I was reading a posting on facebook a few weeks ago - someone asked about disclosing the MS diagnosis to a potential employer... hmm... really made me stop and think for a few minutes before I responded.
My personal diagnosis process was such a public matter at my current place of employment that keeping it 'quiet' just wasn't possible. My employer sent my drivers license through their insurance & I found out a doctor that suspected either MS or Seizures had placed a medical suspension on my license... all unbeknownst to me until I was asked by my new boss why my drivers license was suspended! yikes! Well, that started the ball rolling and a number of months later I received my diagnosis. (You can read more about that in earlier posts here.)
I go back and forth a lot between being thankful/grateful that my diagnosis is such public knowledge at this company & wishing that I could rewind time & keep it to myself. The latter isn't an option, so I've embraced the fact that everyone knows that my life is going to be full of ups and downs. I'm very fortunate to work for a company that will celebrate my 'ups' and be understanding/flexible when I'm in the midst of a relapse.
There is so much mis-information / mis-understanding about exactly what the diagnosis of MS means, that my ultimate recommendation to this person was to keep it quiet for now. Another ‘poster’ on the board said it best, I believe, when they said that you can’t ‘un-tell’ anyone anything. There are days when I get looks/questions, etc from people and it can be almost too much to bear. I get so tired of hearing about how I look like I’m doing really well. The adage – ‘you don’t look sick at all’. It is almost like people think that MS is an automatic death sentence. Again, this (I believe) is because of the lack of awareness and misunderstanding that surrounds a diagnosis…
The most frustrating part of having MS is in fact the unknowns. I know I have them. During a somewhat severe relapse for me last summer, I was asked by my boss a very fair question – where do I see myself in 5 years, 10 years, etc. I was taken aback for a moment – but answered with the utmost honesty. I’d like to see myself right here. Just as healthy as I am today – just as able bodied as I am today – but I can’t see into the future. God didn’t grant me a crystal ball.
As I think about it now, the same question can be (and quite often is) posed to fully healthy individuals as well. Like me, there is absolutely no way they can tell 100% where they will be in 5 years, 10 years, etc. I think the difference is that as a MS patient, we are forced to look the uncertainty square in the face on a daily basis.
This actually makes me look at things differently. I don’t take as many things for granted. Should something happen to me, I will be able to say that while I will always wish I could have done more, I’ve done a lot. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve listened a lot. I am thankful for what I have and every day I can walk without a cane or food brace I am ecstatic! Little things that most ‘healthy’ people simply take for granted.
So, until the cure is found for this disease, I will be the 'Face of MS' for my co-workers. Hopefully they will all be a little more aware and understanding of others along with it. I will still have days I wish I could 'un-tell' everyone - but I'll get through it just like every other MSer out there.
Until next time,