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Don’t Hate Me Because I’m an MS Optimist






















By Dave Bexfield, Special to Everyday Health

Hi. My name is Dave and I have a problem. I have multiple sclerosis (MS). But that’s not the problem. See, I’m one of those hope-filled optimists with MS. No, no, not exactly the somewhat annoying “I-have-MS-but-MS-doesn’t-have-me” kind (sorry, just being honest), but the obnoxious yet encouraging get-off-your-duff-we-have-a-great-life-to-live-even-though-we-share-this-crappy-disease kind.

It gets worse. I preach about it pretty much daily. Let me explain.

When I was diagnosed with MS in early 2006, I did what many newly diagnosed folks do: I set out to read every single article ever published on the internet about the disease. I discovered a few things in those disturbing, sleepless early weeks:

  1. Wow, that was an unrealistic goal (Google tells me that there are now over 21 million MS references).
  2. Most of those articles, at least back then, had the uncanny ability of scaring the bejesus out of you.
  3. Getting the bejesus scared out of you was not terribly healthy.

Filling a Gaping Hole on the Web
I was at a crossroads. As a professional writer with a penchant for research and goofiness, I had the skills to put together an MS website that was positive, educational, motivational, and funny (not just ha-ha funny, but HAHAHA funny; note the intentional caps and the bonus “HA”), filling a gaping hole on the web. But as a writer, I also had fantastic procrastination skills. Maybe I could just bitch about the lack of decent MS content and wait until some other blogger saved the day. Alas, fate intervened. Fate, it turns out, had a name: Laura.

“Will you please stop your incessant moaning and feeling bad about yourself,” said my wife as I tried to see how many beers and bags of Cheetos I could consume in a single sitting. “Make yourself useful. And wash your hands — those fingers are disgustingly orange.”

She was right. My fingers were the bright ocher of a bad spray tan. She was also right about the feeling sorry for myself part.

ActiveMSers.org launched on March 2, 2006 — earlier than Twitter, before Facebook became Facebook, and back in the day when Myspace was more popular than Google. (Yikes, I’m starting to date myself and call attention to the fact that my career arc falls slightly short of dudes named Zuckerberg.)

For the record, Everyday Health’s own Trevis Gleason started blogging at virtually the same time. I’d like to think great minds — or at least proactive MS minds — do indeed think alike.

A Place for Optimistic Misfits to Get Tips and Tricks
I envisioned ActiveMSers as a place for optimistic misfits to get tips and tricks on the best ways to stay active with MS — physically, intellectually, and socially — regardless of disability. And that last part was critical. Sure, I’d welcome MSers who dream of climbing the seven summits, but I’d welcome equally those who roll on four wheels.

All I asked of potential members was that they have a passion for living well despite our condition, as well as a sense of humor about it all. And those misfits found me, whether looking for multiple sclerosis exercise advice or travel tips or reviews of cooling vests.

When I started the website, I worried that it wouldn’t be as authentic as I’d like — that my experiences with this disease weren’t broad enough. I shouldn’t have been concerned. As multiple sclerosis occasionally is wont to do, it squelched those fears in less time than it takes to boil ramen or lose in a game of horse to Stephen Curry.

In the 10 years I’ve had MS, I’ve been on a number of disease-modifying drugs, participated in multiple clinical trials, used more walking aids than I knew existed (canes, staffs, trekking poles, forearm crutches, walkers, rollators, and more), and even undergone a stem cell transplant (the real deal, at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston). I’ve got the gimpy-dude-with-MS thing down.

I Practice What I Preach
Yet I practice what I preach, and I do it relentlessly. I exercise every day for an hour or more, I cook dinner nightly, I stretch religiously … heck, I still travel the world. Are days challenging? Sure. But I roll with it, literally and figuratively, and I encourage others to do the same. You might say I’ve got a mean streak of stubborn.

Today, ActiveMSers has turned into something a bit bigger than I expected — a full-on website, forum, personal blog, newsletter, daily social media updates, the works — with ardent supporters from around the globe. I’m flattered by its success, but more important, I’m thrilled at the number of helpful and hopeful MS websites and blogs that have arrived since I began, each one another welcome arrow in our quiver to living life better with MS.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by EVERYDAYHEALTH
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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