She was only the second female in her high school’s history to score 1,000 points in basketball. She went on to net nine hundred more in college. She was a three-sport collegiate athlete, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, got married and had three kids all before the age of 35. One year later, after being incorrectly told she was suffering from depression and fabricating her symptoms, a neurologist finally diagnosed her with Multiple Sclerosis. Her name is Michelle and she is my mom.
When she was first diagnosed, I didn’t really understand what it meant: what it meant for her, what it meant for me, what it meant for our family. The last fourteen years have gone by quickly and given me added perspective, but everyday starts off the same. Mom cringes as she fills a syringe (with medicine we both know isn’t curing her) and finds a spot to inject herself that isn’t too bruised or too sensitive for that sharp point. She drinks a big glass of water to accompany the myriad pills designed to fix this, delay that, numb this, and correct that. But we usually act like the quintessential American family—trying to get to work and school on time without forgetting to pack lunches and sign permission slips.
think the most difficult aspect for my mom and me is the inability for others to understand who she was before this disease and what she has gone through to be here today. I often get upset when a stranger notices my mom’s limp and says, “Did you just have knee surgery?” I wish her struggle to walk was as temporary as waiting for normalcy post-surgery. Most people don’t know what a lights-out shooter my mom was in basketball, how quickly she dashed around the bases in softball, or how deadly her strokes were in field hockey. But then again, I do know and I guess that’s all who matters.
Sometimes I feel like I am abandoning my mom. I dart off to college, only to be gone for 3 months at a time. I study abroad in places halfway around the world. I intern in cities far from our home in New Jersey. But she is the first one to support my ideas, as crazy as they are. She pushes me to be better and not let her MS keep me from living my life (even though I know it’s keeping her from living her life).
This will be my mom’s 30th year teaching elementary school—a feat in and of itself. And unlike many who dream of retirement, she is committed to teaching as long as she can.
My mom is hopeful that researchers will find a cure for MS. In the meantime, she continues to be an amazing mother to her kids, a loving wife to my dad, and a source of inspiration to her students and friends. What more can one ask for?