I [heart] My Friends!

Those of us who blog on this site write about the ways in which being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis changed our lives, for better and for worse.

In my case, the for-worse category includes the necessity to stick myself with a needle every day – and the financial cost of those daily injections. There’s also the uncertainty about the future that everyone with MS experiences.

But I prefer to focus on the ways in which living with MS has actually improved my life. Since my diagnosis, I’ve learned a lot about myself, my priorities, and the way I interact with others. Being diagnosed with MS was a jolt that forced me to reconsider much that I’d long taken for granted.

For instance, my dogs. Soon after I was diagnosed it occurred to me that I was constantly breezing past my dog Ripley throughout the day, rarely stopping to pet her pink belly as I walked by, even when she rolled onto her back and gazed at me with beseeching eyes. I pledged to stop and pet her as often as possible. Now that I have two dogs, I spend an awful lot of time rubbing bellies. But doing so forces me to slow down and savor the moment – and to recognize that there are more important things in life than answering e-mail.

That impulse has extended beyond my canine companions to my human friends. I hate to admit it, but I used to take my friends a bit for granted. I was busy climbing my career ladder (such as it was) and taking care of my kids. I didn’t attend to my friends or my friendships the way I should have.

But MS has helped me put that all in perspective. Today my friends are, after my family, the most important parts of my life. I make a point of spending time with them, meeting for coffee after yoga, going for long walks (with the dogs!), talking and laughing and, yes, sometimes crying, the whole time.

Geography and logistics dictate that some of my friendships exist largely online. I make sure to answer emails from friends quickly and thoroughly. I comment on friends’ Facebook postings and take pleasure in their doing the same for mine. And I try to make room for new friends, in person and online.

Most of all, I make sure my friends know how I feel about them. I no longer regard them as extras in my life but as the key players. Their friendships have enriched my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined in my pre-MS bustle.

I am grateful for that, and for them.

And my dogs seem grateful, too, for the belly rubs.
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Jennifer

Jennifer LaRue Huget, Blogger

Jennifer LaRue Huget was diagnosed with MS in 2001. A freelance writer and children's book author, she lives in Connecticut with her husband, two teenage kids, and two brown dogs. Her website is www.jenniferlaruehuget.com.