This week, the one-year anniversary of hearing “I think you may have MS” passed. And I spent it in the best way: speaking to a group near and dear to my heart. The college where I teach has an excellent re-entry program that serves currently and formerly incarcerated people. Most of the staff members working in the program have been incarcerated themselves, working as peer mentors, and that is a key part of their success.
Prison teaches people to be prisoners, not to return to society successfully. That’s one reason re-entry is so important. At my college, one offering is long-term relief (LTR), a peer support group for people who have spent 10 or more years incarcerated and/or have served multiple sentences. The group has a weekly dinner that includes a check-in where each participant talks about his or her week, discussing challenges and successes. What is said in the room stays in the room, so I can’t give specific examples, but the sharing is raw, heartfelt, honest. I’ve attended twice, and both times, I’ve gone home feeling incredibly inspired.
I was there to speak about my MS journey and how it brought me back to writing, changing my perspective in significant ways. I’m a better writer than I am a public speaker, but the response from all was warm and encouraging, touchingly sincere. Most of the participants already value writing in their own lives, recognizing how it helps them work through issues, and I’ll be volunteering in the coming weeks to provide feedback for those who would like it.
My next round of treatment is scheduled for February 15th, right on time. I’m looking forward to spending the day at the infusion center with my mom. Because we have to be there so early in the morning, she’ll stay at my house the night before after we go out for dinner at our favorite restaurant. I usually avoid overly crowded restaurants on Valentine’s Day like the plague, but we deserve the treat. Amid the starry-eyed new romantics and the weary, been-together-forever couples, you’ll see a laughing mother and daughter celebrating a tradition of being there for each other.
Meanwhile, all is well. I’m walking farther more consistently. I recently bought a pair of Yaktrax so the ice can’t stop me from walking outside anymore. I used them twice this week because of inclement weather. This morning, we had a fresh inch of snow on the ground, and I thought I’d have enough traction without them. Halfway around the water, however, I suddenly found myself on the ground after slipping on a nasty patch of buried ice. Once I brushed myself off, I turned around and started carefully making my way back to my car for my Yaktrax, which I should have put on in the first place, and when I was almost there, I slid and fell again. I was tempted to call it a day and drive home, but I didn’t want to give in to frustration, so I put the cleats on and headed back out, completing my usual loop.
Alvaro says I’m crazy for walking in the snow, the rain, the freezing cold. Most would have agreed with his assessment on Thursday when I was out in 40-mph winds that brought the already cold temperature below zero. Walking into the wind was difficult, certainly, my face chapped and frozen from its beating, but once it was at my back, there was magic, the snow blowing like smoke over the ice and water. Sure, I could have gone to the warm community center and walked laps there, but then I would have missed the wonder of this. I’m not grateful to have MS; it’s a terrible disease that takes so much from those who have it and the people who love them, but I am seeing wonder everywhere in the year since this journey began, and that is something to be very grateful for indeed.