Dear Multiple Sclerosis… Reflections on turning 22 and World MS Day

Dear Multiple Sclerosis… Reflections on turning 22 and World MS Day

Dear Multiple Sclerosis,

Today is World MS Day. A day when around the world, people are hoping to spread the word about you. A day when people around the world realize there is a global community of people who are living with you.

Today is also my 22nd birthday. We’ve dealt with each other for three years now. The least you could do is send me a cake or something.

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was 19. For the last three years, I have lived with the thought that at anytime my body could go numb, I could lose my sight, lose the ability to speak or experience any of the other many symptoms that haunt people with MS. These last three years have been emotionally draining. They have been difficult. I have seen a deterioration in my balance, the fluidity with which I speak and my stamina when it comes to everyday activities.

But I also know that I have been lucky. Yes, you made me give myself a needle everyday for two years, and yes now you make me take 4 pills a day, but I know those are the reasons that I haven’t had a flare-up for two and a half years now. I know that because of you, I have taken my health to my own hands. I have learned how to cook for myself in a healthy way. I have started exercising, and I’m realizing every day that my overall health is an intricate, intertwined system; by managing my stress, my weight, my sleep patterns, and every other part of my body I have been able to manage you.

I don’t know where you came from. I don’t know why you’re here. I don’t know why my family moving to Canada when I was 1 instantly gave me a higher risk of being diagnosed. I don’t know why Canada has the highest rate of MS in the entire world.

But what I do know is that I have become stronger, braver and more ambitious since being diagnosed with you. For the last 22 years, I have been labeled a dreamer, a hopeless romantic and been told that I have my head in the clouds.

But that’s okay. Because I have found success on my own terms because of those hopes, dreams and ambitions. I have made incredible friends and connections, gone places and had incredible experiences with and without you.

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While today I recognize how much you weigh on my life and my everyday decisions, I also realize how much I have accomplished. I recognize how the love and support of my family, friends and communities has helped me develop into the confident, ambitious and successful person I am today.

That’s why I’m launching my new blog and website today. Because I want to share my story. I want to tell people about you. I want to share my thoughts on issues relating to multiple sclerosis, the queer community, student affairs, food, academia and much more. I want to show people that even when there are obstacles in life, that you can still find happiness, joy, success and have goals. And accomplish them. 

So multiple sclerosis. We’ve had three years together. And we probably have many, many more to go. But you’re not gonna stand in my way. I’m going to dive into life headfirst, so get ready for the ride.

Sincerely,

Juan Garrido

To learn more about multiple sclerosis, check out the MS Society of Canada and World MS Day.

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