Twenty-five years ago, my aunt Marjorie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
In my extended family, we don't talk often. We don't know about each other's day-to-day. Reunions are few and far between. There is not a lot of drama, and we like to keep conversations comfortable. But the one thing I know for sure: when shit hits the fan, we are here for each other, and we are a witness to each other's lives.
This weekend, I'll be supporting Marjorie and other people diagnosed with MS in the annual "Walk MS" fundraising walk along the Chicago lakefront, where I spent my college years. $$$ PLEASE MAKE A DONATION, if you can. $$$
I am so proud to have my aunt Marj in my life, because despite any superficial interactions we've had over the years, there is a depth of love and appreciation. And a genuine feeling of being there. (Thanks, Marj.)
Over the years, she has endured impaired vision, chronic pain, limited mobility, imbalance, fatigue, physical weakness, broken bones and countless other symptoms, caused by damage to her nervous system. (Not to mention the chemotherapy treatments and experimental medicines.) But she has never displayed a shattered spirit. I am in awe of her optimism, positivity, perspective and humor.
Her story is one of many. And with setbacks come great successes: a loving husband, a beautiful son, a successful career, wonderful friends.
Back in college, I used to house-sit for aunt Marj, who lives in the Chicago suburbs, while she was out of town. A memory that stands out: she has a magnet on her fridge that says "Never never never give up."
I am reminded of other people like her who have faced illness and never gave up. I know I take my health for granted, and I have to pause to remember that it can all be taken away, with one diagnosis.
In honor of my aunt Marj, who is a writer and singer and mother and sister and wife and general creator and nurturer of awesomeness, I wanted to showcase some creative ways of raising awareness about this life-altering disease.
Oh, and P.S.: Fuck you, multiple sclerosis.
UK-based artist Kirsty Stevens uses the shapes of harmful lesions that are visible on MRI scans of her brain to etch designs onto glass, paper, wood, fabric and other surfaces. (See more at Vanilla Ink Studios.)
Thought Sort, another project by Shift.ms, is an online tool that helps people recognize, manage and adapt negative emotions caused by negative thoughts, using methods of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Advertising agency Grey Australia created a campaign, "This Bike Has MS," to demonstrate the unpredictable symptoms of multiple sclerosis, using the metaphor of a misaligned bicycle.
This is my sixth blog post in a series for #The100DayProject, a project by Elle Luna. I'm naming it the #100Days ofBenevolent: an attempt to kickstart my daily blogging habit, which has been idle for years.