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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Your Life is Never Over

When we are diagnosed with something as devastatingly life changing as multiple sclerosis, often we experience the fear, dread, and worry that our lives have somehow come to an end.

Though we are not necessarily facing imminent death, we feel as though our opportunities have become more limited, our time is more unpredictable, and our options have narrowed significantly. This feeling can become all-consuming, and we may find that it paralyzes us with fear. We may feel that we are nothing more than the sum of our physical abilities, and that life is something to merely survive rather than actually experience.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I watched the story of Kayla Mueller, the humanitarian aid worker recently killed in Syria, I was brought to tears. This young woman is such a stellar example of what a human being is actually capable of. Through the sacrifice of her life, she has shown us what is possible. Though her death is unbearably tragic, there is so much to learn just by hearing her story. She was born in a place that provided her a safety net, a nation where she could have chosen to stay and pursue the typical comforts of a first world existence. She chose otherwise.

Kayla Mueller

Kayla chose to devote her life to helping those who did not have her same privileges, freedoms and opportunities. She spent much time helping the 1.5 million refugees in Syrian camps, half of whom were children. She read to them, painted with them, and cried with them when family members were killed in the senseless violence. She helped after refugee camps were bombed, and when children lost parents. She could not bear to turn her back on these helpless victims, and she could not understand why the world wasn't alongside helping her. Kayla lost her life in this pursuit, and the world lost a soul that is so rare, so precious.

The lesson we can take from her story is a profound understanding that every one of us, no matter how small or insignificant we feel, can make a difference. Think of the changes that would sweep over the globe if every one of us were as dedicated as she was....

Even with our illness, we have never lost the ability to help others. In fact, serving in a capacity of any kind that offers help to others in need is something that can make us feel that were are alive, and needed. When I begin to feel helpless, lost, and unable to go on, I have learned to search for a way to make a difference. There are many options, including writing, blogging, volunteering, or serving as a mentor for another patient. There are countless ways to help other MS patients, including online and telephone support, hotlines, and in-person support meetings. Donations can be made to various causes, or fundraising can be an option, through events or online sites. Find a cause that you feel passionate about, whether it is a global relief effort, or a local MS event. Find something that makes you feel that your life is not over, you are not merely a "patient," but you are still a valuable human being.

Until the moment we leave this world, we are able. It is so easy to feel consumed by this disease, and it is an incredibly difficult challenge. My feeling is, if you were given this challenge, you must be strong enough to endure it. Instead of succumbing to the challenge, try to see it as an opportunity. Your story alone makes you valuable, so share it. You never know who needs to hear exactly your story at this very moment. Do not ever give up.

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