Throughout the course of my illness, I've pretty much been able to avoid falling into the "why me?" trap by rephrasing that question, "why not me?” I've experienced a few one in a million positive events in my life (winning a pick five lottery and getting a hole-in-one in golf, to name two), so ringing one up on the negative side of the ledger really doesn't surprise me. Getting MS is a doozy of a negative, and sucks in every way that something can suck, but I've thoroughly read my lease on life and it unfortunately doesn't include an exemption on getting suck ass diseases. I don't often succumb to self-pity, as I realize that triumph and disaster are two sides of the same coin, and both are total impostors.
Rather than "why me?” the question that does haunt me is "how me?” I'd really like to know just how I managed to pick up this particular affliction. Since the best neurologic minds in the business still haven't determined the underlying cause of MS, there is no good answer to this question. I'm certain that in order to get MS a genetic predisposition is required (my mom has Type I Diabetes), and recent research indicates that all MS patients are infected with the Epstein-Barr virus (as am I, as per blood test results).
So, I have two of the factors that science tells us lead to Multiple Sclerosis. Still, not everyone with a genetic predisposition and an Epstein-Barr infection gets MS, so there have to be other triggers involved. These triggers may be different for different patients, and what I want to know is just what other factors did I run into, and when did I run into them? Was there some way I could have possibly avoided them?
In effect, I want to know whether I am a Multiple Sclerosis pinball, coming to the disease through a random series of events that were absolutely beyond my control, like a pinball getting whacked around a pinball machine, or a Multiple Sclerosis pincushion, born to be afflicted, fated to get MS no matter the direction of my life?
On a philosophical level, this is a question of free will versus destiny. Of course, the answer to the question of how I got MS is really of no consequence, since I have the disease and the knowledge of how I got it will never change that. Still, I find myself sifting through the pieces of my past, trying to pinpoint when the first signs of my illness showed themselves, and if there was any discernible events or episodes that preceded them that may have set the disease process in motion.
This is a fools errand, to be sure, but the human mind strives to find patterns in randomness. We look at clouds and see animals, or faces, or an avocado with 6 feet and hairy armpits, and we likewise look back at our lives and try to make all the pieces fit. We make choices every day that can and do completely alter the courses of our lives, but ultimately, despite our choices, would the outcome be the same? Do the infinite meandering paths that my life might have taken all converge at a point called MS, or were there roads not taken that might have curved around it?
I do believe that we have certain lessons we are meant to learn in this life, some bits of wisdom that we must acquire. My experiences with MS have provided me with some important insights, many of which I've tried to express in this blog. Some of them are lessons that, upon looking back, I seem to have been actively rejecting back in my healthy days. If I'd been more receptive to them, would there have been no need for the universe to whack me upside the head with the MS stick? Perhaps it wasn't my physical actions that led me to MS land, but my obstinate and willful avoidance of life lessons that were being gently lobbed at me that resulted in the catastrophic obliteration of normalcy that MS has wrought. Did the universe resort to screaming bloody murder because I simply refused to listen to its whispers?
Then again, perhaps it all was completely beyond my control, my getting MS an event as random as the computer generated numbers on a lottery ticket. Pinball or pincushion? Either way, I'll not be dancing any time soon...