My First 270 Days

As I sat home with that broken foot and yet another pair of crutches, I came to the hideous realization that even after my foot healed, I needed to use a cane. My doctors had been warning me for years about the risks I took by walking without assistance, but I had stubbornly refused to accept that I needed help.

My fear of serious injury became terrifyingly real, and my MS became present in my day-to-day life in a way it never had before. I was suffocated by my disease. I was bewildered by its oppression on my daily routine and its control of my thoughts. And, for the first time, I was blinded by the burden of my potential demise from MS. A lifetime of lies caught up with me as I was forced to accept the reality that MS was part of not just my life, but the life of everyone with whom I interacted. I could think of nothing more abhorrent. I had no choice but to tell the truth.
Sharing my MS story was an epiphany—I was quite literally the hackneyed cliché of metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. And every day that goes by that I embrace my MS, instead of denying it, my wings get fuller and more beautiful and I soar a little higher. Today I tell my story to anyone that asks. I am proud of my journey, I am proud of the person I have grown into and I am proud that I am walking tall and strong (at least metaphorically).

I want the world to know that people like me, with a disability, bring incredible value, wisdom, and humor. We are not to be pitied for our condition or lauded for our courage in overcoming all the odds. We are to be respected for our personal journey. We have good days and we have bad days. We worry about our health, we worry about our retirement plans and we face the future which is as unknown for us as it is for everyone.

I thought that sharing my story would be the beginning of the end for me and my “normal” life. In fact, it marked the beginning of my life. Without a single doubt, it is the most powerful choice I have ever made. I have redirected the energy I was using to hide from my MS into facing my disease head on. And that feels good. I feel emotionally stronger than I ever had in my adult life. I know who I am.

I am still learning to appreciate the role MS has had in shaping me, in making me strong, resilient and tenacious. After living with the unpredictability and devastation of a chronic illness for the majority of my life, today there isn’t much that can throw me off course. I feel like I’ve seen it all and done even more. When challenges come my way, I challenge them: “You have no idea what I have done in the past. You have no idea what I have overcome to get here. Don’t think this is going to stop me!” Don’t get me wrong, MS impacts my life every single day. There is no escape from it. But now it is a source of internal strength.

I have lived with MS for 9,855 days, but MS has only lived with me for 270. Today, I dwell on living my best life, sharing my story to help others who are hiding and constantly challenging myself and others to embrace the truth of who we each are.

Read about Rachel's 9,585 days with MS here.
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Rachel Padgett

Rachel was diagnosed with MS in 1993. Originally from England, she now lives in Seattle with her husband, Brian. She enjoys cooking, traveling and swimming for exercise and recreation.