For International Men’s Day, Martin Baum reflects on what it means to be a man with MS
19 November is International Men’s Day and as an MSer that gives me pause for thought. As someone living with multiple sclerosis (MS), do my struggles make me different to any other man commemorating this day?
After chronicling the difficulties in a series of blogs about my long and sometimes abusive relationship with MS, having to endure symptoms hardly qualifies me as unique.
Over the years my wife Lizzy, as my carer, has become my gatekeeper, my rock and protector. Yet as much as she protects, she is also a reminder of the losing battle I have for my independence and that is the trade-off.
While my struggle against MS incarceration is no Spartacus or Braveheart moment, what it represents is me desperately wanting to defend my body against the MS bailiffs. Those dispossessors of independence have already been and taken my freedom away to drive on my own without Nurse Ratched – sorry, Lizzy – riding shotgun.
I am not in a wheelchair, and don’t plan to be any time soon. But as my legs continue to be less than supportive, the more my knees continue to buckle under the weight of my torso. This is a reminder that the wheels of my growing immobility are now in motion.
Mentally, I still see myself as a ‘player’ but physically, “it just ain’t going to happen”, as my dad used to say. While I am only 60, the days of leaping in and out of a car à la Starsky and Hutch (for those that remember them) are long gone, having given way instead to snaking myself in and out of the passenger seat. It was much the same with walking aids.
It took so long to mentally ‘get over it’, to feel at one with my cabbage stalk stick. Although there’s nothing unique in using one, and no matter how much I resented being bonded to it from the very start of our affiliation to each other, in truth, all this time on, I feel no less a hostage than I did at the beginning.
Yet despite all the trials and tribulations of having MS, of living and dealing with the many symptoms of it, one thing is for sure – it does not actually make me unique. What it does is make me think of is every man who cannot be here on the 19 November to celebrate International Men’s Day.
Despite the daily struggles of having MS, the fact I am still here to write the blog, to tell the tale of just how restrictive life is, which this year, because of Covid-19, has been the same for all of us, there is only one word that comes to mind and that is ‘blessed’. Because I am thankful to still be here today when so many are not.