I’ve been thinking about adding some initials after my name, just like physicians and scholars. Tricia Chandler, MS. Looks good, doesn’t it?
While I do have MS, I don’t have an M.S. (Master of Science). In fact I don’t have an official college degree of any kind. I really wish we could earn degrees through real life experiences, not just from a university. Wouldn’t that be great?
If that were the case, I think I would already have all the credits I need to be a psychologist, a nurse, a nutritionist, a pharmacist, a teacher, and a pastor, among many other things!
Even though I don’t have any letters after my name to prove it, my real-world education — particularly the part that involves having multiple sclerosis — has not only made me smarter, but it’s also given me some valuable life perspective.
I’d like to share what I consider to be some of the most important things that I’ve learned.
1. Laugh as much as possible! It really is the best medicine out there. And it’s free. Seek out people and activities that will make you laugh. Be goofy.
2. Have faith. Instead of asking why God gave you a disease (or some other condition you didn’t ask for), ask for the strength to help you fight it. Use your spirituality to get you through tough times and be thankful for everything you have. My faith has saved me so many times.
3. Try not to worry. It’s hard not to worry. But worrying really is not going to help anything. One of my favorite sayings is: “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.”
4. Be flexible. You are going to have bad days. There will be good days too, but part of MS is uncertainty about what tomorrow holds. Be ready to roll with whatever it gives you, whether it be debilitating fatigue or five days of intravenous steroids. Even when your health gets in the way of your other plans, you have to keep living.
5. Surround yourself with people who make you stronger. Weed out the people in your precious life that cause you stress or create drama. Life is too short.
6. Love your neurologist. Like isn’t enough. Please don’t settle on a doctor who you don’t feel comfortable with. He or she will be key in managing your disease the best way possible. You two need to be a team.
7. Stick (pun intended) with a disease-modifying therapy. If you’re on one that seems to be working for you, stay on it. If you’re “waiting to get worse,” pull your head out of the clouds and get on a therapy as soon as possible.
8. Reserve your energy. You can’t be everything to everyone all of the time. I know this because I’ve tried and I’ve failed. Know your limits and do what you can when you can. My motto: Do as much as I can, as well as I can, as long as I can.
9. Make a difference wherever possible. Find your passion for giving back. Help others with MS, be there for friends and family, volunteer when you can. Every little bit helps. And it feels good, too.
10. Be happy. Happiness truly is a decision you have to make. Despite your circumstances, things could be worse. We’re alive. That’s a reason to celebrate every day.