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Timothy L. Vollmer, MD
Department of Neurology
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Department of Neurology
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Dreading Snow: “Being the man” with MS

By Devin Garlit

One of the things I dread has happened this weekend: that’s right, our first big snowfall of the year hit us.  Some people love the snow, some people hate it.  I hate it.  Not for the normal reasons that adults do (work doesn’t get cancelled, driving can be terrible, power can go out, etc).  For me, a big snow storm further highlights the inadequacies I feel because of my battle with MS.  For me, when heavy snow is announced, I cringe and hope really hard that it misses us.  All for one big reason: shoveling.

While it may seem trivial to some, for me, not being able to go out and shovel snow is a massive source of sorrow.  Not because I enjoy shoveling snow!  Does anyone really enjoy shoveling snow?  Well, honestly, there are times when I think it’d be fun.  I realize I probably only think that because I can’t do it though.  The biggest issue for me, is that my wife has to do it.  She has to bundle up and go outside and shovel our steps and walkway.  All the while I have to sit inside, going crazy, and feeling awful that I can’t do it for her.  It’s not a lot to shovel, but for me, it’s the principle.  It’s the way I was raised.

Wanting to be able to help
I see other husbands and boyfriends out there shoveling snow as my wife is suiting up to do the same and it crushes me.  I’ve written before about some ofthe added issues that men face when they battle MS and this struggle of mine is at the very heart of that discussion.  Not being able to go out and shovel for my wife feels devastating to me at times.  It’s completely emasculating.  Not because she struggles doing it.  She’s fit, she’s strong, she’s from New England… it’s nothing for her to go out and shovel a little snow.  This is certainly not about women being unable to do such a thing, this is all about me being able to do it.  It’s because I want to do it.  I want to shovel the walk and clean off her car.  I want to make her life easier.

There’s also that old, likely outdated feeling, that this is my house, my castle, right?  Aren’t I the “man” of the house?  I should be the one taking care of it.  Shoveling snow, mowing grass, doing all those things my dad did when I was a kid.  It’s the same reason that I’m the one who gets up if there’s a bump in night.  It’s what my insides tell me is the “right” thing to do.  To protect my wife, to do things for her, to be the “man”.  Again, nothing about this is a statement of my wife’s abilities.  She’s the most capable person, man or woman, that I know.

What do others think?
Part of me also wonders what the neighborhood thinks about me when they see my wife out there shoveling.  I’m usually never one to worry about what others think.  However, with the feelings I already have about her doing it, it’s hard not to let this one creep in.  He seems fine. Is he just lazy?  

So why can’t I shovel?  Well, sometimes I give it a shot and my body quickly reminds me that I’m not what I once was.  Standing without falling is always an issue, even without icy conditions (let alone walking), spasms, fatigue, even the whole trying to stay warm while it’s cold thing can cause me problems.  There is also the issue that that amount of activity would likely lay me out for some period of time, even if it went well.  I think you can understand that, when simply showeringcan present difficulty at times, shoveling snow can be an extremely daunting task.

That brings up another issue with snow and shoveling that bothers me.  It reminds me of how my body has changed.  It reminds me that shoveling snow would be nothing to the old me.  The old me that played hockey, ran marathons, and worked out a ton in the weight room.  After living with MS for 17 years, the rigorous physical activity that I used to crave is now a distant memory. That bothers me often, but when something like this comes up, it really hits home.  I can’t help but think back to the days when I could have probably shoveled all day with no problem.  The days when my concern was going to help neighbors shovel, not like now, when I worry about my own walk.

Snow, I dread it.  It reminds me of better days and it embarrasses me.  So it’s not only the summer that can be tough for those with MS (also, let’s point out that mowing the lawn bring the exact same situation).  While struggling with this whole “being a man” feeling can be tough for me, I’m still happy I have that struggle.  I see a lot of guys that apparently don’t feel that way anymore (ugh, I sound so old there right?  Like get off my lawn and shovel your mom’s walk).

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

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