Garry Hunter

A view of my own…

Why I love my MS

I have Multiple Sclerosis. I very rarely discuss my illness, or it’s little dramas and absurdities, because it’s not that interesting and feels like ‘Like’ farming. This was a once-only FB post from 2015. This is my story…

I was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting MS in 2001 following an optic neuritis. At the time I was running, climbing and swimming everyday, and had the 32″ waist and lung-capacity to prove it. When I met my wife in 2005 my 10K time was still under 45 minutes, I could bench-press my own weight, and MS was an occasional thought at the back of my mind. Now I’m buggered after climbing the stairs, bounce off walls, make old-man noises when I stand up and get to park closer to the shops in the big bays.

But despite all this I have something important to say…

I love my MS. Being diagnosed with MS was the best thing that ever happened to me (before I met the Wee Wifey).

Some people will disagree with this (tea will be spluttered over keyboards and angry letters sent to the Editor), but tough, I’m going to say it. Because in a world where people seem to play Top Trumps with their symptoms and illnesses I’m an MS lover and proud. Here’s why.

I never chose MS, but for whatever reason it chose me. I have no idea why, may never know, and when I ask ‘why me?’ the answer is ‘why not?’. That may appear glib, but it’s true. Why shouldn’t it be me? Rather me than you, right? But shit happens, that’s life. So after a very enjoyable 3 month bender on cheap wine, some truly depressing group support sessions, and a spell with a very understanding psychologist I had a choice to make; do I give in to the disease or do I live my life?

I chose to live my life and changed it for the better. Here’s why.

My MS gives me a unique perspective on the problems and lives of others. It’s made me more compassionate, patient and understanding. It’s made me more grateful for the things I have in life, and thankful that I had an opportunity to do those things that I can no longer do. I might miss being able to run 20 miles or take a hike up a mountain, but I had the chance to do them and I took it. I regret nothing.

I wake up in the morning and am thankful to have a beautiful wife next to me (yes Alexis, that’s you), and I get to tell her that I love her. I get to tell my best friend that I love her, that is cool. We laugh together every day and although we disagree over some things (like MPH) we’ve never argued in over 10 years. What’s the point? We’ve got much better things to do with our time together and she loves me for who I am, flaws and imperfections included.

I have an excellent, challenging job that makes me think and allows me to make a real difference, and I got it because I wanted to prove that having a disability doesn’t, and shouldn’t, prevent anyone from doing what they want to. My company has been exceptionally supportive and accommodates as many reasonable adjustments as possible, and I’ve taken those opportunities and chances. In my other day-job I get to help people daily and that’s really, really rewarding. To those of you I’ve supported, thank you for letting me do that.

I’m also thankful that I have a very close group of friends and colleagues who support me, encourage me and understand me. They don’t mother me, they don’t exclude me, and they’re not afraid to tell me the truth, even when I don’t want to hear it.

I put time and effort into my relationships, be it with my wife, my friends and family, my work colleagues. Because they’re worth it and I’m worth it. I’ve had some difficult and uncomfortable conversations, but the end result makes life so much easier and simpler because they understand how I’m feeling, and I understand how they feel. MS isn’t all about me, but me and everyone else.

My MS gives me strength and hope. I might curse it at times and it might frustrate me, and sometimes it scares me to tears, but I’ve never given in to it. The only way to find out what the limits of my abilities are is to push myself until I can no longer go on. And then, when I’m sitting on the couch, I see it as an opportunity to read a good book, catch up on my Sky+ list or learn something new.

I’m ridiculously stubborn and competitive, but I’ll ask for help when I need it because I can’t do it all myself. I’m not so proud that I won’t ask a stranger to open a bottle of water for me. Losing face has never killed anyone, dehydration has.

I’ve been through the full range of emotions, I’ve hit rock bottom and started to dig, but I’ve come back. I’ve done some wonderful things since being diagnosed, have more planned, and I have an awesome (and understanding) wife to share everything with. Some of them might kill me but I’ll do them anyway, for the simple reason that I believe I can. I will.

I realised very quickly that, for me, the only way of dealing with my MS was to embrace it, invite it into my life and work with it. I choose how it makes me feel, I control how it affects me, and I take responsibility for it. I choose to be positive whenever I can, and only I can take responsibility for how I feel. My body, my choices. My life, my rules.

MS is a uniquely individual condition and this is how I handle my MS. I’m not telling anyone how they should feel, or that this is the best way of coping, or that my way is better than yours. There is no right or wrong way to live with MS because we all have our own methods and strategies to get through each day.

But this is how I live, and I fucking love it.

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Rule 2: Deal with it

“Don’t panic”

– Douglas Adams

Shit will happen (Rule 1). Once you accept this then it makes dealing with it easier and simpler.

Unless it’s life-threatening (and sometimes it might be – call 999), I find the best way of handling the disaster (because that’s what it probably feels like), is simply to stop and do nothing for a few moments except breath deeply, maybe make a cup of tea, and breath again.

Give yourself some mental breathing space. Look at what’s happened (or happening), and ask what needs to be done first. Ask yourself who and what will help. Call a friend or family member. Google it. Accept the situation and ask yourself if you can live with it. Take one small step to resolving the problem and you’ll be a lot closer to fixing everything.

The sun will still rise in the morning because the world will still be turning regardless of what’s happened. And it’s not what happens to us in life, but the way we deal with it that makes the difference.

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Rule 1: Shit happens

Doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, what you’re doing or how good life may be, at some point shit will happen. Usually without warning.

Accept this, expect it and plan for it and you’ll be fine. Just don’t dwell on it every minute of every day or you’ll end up miserable.

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The Rules

“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”
Robert A. Heinlein

People ask why I’m so bloody positive all the time and it’s quite simple: my life, my rules.

The ‘rules’ that I live by are simple and straight-forward. They help me learn from the past, love the present and look forward to the future. They guide my life, my relationships and my decisions.

Sometimes they’re more like guidelines, they’re not set in stone so they evolve and develop over time, and apart from the first two they exist in no particular order. There’s no punishment for breaking them (all good rules are made to be broken), although the consequences of not following or listening to them tend to be karmic.

I’ll share them over the next few weeks and maybe you’ll find something useful, maybe you won’t. It’s your life after all, live it by your rules.

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Perspective

“Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
― Marcus Aurelius

Today is cold, wet and windy. It’s beautiful.

The sky’s full of colour and motion, the rain splashing through leaves and into puddles, the breeze through the trees. These are the moments in life that we miss because we turn up our collars and turn off from the world as we rush to wherever we urgently need to be.

Yes the weather is cold and wet – that’s factual – yet by stopping for 5 minutes to appreciate what was happening, by changing my thinking and looking at it differently, I chose to enjoy it.

It’s not what happens in life that defines us, it’s how we approach it and the perspective we choose.

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