The Adventure of a Lifetime

Let me start by saying that I don't have multiple sclerosis. I cannot profess to know first-hand the everyday struggles of living with the disease. Nonetheless, MS has become a major part of my life over the last 12 years ever since my mom met Tim.
Twelve summers ago, my mom, Janet, met the man she would eventually marry. They were both single, in their early 40s and raising teenagers—a stressful time all around.

I remember my mom's nerves as she prepared herself to jump back into the dating world. She wasn’t sure if she could handle it. But after her first date with Tim, it felt like a weight lifted off her shoulders. The air had changed. As cheesy as it sounds, they were meant for each other.

Two years later they got married on an old steam engine train, as you do in northern Wisconsin, surrounded by family and friends. They've been inseparable ever since.

Me (left) and my amazing family.
But unfortunately, this isn't a fairy tale. It hasn't all been "happily ever after." Over the years, they have both had their share of medical issues. In 2000, Tim got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He's been living with slowly progressing symptoms ever since, and in 2007 at the age of 45, the disease forced him to end his career as a CAD Drafter. On the other hand, Janet has been struggling with rheumatoid arthritis since her early 20s. She also finally had her thyroid removed in 2016, ending a decade-long battle against a variety of health problems like chronic vertigo.

Until recently, Tim's symptoms have been primarily cognitive: memory loss, communication issues, recognition problems, etc. Even so, over the last few years, he has gradually had more and more trouble with the physical side of MS as well. These days you will usually see him supporting himself with a cane and avoiding hot weather.

Okay, you get it. My parents have health problems. They joined "the club." But what does this story have to do with anything? Well, Tim and Janet's struggles with health have prevented them from taking part in a lot of experiences like traveling.

But... that's about to change!

That brings me to why I'm telling you this story in the first place: We are going on a trip! In fact, this is the first time in my parents' lives they are traveling abroad. Despite their health problems, they decided it was time to get passports and experience the world before time runs out.

Tim and my mom on my graduation day.
I'm ecstatic to come along as their travel guide, and on the way, I’m going to fill you in on the tips and tricks we have stumbled upon while traveling with multiple sclerosis. From how to pack your bags to trekking through the airport, we want to try to help others with MS to get out and explore the world anyway.

Bon voyage!

Stay tuned for travel tips and tricks from Calysta this summer on the MS Connection blog!
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Calysta Phalen

Calysta is a professional copywriter from Milwaukee, Wisconsin with a passion for travel. She has been an advocate for MS awareness since 2005 when her mom met her future step-dad, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2000.

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  • Pat   May 30, 2017 9:10 PM
    I am looking forward to hearing more about your adventure. I used to be a world traveler to all corners of the world but progressive MS has slowed me down in the past five years or so but this August I am headed to Wales for a wedding. One thing that has helped at airports is to always take advantage of wheelchair service - no standing in line for security or customs and that is very important! Bon voyage!
  • SmartyPants196   May 30, 2017 10:39 PM
    I was touched by your story and look forward to following you three as you go off on the adventure of a lifetime. I was born in WI and at the age of 15 got mono, which laid dormant until I moved to Oregon and when I was 53 I got progressive MS. My vitamin D level was extremely low, those are my triggers, those and chronic stress from my passionate involvement in providing support to dozens of develpmentally disabled adults. I was forced to retire when I kept falling down and got severe back pain. I was so relieved when they finally told me what was wrong with me. So one day when I was cleaning out my closets I found my journals from the days when I first moved to Oregon in the early eighties when I also went on an adventure away from everyone I'd known, when I lived in my tent and worked as a timber cruiser doing timber inventory for the forest service. Well, as I read I started chuckling and thought they would make a good book, since then i have written three fictionalized memiors, all thre books in one paperback book, "The Eve Chronicles" by Diane DeVillers. Check out my author page on amazon. So if it wasn't for MS i never would have found the time to write my books. I am currently working on another book and three short stories. MS can bring good things to our lives. I look forward to reading about your adventure. Thanks for being a friend to someone with MS. You are priceless.
  • Tara McWilliams   May 31, 2017 6:00 AM
    Get him a wheelchair so Tim and your mom will get in front of everyone they will have bags checked n someone comes n gets them n takes them and i believe they get front seats. I went to work with my hisband a few years ago n thats how it went, n im going to Vegas again this year. I hope i can beat the heat unfortunately my body can't take the cold or the hot so I feel that I'm screwed either way I've been having a hard time staying positive lately I married the man of my dreams and it seems that he does not understand but when we first got together he was so sick I didn't have my driver's license and I had to call my father to bring me groceries because my husband is a brittle diabetic and he was so so so sick and he told me when we got engaged that he wanted to be able to take care of somebody the way I took care of him and I'm just having a hard time understanding he has a 13 year old daughter manipulates everything I used to be bigger now we are same size but I surely haven't forgot what my clothes are and he always says to me this isn't going to work I took care of him and I love him so much now I'm going to relapse in a flare up now and no help he's been treating me rotten like this Vegas trip is some something big well I've already been there but if you ever get a chance to go go to Fremont Street that's probably one of the best funniest places
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    new2ms101  May 31, 2017 11:54 AM
    Looking foward to reading about your adventures!
  • David Maskalick   May 31, 2017 2:37 PM
    Hello Calysta Phalen, You are a wonderful person! I'm Dave and my wife is Kathy. I was diagnosed with progressive MS when I was 27 years old and had to give up working as a research scientist when I was 43 years old. Even though Kathy no longer has any cartilage in her knees she planned for our 30th anniversary in 2014 a riverboat tour through eastern Europe which we both thoroughly enjoyed. I'm looking forward to learning about your upcoming trip with your parents and wish all of you the very best! Dave Maskalick
  • Carol   May 31, 2017 5:19 PM
    I'm looking forward to hearing more about your travels. I used to be a world traveler and I think I must have seen everything, but progressive MS has slowed me down considerably.
  • Karen Urquhart   Jun 3, 2017 8:34 PM
    My husband and I have just returned from an Alaskan cruise. He has Progressive MS. The trip was not without challenges but we still had the time of our lives! He had lots of help at airports with wheelchair service and the cruise line went out of their way to help, transport and make him comfortable.
  • Parita Vadera   Jun 4, 2017 3:56 AM
    Hi, I am from India, Parita Vadera It's a great article for ppl having Ms and before diagnosis they were travelling and having normal life. Like us ppl can't able to earn money properly and all dreams goes becomes down, I was too go for trekking and travelling but after ms not able to work, depending on my parents so travelling is just dream, at some point of time that was my reality. But now things has changed, I feel like I am in cage. Is there any sponersship or something which help MS patient to live there dream. Thanks
  • Janet Meydam   Jul 6, 2017 5:58 PM
    Parita - the only grant programs I know about for people with MS require you to be a resident of the United States. You might want to research what is available in your country.
  • paul63  Aug 24, 2017 12:04 AM
    i hope they have the time of their lives.
  • Alison Bacus   Oct 19, 2017 3:53 PM
    I went on a Viking cruise a couple years ago. I used a sit cane. It has 3 legs and can be used as a regular cane. when stopped to listen to the guide I converted it to a 3 leg stool and sat and rested. It was a life saver and many able bodied passengers were very envious!