I’ve been thinking about labels a lot lately. Specifically, the ones I use for myself. We all have them, don’t we? Especially with the inevitability of social networks these days, we’ve had to get more comfortable putting some kind of picture of ourselves forward to the world. And even if you’re a very private person, you probably know which boxes you fit into.

Me? I’m a woman and a sister by birth. I’m a Southerner because of where and how I was raised. I’m a wife and a mother because I chose to be so. I’m a reader and a writer by nature and profession. These are intrinsic, unchanging pieces of me, and have been for most of my life.

For the last nine months, I’ve had a new label. I’m a person with MS. And that has a big impact on me every day, regardless of how subtle or obvious my symptoms might be.

Like many people living with this disease, I’ve developed a different, more mindful awareness of my own body. I have an altered set of expectations about my future and a clear sense of my own priorities for the years to come. I’ve found that I’m more empathetic toward other people with challenges, physical or otherwise. And I’m learning every day that almost everyone falls into that category at some point.

I’ve chosen to be open about my diagnosis, so I’m very aware of the subtle ways in which other people respond to this new label. There’s an awkward moment occasionally, but generally I just feel more care from my friends and family. People are more willing to put their support into words, which I appreciate. Strangers are more willing to connect as well, commenting on my blog or opening up to me when we meet. I wish we were all bonding over something simple, like a shared love of cheesecake, but when it comes to human connection, I’ll take it. We really are all in this together.

Obviously, MS is a label I’d give right back if I could, but unfortunately that isn’t an option. I can already tell that the past nine months have changed me irrevocably. As difficult as this disease is, I think -- and I hope -- that some of those changes are for the better.
Tags Diagnosis, Progressive MS      16

Katie Jennings, Blogger

Katie Jennings keeps busy juggling a son, a husband, a job, an old house, a bossy cat and unpredictable Vermont weather. She was diagnosed with progressive relapsing MS in December 2012. She blogs about all of it at