Here I am at my hypocritical best. You have the disease. You lost the lottery. Get over it. Children are starving all over the third world. You probably have food in your stomach and a roof over your head. Deal with the disease. Accept what is, because it is not going to change. Those with any debilitating chronic illness, not only MS, should ignore this advice.
I accept nothing and urge you to do the same. I am not at peace with my condition. I live in a state of siege. My father was a physician who made it to ninety co-existing with MS. When he had to retire too early, he accepted it, almost embracing sad reality. “I am not angry,” he would tell me. “What is, is.” I would just silently stare at him, keeping my counsel. I walk around pissed off, doughboy helmet perched on my head, bayonet fixed. I look ridiculous.
Years ago, I never failed to notice that a week could pass without a single thought of my illness. Yes, these were healthier years. I spent a decade at CBS News covering news around the world, and when I was ducking bullets in Beirut or diving under old trucks to avoid gunfire in El Salvador, I had no time for thoughts of serious sickness. I came home, and the MS moved in, refusing to leave. I attempted to continue ignoring the predator, but I could not insult the invader. It just hung around and made life miserable.
Is it good to accept? My dad would say, yes. I say, hell, no. Accepting is waving the white flag of surrender. I believe I must fight with whatever meager means at my disposal. Join the gym. Go to physical therapy. Push hard, then push again. Tell yourself you are going to win. And believe it. My mentor of long ago was Fred Friendly, Murrow’s old partner at CBS News, with whom I studied at Columbia. Fred would proudly declare, “I never went to college, but I could will things into being.” He, alone, seemed to believe it, but it was his fuel for living.
State of mind is a significant factor in battling illness. Few would disagree with that. Piss and vinegar combine well. Throw in a pinch of self-delusion. Believe you are going to beat that which cannot be beaten. Not to parrot Norman Vincent Peale, there really is power to positive thinking. “Stand up to your obstacles,” he wrote, “and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.” Did I just quote Norman Vincent Peale?
That is okay, because the reverend was right. Grab the bull by the tail and swing it around your head. Of course you will get a hernia. Sometimes I feel like Walter Mitty. I know life is hard, but we do have to fight on Or else just roll over and play dead.