Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Guest Blogger by Jennifer - Acceptance and Assistive Devices

I love social media and blogs.  Especially because it connects me with so many other MS sparklers and their stories as well as their advice.  

Today meet one of my MS Sparkle friends, Ms. Jennifer Digmann.  Her husband Dan and herself both have Multiple Sclerosis and this is their story of life, of accepting and some things that make for a better quality of life!

(PS: Interested in being a guest blogger on TSL?  Email me at thesparkledlifegirl@gmail.com).

Acceptance and Assistive Devices
by Jennifer Digmann


That’s the word I often use when talking about the National MS Society’s fundraising event Walk MS. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the Walk MS experience, have led one of the top fundraising teams in Michigan, and already am gearing up for the 2014 event.

But the reality is: I haven’t walked in over 10 years. Ironic, right?

Then again, my life is filled with ironies! I am Jennifer Digmann, and Eliz is graciously providing the opportunity to share some of my personal perspectives about Multiple Sclerosis.

My husband, Dan, and I both have Multiple Sclerosis. People have repeatedly described ours as a "true love story." Two people with MS a true love story? Ironic indeed!

Combined we have had MS for nearly 30 years and together we show how MS impacts people so differently. I’ve had MS for 16 years and no longer walk, and Dan has had it for 13 years and is running in 5K races. We were married Sept. 10, 2005, and have been living happily ever after, despite having MS.

We host a blog, serve as guest speakers and have written the book “Despite MS, to Spite MS,” to help people move forward when dealing with this chronic illness.

There’s another irony: I blog and have written a book, but I have a very difficult time typing! When I was diagnosed with MS (link to http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/multiple-sclerosis-mri-brain-images) I could type just fine, with some speed and a manageable amount of errors. However, due to the progressive nature my disease, using typing software that uses voice dictation to type has made my life easier.

Such a program, like DragonNaturally Speaking, helps me so that I don’t have to type manually and struggle with my numb and clumsy Multiple Sclerosis-affected hands (link to http://www.healthline.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/effects-on-the-body).

Over the course of my life with MS, I have learned that adapting to the disease is not a sign of weakness. Making adaptations and adjustments are valuable moments of acceptance. If I have to live with Multiple Sclerosis, I need to accept that the disease is not going away and make the necessary changes to make my life better.

Some of the things I’ve done to simplify and improve my quality of life have included accepting help to manage my walking difficulties. I don’t know how many times I scuffed my toe and almost fell before admitting that I needed help. While that admission was difficult to make, once I did I started wearing an Ankle Foot Orthotic (link to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthotics) on my left leg it helped me continue to walk in spite of my foot drop and made me feel much more confident.

By accepting and dealing with this physical change, I improved my situation and there were fewer worries about falling. While I no longer worried about falls; my AFO was not the most fashionable item to accessorize an outfit. But it was a small sacrifice. And there have been other changes in my wardrobe.

I’m comfortable admitting that I have adjusted my fashion to improve function and along with it, I save my time and sanity. I wear pants that are practical, i.e. no pesky buttons or zippers to frustrate me. That choice has made dressing much easier. And it may have taken me 30+ years, but I am finally accepting my naturally curly hair. For the most part, I’ve stopping torturing my tresses into straight submission. That acceptance makes my morning routine a lot faster and improves my confidence because I can better control these aspects of my appearance.

My mornings, heck my whole day, are also much more controlled because I have learned to accept that my MS is going to affect my bladder (link to http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/ms-incontinence#1). As such, I now take medication to better control issues like urinary frequency and urgency. There is also a lot of bladder control gained when I monitor and watch my fluid intake. Control is so important to my quality of life.

Honestly, the one thing I feared the most when I was diagnosed with MS was the dreaded wheelchair. I certainly do not advocate for just accepting it and not working to avoid it, but in some instances progression is unavoidable. For me using a wheelchair was one of the hardest realities to learn to live with, but now, I cannot imagine living without my wheelchair. It lets me control and manage my movement, and allows me access to so much more of everyday life that l potentially would have missed.

Making these changes have made my life a little easier and more enjoyable. Without them, I would’ve missed out on so many of life’s, as Eliz would say, more sparkled experiences  ;-).