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Why Not Me? The Story of a Man and Multiple Sclerosis

Joe was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1972 when he was forty-three years old. Our family was young, Lisa -16, Jan -15, Wendy -10 and Jim, at 5, just starting kindergarten. Neither Joe nor I had the foggiest idea what MS was all about and our family was plunged under "the big black cloud of fear and apprehension". Joe had been hospitalized in 1948 with an undiagnosed paralysis that his medical records had termed "a disease of the central nervous system" but for the twenty some years since that time he had been an active, healthy, strong young man. Joe has lived with Multiple Sclerosis for over fifty years. For Joe, each moment of his life is a struggle against fatigue, falling down and trying to make limbs move that refuse to "get the message". He is still able to shuffle a few steps with a walker but most of his day is spent on his electric scooter. He excersizes daily to preserve the "motor control" left him and he gathers all the strength he can muster to get on the riding mower to cut grass, the one chore, along with feeding the fish in the pond, that he truly covets. Sometimes the Illinois sun is too hot for him to spend much time outdoors and so the grass cutting becomes a three day chore, but he still insists apon doing it.

Joe is one of the stongest and bravest persons I've ever known. Where does he find the strength to get out of bed each morning and cope with all of the struggles he faces? When the simplest act is so debilitating how does he find the courage to even try? If the brain sends a message to walk and the legs ignore that message - who do you get angry with? Multiple Sclerosis is not a nice illness. Through all of the years of struggling with MS Joe has maintained a sense of humor and sweetness that is amazing. Yes, he is getting weaker and it makes his days even more difficult. Sure, his bowels and bladder aren't as well behaved as they once were. Perhaps his speech gets confused at times and he can't always find the word he wants to use. Joe has fought the good fight and his every day is still a battle. Joe worked as a traveling auditor until 1982, the year our Jim started college... he could no longer, even with the help of cruise control, continue driving and taking those long walks through huge office buildings to find the department he was supposed to audit. He is a brave and determined person and I applaud anyone who has to live with such an illness. There are thousands of people with Multiple Sclerosis in this world... they are couragious, witty, talented, intelligent, loving people --- get to know one!