How long have you been sick?

“How long have you been sick?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m not sick,” I responded.

The dental assistant who was taking my information looked puzzled. I continued, “The neurologist who is treating my MS suggested I see the dentist as he specializes in jaw problems which I am having.”

She asked again, “How long have you been sick?” I saw a look of impatience sweep across her face. Then I realized her inquiry was not about my current health but my MS.

“I was diagnosed in 1999.”

She responded, “So you have been sick a long time.”

We proceeded filling out the paper work and I was reminded of a situation that occurred several years ago. We were at an after-hours urgent care because my son had injured his eye. He was in great distress lying on the exam table. I was sitting next to him in my wheelchair when the nurse came in and wanted to take my vitals. I explained that I was fine and that my son, the one in the room moaning, was the patient. She apologized for assuming I was having the problem, because I was in a wheelchair.

I don’t consider myself sick and I get very annoyed when people, especially healthcare providers, assume I must be unwell. Fortunately, the same week, I had a routine visit with my primary care physician who told me I was in very good health, except for having MS. We both laughed at the concept, and then he said, “That’s a good thing.” It is a good thing and I was happy for his positive affirmation and his ability to see more than just a patient with MS.

Having MS and dealing with the host of symptoms that can turn any day into a challenge makes it easy to see myself as anything but healthy. However, if I were to think of myself as sick it would bring my life to a standstill (so to speak) and this would be a bad thing. We can all try to see ourselves as vital, strong and able to contribute, even on bad days. I just have to remember that being well and having MS are not mutually exclusive.
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Susan Skoney, Blogger

Susan Skoney was diagnosed in 1999. She lives in western New York with her husband Michael and daughter Hannah. She worked many years in public relations and advertising, and has just started writing about her MS in the last few years.

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  • Brenda   Feb 13, 2017 11:29 AM
    I suppose I would rather hear, "How long have you had MS". I have told someone that I have MS and they respond with, "you don't look sick". What does a person have to look like to be sick. I do have a disease that is a continual battle, but I don't dwell on it.
  • Jana   Feb 13, 2017 11:48 AM
    I was 8 years old when my mom began using a wheelchair due to her MS. As a teenager I worked at the local Hardware Store and people would come in and ask if I was the one with the sick mother!! That just bothered me, because she couldn't walk, she certainly wasn't sick!! 15 years ago, I was diagnosed with MS and am now in a wheelchair full time. I am continually telling people I feel fine, my legs may not work, but the rest of me does!! Thank you for your post!!
  • Avatar
    maria1  Feb 13, 2017 3:50 PM
    Good job!!! I am not sick either. Persons with limits are not sick, perhaps a little challenged. Too bad we all get bad habits and push them upon others. Like being old is being feeble. Cant wait to find out how many seem me as sick and
    Thank you for the good attitude it is encouraging.
  • Cindy Minota   Feb 13, 2017 7:01 PM
    I completely agree-I am not sick; I have MS. I will agree to admitting to have a disease but I am not sick-I ass all my blood work, etc with flying colors! It is definitely an attitude thing to say we are NOT sick! I function better when I know I am well except for this one thing.......
  • Carolyn Cordon   Feb 13, 2017 7:12 PM
    Yes, this is certainly an interesting issue for those of us living with MS, and I expect it's similar for people with other 'invisible' chronic illnesses. I'm not sick, I am living with MS, and living quite a good life, but with some limitations other people don't have to deal with ...

    The labels other people try to give us can be the things that can limit us, whether those others realise it or not. I'm a published poet/writer, active in my community, part of a fortnightly public radio program, and I have MS.

