Don’t worry, be happy.

Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble. – George Washington
Don’t worry, be happy. – Bobby McFerrin
 
I had just turned 40 when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That was a dozen years ago. Looking back on the way I reacted to my diagnosis, I see a few things I would have done differently.
 
My diagnosis came a few months after I decided I needed a well-patient checkup upon turning 40. I wasn’t aware of any symptoms at that time; I just figured getting a checkup is what responsible grownups do when they arrive at that milestone age.
 
My regular primary-care doctor was so much in demand, I ended up not being able to schedule an appointment with her. Instead, I saw a young associate who had just joined the practice.
 
Everything went pretty well; the doctor found nothing amiss. I mentioned that sometimes a few of the fingers on my left hand felt numb, as though they had fallen asleep. She asked whether shaking my hand a few times made the numbness go away. I said, yeah, I guess so; I had never really noticed. I also mentioned that I was tired all the time. All the time. She pointed out that mothers with young kids (mine were 7 and 4 at the time) are generally tired all the time.
At the end of my checkup, I uttered what I now recognize as fateful words. “So, I have a clean bill of health?” She hedged, saying so far as she could tell everything looked fine.
I now understand that “clean bill of health” question was a major jinx. Why on earth did I ask? It was like tempting fate.
 
Six months later, on April Fool’s Day, my neurologist told me that it looked as though I had MS. (Clean bill of health, indeed.) My mind immediately moved into full-on worry mode, and my already overactive imagination leapt to a future in which I was in a wheelchair, unable to see or move my limbs.
 
If I had it to do over, I would:
  • Insist on getting that physical from my regular doctor, who has known me since I was a young adult and would, I feel certain, have figured things out more quickly than her associate did. Even if I it meant postponing my checkup for a few months, I think things would have gone more smoothly had I waited.
  • Never have asked whether my bill of health is clean! In fact, nowadays I am very careful to avoid jinxing things.
But the most important thing I would do differently if I had a do-over would be to not assume the worst about my prognosis. All that time spent worrying did me no good. And so far, thank goodness, none of what I worried about has happened – and I’ve learned to stop worrying that it will.

To paraphrase George Washington, worrying is a pointless waste of time. I wish I could take back the countless hours I spent worrying after I was diagnosed. I would do something really fun with them instead. These days, I’ve borrowed Bobby McFerrin’s sage advice as my personal motto: Don’t worry, be happy. I hope you will, too.
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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.

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    6 Comments

  • glen   Jun 12, 2013 7:25 AM
    My son was diagnosed in 2002 with progressive MS a struggle we had right from the start. Right now we a struggling with chronic fatigue and professionals not understanding with the symptoms of fatigue and heat. Our son is in a facility that doesn't understand the affects of fatigue.
  • glen   Jun 12, 2013 7:25 AM
    My son was diagnosed in 2002 with progressive MS a struggle we had right from the start. Right now we a struggling with chronic fatigue and professionals not understanding with the symptoms of fatigue and heat. Our son is in a facility that doesn't understand the affects of fatigue.
  • Avatar
    THERESAF  Jun 13, 2013 6:27 AM
    I FOUND OUT I HAD MS WHEN I WAS 29. THAT'S TOO YOUNG!
  • Avatar
    Ldg1230  Jun 19, 2013 8:45 AM
    I was diagnosed a few weeks after my 47th birthday. Happy Birthday to me! But MS has taught me something-to appreciate each day and to live in the present.
    Lisa
  • Avatar
    Ldg1230  Jun 19, 2013 8:45 AM
    I was diagnosed a few weeks after my 47th birthday. Happy Birthday to me! But MS has taught me something-to appreciate each day and to live in the present.
    Lisa
  • Avatar
    babydoll132266  Jun 26, 2013 1:06 PM
    I have just been diagnosed with MS..I think my family took it harder than I did.. My outlook was ok so I have MS..now how do I re--adjust things in my life so I can still enjoy my life..I refuse to let MS to take over my life..I think it's great that we all can support one another and we have someone to talk with that can understand how we feel..