Say “YES” To YOU!

I’ll never forget him in his ill-fitting trench coat and his cartoonish large head towering over us, just a bunch of wide-eyed, snot-covered children at Tonawanda Elementary School. His name was Officer McGruff, the Crime Dog. He pointed his furry finger at us while an accompanying, un-costumed police officer warned us against the dangers of drugs.

I looked up to McGruff. We had a bond. We understood each other. I knew this because a year or two earlier, I had won a safety poster drawing contest and was awarded with my very own plush McGruff doll. It may as well have been an official sheriff’s badge and a key to the city. I was now a safety expert. I took everything he stood for to heart. I mean, he had a trench coat and everything!

Like most other children in today’s world, I vowed to:

Say NO to drugs.

Say NO to strangers.

Say NO to cigarettes.

Say NO to alcohol.

Say NO to peer pressure.

We were being prepared for real life situations, all harmful to varying degrees. We were taught to be empowered, to be our own advocates in potentially dangerous situations.

But what happens when we get older? I still have to say no to alcohol (thanks, Rebif!), that creepy guy at the bar, and that second (third?) slice of cake, but what poor sap in a sweaty mascot suit do we have to prepare us for the times we need to say NO to good things?

I always imagined that my young adult years would be full of late nights and parties and whatever else it is that kids think adulthood is all about. I’m in my early thirties now, and while that — at one time — seemed ancient, let’s face it, the thirties are the new twenties and I should be just blossoming right now. And I suppose I am, in my own way. But sometimes it gets lonely.

Never did I imagine, as I sat crossed-legged on the floor in my old elementary school, rocking the latest and most neon early nineties fashion, that I’d one day have to say no to my family and friends, in favor of my health.

I’m so tired now, so very fatigued. My friends are still very social creatures (and good for them!), and I many times have to turn down invitations to get-togethers and instead live vicariously through them on social media from inside of my blanket burrito on my couch.

I fear that one day, these invitations will come along less frequently and, maybe, eventually stop. But, so far, the opposite has happened. Have I “lost” some people along the way? Yes. But they’re not missing. I’ve realized that the people who truly matter, the ones that really care about me will want to preserve me and understand when and why I sometimes have to decline an invitation. And these are the relationships of mine that are evolving and maturing.

If there is one thing I’ve learned and really grown to accept and embrace in these last three years of living with MS, it’s that your health and wellbeing are so, so precious. I’m not made of rubber, like I was when I was a kid, and none of us are exempt from the surprises that life throws at us.

People will come in and out of your life, but you only get one body and that one meat suit is what you’ll be driving for the rest of your life. Love it! Thank it! One heart, two lungs, one set of limbs, one brain. I still have a ways to go, but I’ve learned to better nurture these things to hopefully avoid any more permanent damage. I’ve learned to be more in tune with my body and listen, really listen to it.

Say YES to fostering healthy, positive lasting relationships.

Say YES to your body, when it calls for your attention, trying to warn and protect you.

Say YES to continuing to live your life as you normally would, while remaining mindful of how it may affect your health.

Say YES to your tomorrow, because today’s choices will leave an impact.

Say YES to YOU.

We don’t need a dog in a trench coat to tell us that.
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Cat Stappas

Cat was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013 and writes about her experiences in her blog, It's Only A Bruise. She hopes to make the dark corners of the internet a little bit less scary for both the newly and the long-time diagnosed with some honesty, positivity and — sometimes — some tongue-in-cheek humor. You can read her blog here and follow her on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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  • Joan   Jul 27, 2016 11:59 AM
    Thank you, Cat, for this post. It supports the difficult decisions I've chosen to make to manage my fatigue. Although I need to do the hard thing, it sure is nice to know that I"m not alone.
  • Samantha   Jul 27, 2016 12:00 PM
    Wow! You are an amazing person! You hit it right on the head. Life is so precious. We are the lucky ones that know that today, this second of this minute, this is all we have!

