1. If you play your cards right, you could end up spoiled. Not only will family members lavish you with gifts, unconditional love and support, but society will spoil you as well. If you are disabled enough to qualify, you are privy to:
- Unlimited free parking in metered spots and preferable parking in general
- VIP-type seating at concerts, sporting events and other entertainment venues
- Preferred treatment on airplanes as well as discounts on Amtrak trains
2. Undisputable excuses to get out of anything you do not want to do. Examples include:
- Participation in costly, stressful and otherwise laborious weddings
- Attendance at potentially awkward family or coworker gatherings (this might also high school reunions)
- Barbeques or picnics during oppressively hot summer weather or otherwise unappealing conditions
3. A convenient scapegoat for pretty much everything you do wrong. MS no longer stands for Multiple Sclerosis, rather my scapegoat. It comes in handy if you are ever:
- Chronically late
- Occasionally forgetful
- Too lazy to finish something you start
- Too tired in the morning to realize that your socks don’t match
4. An occasional right to entitlement. This does not mean that you are entitled to life as a bitter, irritable human being, only that when things are not MS friendly, you are entitled to small temper tantrums or short-term pity parties. These, while never enjoyable at the moment, often develop into very entertaining stories. You are entitled to a fit if:
- People pity you
- You use a wheelchair and you live in a completely inaccessible city
- It is too hot to properly enjoy the summer without melting your myelin
- You can no longer do something that you really, really loved doing
5. Increased potential for heroism. After an MS diagnosis, you will likely live your life in much the same way you did before. You will exercise, work hard, raise your family, attend social gatherings and maintain your sense of humor. You will not, however, be able to accomplish ordinary goals without the risk of inspiring others. People will likely note your achievements with the added: and she has MS! This is, of course, demeaning and potentially maddening, but will doubtless bring you positive attention and occasional accolades. My advice? Enjoy them.
6. A marked increase in self-esteem. You will develop confidence in who you are, rather than what you do. (Unfortunately this often comes at a heavy price; there are days I was just fine defining myself as a runner.) Post-MS, you will come to know and appreciate who you are with or without the things you do.
7. A legitimate excuse to never wear high-heeled, platform, or pointy, stiff and unforgiving dress shoes. You will rejoice as you save hundreds of dollars on practical and comfortable shoes rather than expensive, trendy and bizarrely uncomfortable shoes.
8. An increased ability to relate to those around you. MS makes you more sensitive and compassionate. This is (unfortunately) a result of increased vulnerability and fear, but it nonetheless turns you into an empathetic person who friends will soon regard as selfless and wise.
9. A genuine appreciation for unconditional love. Eight years after my diagnosis, I am now positive that I have no casual, obligatory acquaintances. My close friends and family members are willing to help me with countless inane tasks – from grocery shopping to cleaning my bathroom. My best friend in college even attempted to run a lap around the track with me on her back, just so I wouldn’t “forget what it felt like to run”. Despite the fact that we both ended up in a heap on the track (I am 5'10"!), her effort was valiant.
10. A well developed sense of humor. Even if you weren’t able to laugh at yourself pre-MS, you will inevitably learn to take things much less seriously. You’ll have to. And when you do, you will find that all the drama and stress of day-to-day life seem a little lighter and a little easier to handle.