Every morning when I wake up, my brain immediately lunges for and drinks in The Sh-t I Need To Do Today List. It's never a short list. I cram multiple projects, deadlines, errands, emails, research, cardio, internet scouring, snacks, meal planning, texting, phone calls and bladder busting amounts of water into a 24 hour period. I also try and spend enough time with my kid so that she has a healthy idea of what a Mom is. And then when she is in bed I do more freelance work, hustling and, if I'm lucky, watch a TV show or movie that the cool people in my life have recommended. Lights out, good night and do it all again the next morning.
There is no moment of zen. There is no living in the present. There is always planning for the next move, regretting the last move and figuring out why I'm happy/unhappy/anxious and how so much outside of me means so much inside of me. I'm skidding off rails like some bloated Tokyo Drift Winnebago, out of focus but full steam ahead with little thought of an end game. I just go. Write a list, tick it off the list. Success. I'm busy. How are you? I'm BUSY. What's new? OH EVERYTHING BECAUSE I'M SO BUSY.
And then I get run down, resentful of other people's success, vision, ideas and balance.
I'm an asshole. Every day that I get up and strap on my running shoes and just go for it like wild beasts are licking my heels; I take for granted that I can.
Just over a year ago my very good friend Ali was diagnosed with MS. The news plowed through our group of friends like an apocalyptic fart – we bent over in disbelief, shook our heads at the news and walked away to try and find a clear space to take it all in. It wasn't just her fate; it was our diagnosis.
It was f-cked. This girl of ours ran marathons. This girl of ours maintained a true and light happy disposition even when sh-t got sh-tty. This girl of ours wasn't even 30 years old.
The MS cloud spat down on all of us. We tried to use new knowledge, gallows humour and real time together as big firm umbrellas to shield us from the big scary mess.
There is a lot known about MS, but so much more not known. An MS diet was prescribed, one with severe holes in logic that was eventually dismissed. One person's cure is another person's deflating life vest. Vitamins were popped, Google alerts set up ("MS cure," "MS trend," "MS help," "MS breakthrough," "Please Google, Give Us Just a Crumb.")
There were dark patches. Times when we didn’t see her, when she needed to sleep and then sleep some more. When her limbs didn’t want to participate anymore. When the pain behind her eyes was lightning. We all stood around, kicking the dirt, hopelessly unhelpful and frightened that this was just always going to be it. No more sunshine. Just dark rooms and brief appearances made to keep us sated.
After Christmas there was a shift. She felt GREAT. We made PLANS! She went on vacation to her favourite spot near the water where her heart rate was calm and clear. We got hopeful. We were giddy with relief. Our group text messages were jammed with exclamation marks. This girl of ours was back!
And then. The bad symptoms came back. Despite the change in diet (additional lean organic protein, Paleo principles) and all of our great big PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE desires, she was struck down again.
We haven't seen her in a few months. She soldiers on. After work she sleeps. On the weekends she sleeps. We all carry on, in our little circles, working on our very important lives, checking in on her and letting her know we're here. Her absence in social settings is a ragged hole. We take turns standing in front of it so we don’t break down.
We wake up every day and swing our legs out of bed and never once think, what if this seemed impossible?
Over the last month we have had a mission, a target for our pent up frustration. We registered for the MS Walk in Langley. We fundraised. We bugged our friends and family in every awkward way possible to donate and I know I speak for all of us when I say: every donation made us want to cry. (Generosity is so my kryptonite.
The amount of money we raised is just a tiny trickle of what is needed to continue the research into this disease. But I choose to believe every penny is a huge middle finger to MS.
As we gather Sunday there may be just a few of us who encircle Ali and keep her mind off the fatigue while we walk. But she knows that so many people are in this fight now with her; their love and energy will be thick in the air. We will walk. Elbows will brush together and off-colour jokes will be hushed. We will laugh. We will pry every detail out of her. We will brainstorm new strategies. We will not stop hoping. Her story is just one but it’s our everything.
There is still time to donate to the MS Walk if you're feeling so generously inclined. Just follow this link and know my gratitude is near suffocating.