    I also use my Wii Fit machine for exercising 2 or three times a week, and I live a life other people admire, and call inspirational. Not bad for a 'sick' person! I'm sure many here have stories quite like mine. We are not a burden, we are an inspiration!
  • Kathy Dolan   Feb 17, 2017 5:17 AM
    I was dx with MS Christmas of 2005 (Merry Christmas, Kathy...thank you very much!). I am also a poet/author and submitted a poem I wrote about being an MS Wonder Woman somewhere on this blog, but I am obviously not "computer friendly," because I can't, for the life of me, locate it now. Where was I going with this? Oh, I remember...I have a friend, Linda, who also has an "invisible disease" (altho a different one). She says that when she parks in a handicap spot with her permit hanging in her window, she STILL limps when she goes into the store she has parked in front of because she is afraid folks will think she is cheating the system. I have moved way past that at this point in time, but I remember when I was there, and it was quite uncomfortable for my brain.
  • Brittney   Feb 20, 2017 9:00 PM
    My favorite is when someone hears you have the MonSter... They say, "Oh, I know someone who died with that!"
    My response is, "Well I'm certainly not going to die because of MS, but thanks for sharing!" Ugh!!!!!
    I've been battling MS for 14 yrs but officially dx 2 years ago. I walk (thank God), work, spend time with my family, do activities etc. I face limitations but that hasn't stopped me one bit. MS isnt for the faint of hearts... it takes a true stubborn warrior to master this lol.
  • Lovely   Feb 20, 2017 10:33 PM
    i was diagnosed in 2009 and until now i had no major relapse.
    i can work, no issue with my walking. Can see brightly, although sometimes i see number 5 as letter S, maybe i don't have a perfect vision but not yet using contact lens or eyeglasses.
    sometimes i feel weak, don't want to get out of bed. but most of the time i go out just to walk and see what's outside of our house.
    Having an MS didn't stop me from living my life to the fullest.
    i just keep in my mind that,
    It's just MS, and i am Lovely.
  • Zolzaya   Feb 20, 2017 11:15 PM
    I was diagnosed in 2008, and i feel better now. I always think that i am healthy person. Its better to forget MS.
    This is really motivating post, thank you so much.
  • tommy   Feb 20, 2017 11:18 PM
    first symptom 1998 99 diagnosed 2001. I was 17 ive been on trial drugs my whole life because I never could get a permanent job. I have gotten millions of dollars in trial drugs pumped into me so other people don't know I gave up. I'm so used to disappointment that trying is my first step towards failure.
    In 1999 they sprayed for the west Nile virus in NY I was poisoned by it and it triggered multiple sclerosis to show its face to me. I have proof for all of long island with the 3 chemicals they sprayed and the problems it could cause and I have 8-10 doctors and scientist that have agreed that the chemicals they sprayed cause MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS but nobody ever would listen to a young kid like myself so I was left to be alone and disappointed. And believe me when I tell you that I am very disappointed with how life turned out for me.
  • miranda   Feb 21, 2017 10:04 PM
    I understand this completely. I have a friend of a friend who is in a similar boat with a different disease and she considers herself sick. She will be telling a story and proceed to say you know your sick too. As a matter of fact I am not sick. It not how I look at it.
  • Vickie Lee   Feb 23, 2017 1:55 PM
    Positive attitude really helps me in dealing with MS, Fibromyalgia and all the ailments etc. Really appreciate your blog. Thank you
  • Karen Flick   Feb 25, 2017 9:26 AM
    I just found your blog and see the positive life you are living, meeting the "challenges" well. I am not diagnosed yet but have been sick since last February; gradually increasing symptoms of MS. It is a journey for sure. I fall; collapsing legs. So, we bought a seated walker; thinking of a wheelchair so I can go shopping again. It is sure a puzzle. My hub and I were nurses, now retired. I am finding so many positive blogs to read. Not diagnosing myself but if quacks like a duck; it's a duck. God bless you and your readers. I was a avid Quilter and hope to return. You can visit me and enjoy my eye candy at wink Thanks.
  • Patrick E. Bailey   Feb 28, 2017 12:23 PM
    I was diagnosed with MS in 2010. At the time I was working as a Petroleum Landman. in a research role. I started having tremendous jaw pain. I went to my dentist and he said it was a very bad case if TMJ. After a while making no real headway he referred me to an oral surgeon. After a few visits he couldn't help me get any relief, and referred me to a doctor at UT Southwestern medical center in Dallas. After a very thorough examination he determined that I got ab additional condition that sometimes happens with MS. I had Trigeminal Neuralgal. I read on the net that this condition is also referred to as the 'Suicide Disease', because of the intense pain that there is very little relief from. I scheduled an appointment with the doctor at UTSW for a procedure call a balloon rhyzotamy. The procedure took 30 minutes. I went home pain free.
    I hope this bit of information is helpful to someone else out there with MS
  • Avatar
    retiredchef67  Mar 1, 2017 6:21 AM
    I am sick.... and tired of that question! I also dislike the response of " oh. I'm so sorry when I tell them I have MS. My response to "why. I'm not!" I'm having some shirts printed with my state of mind. They say " I have MS, MS cannot have me!" Chin up and ever forward ! Remember the shark that doesn't swim drowns. These "non-sick People" need to understand that BECAUSE of my disease I have found strength, fortitude, and ingenuity that they will never know. I have become a better person and a better father because of the changes I've had to make. Take pitty on them because they are not "sick" so they cannot understand. Good luck and happy days. Shawn
  • Carla   Mar 2, 2017 2:57 AM
    My diagnosis came in August, 1987. It is hard for me to remember a day when I was not struggling with MS in one form or other. It is nice to have this to see that others are dealing with things pretty well. It seems I dealt with the issues that arise from MS better in the past when I had friends and family who showed interest. Today I have no support to speak of..not least no one to talk to or just share concerns. So here I am hoping that people will encourage me and I in turn encourage them. I mean where would we be without one another anyway. My big thing I keep telling myself is, "Put your big girl panties on, Carla, and deal with it." I feel that I am blessed. I can see, hear, smell, taste, touch, walk, and talk today. Not everyone can say all those things. Now, I must admit I don't do some of those as well as I did before the diagnosis, but we have to keep looking up and pressing forward, praying for that cure to MS. :D
  • FUMS  Mar 18, 2017 5:11 PM
    Love your outlook Susan - and how "sick" is not how you see yourself. Thanks for sharing.
  • Avatar
    jennifer_m  Mar 28, 2017 2:34 PM
    That reminds me of how a younger coworker reacted when I told her a couple of months ago that I had MS. She was surprised because she said that I work so hard and seem to move around just fine.On good days I move quick, I think well on my feet, and I can do a 12 hour day if absolutely needed. On bad days, I'm lucky to get through a short shift and lean on my brother or hubby when I get picked up. It's actually a good thing that my coworkers know about my MS, because know they know why I sometimes limp around the pharmacy and my boss (Heaven bless him) knows that if he has to put me in for a crazy work week that the following week needs to be easy so I can recover. It's true, pretty much all of us have unseen symptoms that others presume "don't make us look sick." However, it's how we roll with them that defines us as fighters and not "looking sick." Cool post!
  • Avatar
    Bill54321  Mar 30, 2017 4:25 PM
    Yeah. "sick". We need a new definition. Has anyone been caught up with the immunosuppressed loving virus called "JC"?. Look it up. Have fun

  • Sandra Cole   Apr 26, 2017 1:10 PM
    I have had MS since December 1980. . I also do not consider myself sick. I use my computer all the time to busy myself. I am now in bed. I am older now and I also have a trach,
    I still feel good about myself. I always have done the best that I can.. My faith and friends have supported me.
    My motto is persevere!
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