Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"What I Have Learned From MS" by Dave LeSueur, BHS '67

Thanks Dave for another clever column...

What I Have Learned From MS

by Dave LeSueur


It is fashionable to say "Everything happens for a reason." So what is the reason that I have MS? One school of thought is that bad things happen to pay us back for sins we commit. If that is true, then I am sure I have MS because of some things I did in 2nd grade. It bugged me back then that Doug Boudinot would always punch me in the arm. So one day I punched him back as hard as I could and it made him cry (my friends said that was a "disproportionate response"). And once Bill Wolleck said Cathy Overman had cooties and I didn't step up to defend her. And finally I feel bad about those times Marc Morningstar wanted to play after school but I watched baseball on TV instead. Yes, I was a pretty bad kid and may deserve having MS.

I believe, however, that many bad things which happen to us are simply random events. I am not sure everything happens for a reason, but I do try to find Reason in everything that happens. I would prefer not to have MS, but as long as I have it, I might as well learn something from the experience. Two lessons come to mind.

My wife and I recently went shopping at the mall. We parked the car and headed toward the front doors. There were a couple of raunchy-looking kids riding their skateboards around the entrance. I found myself humming the tune from "Bye Bye Birdie" which asks "Kids! What's the matter with kids today? . . .Why can't they be like we were perfect in every way?"

We headed toward the handicapped entrance where there were two sets of doors. I planned on pushing the button which automatically opens both sets of doors . Just before I reached the doors, however, these two kids raced over and cut in front of us. "I can't believe how thoughtless these kids are" I muttered to my wife. One kid opened the first set of doors. The other kid went through and opened the second set of doors. They both smiled and held the doors for us to enter the mall. I clearly had misjudged these kids.

That happens all the time to me. People want to help. I am not naive enough to think that everyone is good, but I get to see the best side of most people. So the first thing I have learned from having MS is that most people are good.
The five-year-old son of one of our friends was watching me in my wheelchair and asked "Why can't you walk?" I never know how much to explain to people especially when they're only five years old. I started with the simple answer "I have a disease called Multiple Sclerosis." He kept looking at me like my answer wasn't complete enough for him, so I explained how MS interrupts the messages from the brain to various parts of the body. He still seemed interested so I told him about how the myelin sheath around my nerves was damaged and how some nerves in my spinal cord didn't work and that's why I couldn't walk. He nodded and smiled. I was proud of my explanation. I imagined he was going to say "Thank you Mr. LeSueur for that wonderful explanation. It was so clear that you have inspired me to become a doctor. I think I will do research and when I discover a cure for MS I will give you all of the credit."

I looked at him, waiting for him to speak. He looked at me, held up his hand, pointed to a band aid and said "I hurt my thumb."

So the second lesson having MS has taught me is that everyone has problems. Some struggle with physical ailments like me. Others battle depression, try to cope with the death of a loved one or experience financial issues. I am much more aware than I used to be of other people's problems. That may just be because people are more comfortable sharing their problems with me because I have MS. It may be that having MS has made me more sensitive. But life is not easy for anyone. Even people who seem to have it all -- professional athletes, movie stars and other celebrities -- often struggle with the sudden fame and fortune that is thrust upon them.

People are good. We all have problems. And there is a third lesson I have learned. If someone asks you whether you want to have MS or be cursed with sudden fame and fortune, choose the sudden fame and fortune option.

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