My path to a life less traveled

I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it's both.

-Forrest Gump

The other day, as I watched my IVIG medicine slowly drip, drip, drip into my body, I had a thought. “I wonder how many millions of events had to occur – exactly as they did – to bring me and my wife, Angela, together?”

The love of my life had just left the infusion suite after dropping by for a visit on her way to work and it was a wonder to me how lucky I was – we both were – to find each other and to be blessed with our two beautiful children and so much happiness.

We met at work. Capital One was a young, fast-growing company and since they weren’t able to keep pace with all the new hires, they were just sticking newbies wherever they could find an open desk. My wife and I were in completely different departments, but since chaos ruled the day our cubes were right next to each other.

The roads we took to Capital One were filled with a variety of potholes and detours. From high school and through college, I could cite several examples of how one minor change, perhaps a slightly different decision, might have altered our paths to meeting on November 2, 1998. When my future wife unpacked her boxes next to some guy who wore three-piece suits (before they were popular), unabashedly sang loudly in his car, couldn’t stop smiling and had a really funny sounding last name – Wentink – was that chance…or fate?

THE ANSWER, MY FRIEND…

A common question I’m asked is, “Do you know how you got multiple sclerosis?” and my initial reply is usually, “I don’t know.” It’s not meant to be curt; ask any neurologist the same question and they’ll give a similar response. There is just so much currently unknown by the medical community regarding the how and why people get MS.

I do, however, have a three part theory of why I may have developed MS. I spent my youth in Northern Virginia and even lived in Germany for three years. For some reason, there appears to be a link between MS and reduced Vitamin D exposure. When I was diagnosed with MS at The Mayo Clinic, the doctors even asked if I spent any time growing up on the East Coast, where the sun isn’t as prevalent as in Texas.

In high school, I got a pretty bad case of mononucleosis (mono, aka Epstein-Barr Virus). I even remember one of the doctors mentioning how important it was for me to take it easy, how my immune system might never recover if I’m not careful. Recently, mounting evidence has linked the Epstein-Barr Virus to a greater likelihood of developing MS.

The last factor in my three-part theory is predisposition. Billions of people grow up in non-Mediterranean climates and 95 percent of them are exposed to mono. That doesn’t mean they all are going to be diagnosed with MS...but, in my case, when I was born, in addition to my rugged good looks and outstanding comedic timing, it appears the way my DNA was constructed left me at risk for MS. 

DESTINY…OR ACCIDENTAL-LIKE?

In a way, it’s kind of humbling when you think how random life is. Just one or two minor alterations in my choices (or my parents, or any number of my ancestors) could have led to a completely different world for me. But it’s also exciting to consider how each new day is another chance to be a new person; an improved version of who you were 24 hours earlier. If you don’t like who you are or where you are going, chart a new course.

Was MS always my destiny? If I grew up in a Vitamin D rich climate and never got so much as a cold when I was younger, would I still have been diagnosed with MS on May 13, 2008?

I’ll never know for sure. But if you ask me whether I’d trade the life I have for another version of me that doesn’t have multiple sclerosis, I’d say, “no thank you.”  All of those millions of events had to align just right to create the world that I currently live in – a life that includes my wife, family, friends and life experiences…I’m forever grateful for this journey, even if it did lead me to a life less traveled.

9 Appreciate this
| Reply
Michael

Michael Wentink, Blogger

In 2008, Michael Wentink was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. At 31, he was a new father, a recent MBA graduate and a Director at a Fortune 500 company. MS altered this path and after an early retirement, Michael is now navigating life on a road less traveled. A native of Northern Virginia, Michael currently resides in San Antonio, Texas with his wife and two young children. Read about his journey with multiple sclerosis at mjwentink.com and follow him on Twitter.

Leave a Comment

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the MSconnection.org community. Please note comments are moderated.

    14 Comments

  • Linda M. Sethi   Feb 27, 2014 4:22 PM
    How fortunate you are indeed. You are optimistic because of the three loves of your life, your wife and your 2 children. I am blessed, too, despite having MS. I know the depression of MS is not winning. Someone told me a long time ago, you can feel sad for yourself and not sorry for yourself. There is a difference. Let's march on! By the way,this is my first blog ever!
  • Peggy_N  Feb 27, 2014 5:21 PM
    Love this, Michael. The longer I live with MS the more I appreciate the power of gratitude to heal. Yes, march on!
  • Bridget S.   Feb 27, 2014 7:10 PM
    You are indeed blessed. Thank you for writing this and making me feel encouraged. This is the life I was given so I will make it my best life. MS isn't going to win!
  • Bridget S.   Feb 27, 2014 7:11 PM
    You are indeed blessed. Thank you for writing this and making me feel encouraged. This is the life I was given so I will make it my best life. MS isn't going to win!
  • Dad Wentink   Feb 27, 2014 8:00 PM
    Best post yet, Michael! Your Mother and I are so proud of you, Angela, Vincent & Gianna. MS is such an unfair disease, but the way that you and Angela have dealt with it is amazing.
  • Andrea   Feb 27, 2014 8:42 PM
    I agree. You are very blessed. I was just writing about the same thing, and I wouldn't trade my life either. MS has actually given me the opportunity to slow down and take in life and appreciate every moment. If not for MS, I'd still be running around like a headless chicken trying to please everyone. Kudos to you for appreciating such wonderful people in your life!
  • Frank   Feb 27, 2014 10:17 PM
    Great post, Michael. I think about the what if's, too. My theory is that there are an infinite number of universes with an infinite number of Earths where we may or may not exist based on our ancestors decisions. I believe that there are Bizzaro worlds where things just worked out that I became President of the USA or a criminal kingpin.

    It's fun to imagine that, but like you, I couldn't imagine what life would be like if it didn't end up the way it did. Any small change, and I would have missed out on the best thing to ever happen to me.

    Keep keepin' on...
  • lonelyasacloud  Feb 28, 2014 4:03 AM
    I think that nobody knows for sure the reasons of MS. I grew up in Spain (Europe), so I had plenty of D Vitamin. On the other hand, I also was diagnosed with Mononucleosis, but I didn't have any symptoms at all. As bob wolz says in his post, I don't try to understand. That's my lot, and that's it. Our relatives and friends are the best things we have in life. And we still have a life which can be very rewarding. Hope and courage to everyone.
  • Jeffrey Lagomacini   Feb 28, 2014 10:06 AM
    Thank you for this and helping others by paying it forward.......

    God Speed!
  • Jeffrey Lagomacini   Feb 28, 2014 10:06 AM
    Thank you for this and helping others by paying it forward.......

    God Speed!
  • allison  Feb 28, 2014 10:52 AM
    Fabulous post! Just when I want to whine about my new diagnosis of MS I get encouraged by post like this. Thank you.
  • tarbororms  Feb 28, 2014 12:51 PM
    Great piece of writing! I am going on my wobble walk around town on that note!
  • Jenn   Feb 28, 2014 6:13 PM
    :) Hugs from VA, Mike! I wish we lived closer.

    You're right, I wouldn't change my life either.
  • Juan Echartea   Mar 2, 2014 3:51 PM
    Love your writing WENTINK!! ......and your sense of humor

    Also, my favorite Forrest Gump quote...

    FIGHT ON!