downright denials that the disease exists. I have encountered ignorant and absurd statements running from, “isn’t that something only children get” (confusing the disease with Cystic Fibrosis) to “you don’t look sick.” The disease isn’t as (in)famous as many others and is still poorly understood.
I miss my Army buddies, and those family relationships and friendships that disappeared, but I have found new friends, a new interest in teaching, and a supportive and encouraging partner. I have poured my heart and soul into teaching these past two years, but I miss travel. I REALLY miss travel. My last big trip to Germany, England, and Malta was almost two years ago, but it feels like a lifetime.
I love teaching, I really do, but not a day goes by where I’m not dreaming of a life of travel and exploration. I know in my heart that it’s time to take that leap and follow my dream. It’s time to hit the road and see which way the wind blows us. (which I was going to do two years ago). I hope that I have made a difference in the lives that I’ve touched at school. My fiancée and I have decided to put everything in storage and start new lives as nomads. First we will go to Greece. For how long? Maybe a month, maybe a year, maybe forever. Greece has been calling me since my first visit there in 2004, and it’s time to answer that call.
There is no time like now, and MS isn’t going to stop me.