Be a teacher. Or quarterback of the Redskins. Maybe run my own pizzeria. Create a television channel devoted to “The Price Is Right.”
Eat Oreo cookies whenever I want. Get married to a model, start a family together and live happily ever after.
Every adolescent boy has a different answer to the age-old question:
“What do you want to do with your life?”
But boys grow into men and some of their dreams, although never forgotten, adjust to new realities. I might impress my 6-year-old son with how far I can throw a football, but NFL material I am not (and never was). I’m not really a fan of Oreo cookies anymore and the idea of running my own pizza joint lost most of its luster many years ago.
As for my hopes for love and marriage, 12 years ago I won the lottery marrying “up” to my amazing wife and we have been blessed with two wonderful children. With our kiddos comes ample opportunity for teaching moments and the family we’ve created is proof that dreams can come true.
Of all the visions I had of my future, being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at The Mayo Clinic on May 13, 2008, seemed more remote of a possibility than replacing Bob Barker as the new host of “The Price Is Right.” Getting sick wasn’t supposed to happen.
That May, my son took his first steps as I was thousands of miles away having a spinal tap to determine if the lesions on my brain and spine were caused by something called MS. As my wife and I waited for the results, I wondered, how did I get here?
I was a freshly minted MBA and after years of hard work in my career, the payoff was a recent upward advancement into management. I felt proud of my accomplishments and was relishing the life I had always dreamed of, but then I was pinched awake by some of the greatest medical minds in Rochester, Minnesota, and they were telling me I had MS.
We all have frustrations, personal or professional. One of my cardinal rules when I worked was to always leave whatever career problems I faced at the office I refused to let my work predicaments seep into my life and penetrate the happiness I have with my wife, children, family and friends. In my mind, that meant it was winning. Keep it in the career box and out of my personal box and I win.
The progression of my disease has changed the road I was on, but that doesn’t mean it is winning – my pride will never let it. MS is the uninvited guest that never leaves, breaks your washing machine and/or vomits on your carpet. MS is the new, temperamental boss at work whose only quality appears to be driving people to leave the company. MS is the shameless telemarketer who ruins your night when he wakes up your sick child with his uninvited call.
But the actual toll from MS is more serious than the annoyance of a late night phone call or the distress from enduring a bad boss. It impacts my vision, mind, body, mobility and more – but not my dreams, my answers to what I want to do with my life. As we get older, we are asked less and less about those dreams. Why? My visions are richer now: growing old with my wife, guiding and then watching in awe as our children become adults, spending quality time with family and friends and, yes, celebrating another Super Bowl victory for the Redskins.
MS will provide many obstacles along the way and when it does, I will seek to contain its damage. To be alive is to dream and that maxim lights the path down my road of being a husband and father with MS.