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About Mavis and Me.

Call me crazy ("Okay, you're crazy"), but I gave my MS a name--"Mavis." (The first letter, M, stands for Multiple, and the last letter, S, stands for Sclerosis.) Believe it or not, there was a method to my madness. Calling it by its own name made my MS seem less threatening to me, more like a daily companion (though not one of my choosing). And it helped to make clear that Mavis is not me.

It's not Linda who can't attend the picnic. I'd love to go. It's that Mavis! She doesn't do well in hot, humid weather.

She may live in my body, and I may have to constantly adapt and modify my life to accommodate her, but she does not define me. I am (blush, blush) funny, intelligent, loving, and spiritual, while Mavis is restricting, frustrating, scary, and miserable.

Oh! I guess I should also tell you that I call my cane "Hugo." (Wherever I go, Hugo!) I tell people he's a dear friend who always supports me. I know that it's a feeble attempt at humor, but humor is part of the attitude that walks with me and one of the things that keeps me going and brings pleasure to my day.

Some background

MS and I have been acquainted since I was 19. It would pop into my life in an unpleasant variety of ways, stay for a while, and then leave. I never knew when it would visit again, and neither I nor anyone else really had any idea what it was. MS was finally officially diagnosed when I was 51, and I named it Mavis at that time.

Be assured, I don't use humor to hide or mask my feelings, but it does serve me--and, often, those around me--very, very well. In fact, I consider humor to be one of my primary coping mechanisms, and I think, along with medicines, humor should be "prescribed" for everyone with MS.

Hard landings

I'd like to share with you a few of the mishaps Mavis has orchestrated for me, and hope that you'll see humor in them, as I did.

On Thanksgiving Day one year, there were 13 of us gathered at the table, 4 of whom were my young grandchildren. After cleaning up, I decided to head over to an empty couch for a little R&R. Well, Mavis--unexpected and unwanted--tripped me up. She zapped my legs, making each of them feel like a ton, and I simply didn't have 2 tons of energy left. So down I went.

My grandchildren were horrified and confused, so I said, rather perkily, I thought, given the circumstances, "Gee whiz, I must have put my feet on backwards when I got dressed this morning." Their worry and fear instantly dissolved into laughter, and one of them actually bent down and pretended to turn my feet around: "There, Grammy, I fixed 'em for you." So I won that battle, not Mavis!

Another time, I'd finished supermarket shopping and headed with my full cart to the motion-activated exit door. My cane--with its invaluable "hanger-upper" attachment lay across the top of my groceries. Well, I cut a corner a little too closely, and my cane and me hanger accessory went flying across the supermarket floor.

I didn't want to lose this little gizmo, so I got down on the floor (this takes some imagining) to search, figuring that I could lean on my cart to get back up to a vertical position after I'd found it. Well, I did manage to haul myself up, but my body weight sent the cart careening out the door and into the parking lot.

I yelled "Stop!" but it ignored me and sailed past a row of parked cars, steered clear of the pedestrians, and came to rest--believe it or not--right at the outdoor shopping cart corral. Miraculously, it never tipped over, the soda didn't explode, and the eggs were all intact. Still, that Mavis really tries my patience sometimes!

Linda Irwin says that retirement has afforded her the time and opportunity to discover unknown talents, and writing has now become a major focus in her life. She's had several MS-related pieces published in the Michigan Chapter's newsletter.
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Publication:Inside MS
Date:Sep 22, 2000
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