A Friend From out of the Blue
Recently after I went on long-term disability due to multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2002, I received an email out of the blue from a woman in Queens, New York. I live in Toronto and she had seen my name on an MS support page. Actually, she wasn’t absolutely certain where she has seen my name.
Nonetheless the woman, named Cassie, explained she’d had MS since her mid-teens, so it had been in her life for over 20 years.
Finding a Connection
We started communicating back and forth. Her MS was far more of the cognitive variety, whereas mine was definitely more physical.
Cassie’s short-term memory was essentially gone: she literally couldn’t remember anything we’d discussed, even the next day (or later that day even), and pretty frequently she would not be wearing matching shoes. Our running joke was that she was a goldfish because they are reputed to have no memory, so every time they swim around the tank it’s like a new experience.
My MS was very physical. At that time I was using a cane to walk and my physical strength had taken quite a big hit too. I had a variety of other physical issues as well, from blinding nerve pain, to double-vision — none of which Cassie was dealing with. If you look at the list of potential MS symptoms, I have experienced most of them.
So there we were, two people with vastly different forms of the condition, in two different countries, yet we became fast friends almost immediately.
In truth, while we are so incredibly different, we essentially walk in the same shoes. We are people whose daily lives are dramatically affected by this horrible disease, and that was enough to establish an incredibly wonderful friendship.
For the record, Cassie has been happily married for over 20 years and has two amazing sons, so there has never been any sort of romantic component to our friendship. In fact, her husband Thomas, who I also became good friends with, very much supports our friendship because he really has no idea what she’s dealing with.
Obviously he sees her condition and is supportive as he can be, but in terms of actually understanding how it really feels, it was beyond him completely.