Strength in Numbers
Contribution by Kristin Abramowitz – ChangeMS Blog Administrator, Certified Medical Assistant and 9-plus year MS Warrior
As administrator of this blog, an MS Warrior and – most importantly – a normal, loving, authentic person, a realization has recently come to me. Sitting down trying to get this blog organized and rally the best and most helpful information to share with the world, I was struck by something – reality. I hope nobody minds if I digress a moment from the specific content goal of MS. As everything in my life now does, this will relate back to MS, I promise. I just need you all to bear with me for a moment. What I am going to share here is not meant to tell anyone what to do or how to feel. I just want to share with you all what I am going through to maybe help put things into perspective just a bit. In no way is anything I am going to share meant to minimize anyone’s struggles or achievements. I just want to share with you how life dictates priorities – no matter what your own personal goals or intentions may be.
I had planned on writing a blog post detailing the events surrounding my MS diagnosis to bring to light one person’s journey of coming to terms with being given life-changing news. I even sat down a few times and started to draft that insightful diagnosis story hoping to show everyone how – though MS changes your life it doesn’t have to decide what you do with every moment. You know, the whole “I have MS but MS doesn’t have me” story to give people in a similar situation hope and inspiration. Then, this morning, I realized that I had a much more important message that needed to be shared. I decided that the way to inspire people dealing with MS doesn’t always have to be directly about an MS experience. I realized this because I, myself, am currently being inspired by something bigger than my own story. Bigger than MS.
As some of you reading this may already know, I recently became a wife. In May I married my husband, Jared, and gained a whole new series of branches on my family tree. One of those branches happens to include an amazing woman, my Sister (in-law) Jaime. Jaime is a teacher in New York City who got married a few months before Jared and I and, not long after, we learned that she and her new husband were expecting a baby. Exciting news for all of us. My in-laws started planning to be in NYC around the time the baby was due. Jared and I looking forward to meeting our new niece or nephew. Jaime and Jon excited to start growing their own family. A whole new chapter was beginning for the whole group of us.
Then, just a few short weeks ago, our family got some scary news. Jaime learned she likely had developed cancer. At 37 years old and about 8 months pregnant, Jaime, her husband Jon and the rest of our family were presented with a huge fight. One moment we were talking about baby stuff and the next there wasn’t as much talking about anything without thinking about the battle that was beginning.
On October 21st, Jaime’s specific diagnosis was confirmed – Hodgkin Lymphoma. A meeting was set for the following Monday to talk to the doctors about inducing labor to begin treatment to attack Jaime’s cancer. Then, on October 22nd, just about a day after the diagnosis was confirmed, Jaime went into labor – almost a full month prematurely. The moment we go the news, my in-laws packed up and jumped in the car to drive down and be at the hospital for Jaime and Jon and to meet their grandchild. My mother-in-law staying to be there with Jaime through the beginning of her treatments and taking care of a newborn.
I did find a bit of optimism in the fact that labor began naturally and Jaime avoided the need to induce labor artificially with medications. Natural processes really are better than forcing things along in a way foreign to our genetics. Despite the fact that nature took over, there was obviously some concern given the prematurity of the timing and all the other medical “junk” going on with Jaime. Despite any concerns, my sister gave birth to the most perfect beautiful baby boy.
Levi Jacob Kurtzman joined the world on October 23rd. Healthy, adorable and oblivious to the struggle going on around him, Levi brought the whole family (blood family and otherwise) together in celebration. I am no expert in religion and faith, but I have to admit that I truly believe he was sent here as a tiny reminder of all the good in the world for our family to hold on to as this trying experience begins.
Just days from the birth of her perfect little boy, Jaime is beginning her treatments. Thursday she had a port implanted to be used for her upcoming chemotherapy treatments. She and her husband have moved in with his parents while she is undergoing treatments so they have help making sure Jaime can rest and heal and still be able to be close to her son and have help when she needs it. She has had to step away from her teaching position while she starts this chapter of her life. A chapter of fighting. Fighting to defeat this monstrous disease and watch her son grow up. Fighting to be there with her husband for all the firsts in Levi’s life. Fighting to stay positive despite the treatments.
I sent Jaime a text the other day just to let her know she was on my mind and I was here for her only to have her reply inquiring about how my new job was going. With all the new and challenging things going on in her life, she still keeps up on what is going on with the rest of us and shows support for the things we are dealing with.
Just yesterday my husband shared with me a link to a story in the NY Post about our family! The NHL is very active with their Hockey Fights Cancer campaign. Jared just happened to witness the recognition that the NHL provided for Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson when he played in his first start after finding out his wife had cancer. After seeing this, he reached out to a writer for the Post and, after sharing with him what was going on with our family, Brett Cyrgalis wrote a beautiful article about Jaime and her upcoming fight. (in case you are interested in reading it, here’s a link: http://nypost.com/2016/11/04/how-this-brave-rangers-family-is-leaning-on-nhl/ ).
Why is this a story I felt the need to share in this forum? Well, outside of my personal ties to the story, it reminded me of something very important. Although being diagnosed with MS was a huge blow to the plans I had in mind for the rest of my life, in the grand scheme of things, I am pretty lucky. Not to say that having MS is “no big deal” or any less important than any other chronic – or even acute – illness. A reminder that hearing the words confirming such a disease is not, by any means, “the end of the road” for anyone.
Yes, I do know that the world we live in can be challenging enough without adding to it some kind of chronic illness or severe disease. It is important, however, to remember that NOBODY is alone in their struggles. What is going on in my family right now was a huge cue to me to live each day to the fullest, to be there for each other, and to always hold on to hope and positive vibes. No matter how difficult life is for you, there are others out there ealing with just as much – if not more. Not to say that whatever you are going through isn’t difficult or isn’t as important as someone else’s, just to remind us all that everyone has their own battles to fight and that, when we all try and support and encourage each other, we aren’t just helping them get through whatever they are dealing with. Helping and supporting others can give you strength in handling your own life and the obstacles thrown in your path.