Rennie Rankin, 51, Multiple Sclerosis
How would you explain MS to a child?
My body doesn’t protect itself like other people’s. It gets confused and instead of attacking germs, it attacks itself. This results is that the signals from my brain don’t go where they are meant to, kind of like when a wire is frayed. The signal gets hung up and then my body is unable to respond the way it is meant to.
What would you want the world to know about MS?
MS is called a snowflake disease for a reason. No two patients will ever experience the same exact course of illness. It’s most important for me that others understand that just because they can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there and the storm is always brewing under the surface. They can’t see my pain, they can’t see my fatigue, they can’t see myelopathy/neuropathy, they can’t see the numbness, the tingling, the painsomnia. But it is very real. Not everyone who is disabled uses a cane, walker, or wheelchair, and telling me how great I look never makes me feel any better.
What does it feel like to live with MS?
I have been living with MS so long that I don’t even remember what it’s like to live without it. I can say that I am constantly adjusting to new normals, and I need to be flexible about everything. Making plans can never be set in stone, and listening to my body even when I don’t want to is of utmost importance. Asking someone who has been living with MS since the early 1990’s what it’s like is like asking an able-bodied person what it’s like to be “normal”! This is the only life I know or remember so I make the most of every single day, not knowing what tomorrow might bring.
What brings you joy?
Omigoodness! Everything brings me joy! I write a gratitude journal every morning and every evening. A good cup of coffee, my dogs, spending time with family and friends, spending time in nature, practicing yoga, and the list goes on! I always say two things that I think are so important. One, always play the hand you were dealt like it’s the one you wanted. And two, not all days are good, but there is good to be found in every single day. Life is what we make of it. It is precious and fleeting. Find the joy, no matter how small, in every single day.