  • melissa   Jul 27, 2016 12:25 PM
    Couldn't agree more! We must listen to our bodies or we will suffer later and what's the point of that when all we needed to do was listen in the first place? And it's definitely frustrating not being able to go out more (I too am in my early 30's) but this is our reality. Just knowing when to say no, yes, or 'I need to slow down a bit here'. It makes a huge difference. Thanks for posting!
  • Deb Campbell   Jul 27, 2016 2:35 PM
    I have MS For 20 trans I love the new info that's out often try to stay up on it daily thank you all for the live you show us (MS) people with your knowledge GOD bless you all
  • Susan Lesperance   Jul 27, 2016 4:53 PM
    Cat, you once again hit the bulls eye dead center with this MS Connection blog post. As you now, a dear one of mine is going through the same things you write of...they are just wearing a different invisible cloak than the one you are wearing. Your closing paragraph brings it all home..."Say YES to YOU." Applause applause. xo
  • Susan Lesperance   Jul 27, 2016 4:53 PM
    Cat, you once again hit the bulls eye dead center with this MS Connection blog post. As you now, a dear one of mine is going through the same things you write of...they are just wearing a different invisible cloak than the one you are wearing. Your closing paragraph brings it all home..."Say YES to YOU." Applause applause. xo
  • Avatar
    dmaskal1  Jul 27, 2016 5:04 PM
    I was diagnosed in 1987 when I turned 30 years old, seven years after I married my High School sweet heart, three years after completing my PhD in chemistry and starting work in the pharmaceutical industry. My wife and friends listened and understood what I was going through to earn a promotion and continue working and still have a social life. Demyelination in my brain caused my memory and cognitive abilities to gradually decline until I reached my limit at work in 1999 when my employer suggested I take long term disability leave. I was, and still am, the same person, and my wife and I have continued to enjoy classical music, football and hockey, activities with alumni, cooking, and restaurants with our friends and family. And I’m still trying to stay abreast of science as it relates to life in general, not just MS. I figure my life will be what I make of it, so I stay as active as I can; in between naps during the day and a good night sleep. :)
  • RP  Jul 27, 2016 7:43 PM
    Thanks Cat for sharing! I love your attitude & comments, l so so much feel a lot some of the same feelings you mention. Its nice to know I'm not alone on this path we're all on with MS as our constant companion.
  • Terry   Jul 28, 2016 3:50 PM
    I really needed to read this today. I know for certain my marriage partner of 32 years does not understand. Nor do my two adult children. I am working very hard on taking care of myself, nurturing healthy mutually respectful relationships, and listening to this very fatigued lady. I feel better already.
  • Mindy   Jul 29, 2016 4:58 PM
    Awesome article Cat. It is very difficult, but I try to remind myself to focus on what I can and can't control. If somebody does not understand my journey. It is ok because I am working to be the best that I can be (muchhhh easier said then done). MS has made me more aware of what others may be conquering as well.
  • Jenn   Jul 30, 2016 1:51 AM
    I haven't spoken to my mom in about a month, which has never happened before. I had to stand up for myself when I was getting really pressured and guilted to go to my family reunion.
    I totally went vicariously! I wished I was there, but I knew the five hour drive would destroy me. That ask the fun activities they were doing, if be missing anyway. And paying for the hotel beef I'd be laying in.
    Thanks for this article! It was just what I needed.
    PS. I too took a bite out of crime.
  • George Redtor   Jul 30, 2016 5:58 AM
    Your blog is very insightful, and at only three years you are getting a handle on the situation. Congrats. Might I suggest a minimal change in wording? I'll explain. In exchange for "in favor of my health" perhaps the simple "due to my MS." You remain healthy, per se, and aren't making a choice between your family and MS. You're doing great! Keep sharing your powerful message.
  • Anna C Losey   Jul 30, 2016 6:28 PM
    God's blessings Cat, may our Jesus continue to surround you with His love and hope. Know that we all love you and are united with you. With love, Anna xxoo