MAKING MEANING WITH MS
Featured in Healing MS Winter 2020
I have had secondary progressive multiple sclerosis for about thirty years. Recently, a good friend of mine was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. He is a psychiatrist and asked me how I cope with a chronic illness. The first thing I said was to join a support group. It makes it easier for me to have other people who understand and are coping with similar challenges.
I try to keep on a schedule. I am in a hospital bed and have an iPad. I put on peaceful music, close my eyes and meditate, controlling my breathing. I have a lady who is living in our apartment and helps me with my adult daily living needs. I’m lucky. I try to make my environment as barrier-free as possible. My morning routine includes fixing my hair, nice clothing, and make-up. It may sound silly in a COVID isolation, but I feel better when I look better. I then put on some good rock and roll music, “Uptown Funk” is a favorite of mine and is a great start to my exercise routine using small weights. I see a physical therapist once a week and follow her excellent suggestions. She teaches me how to cope with my physical challenges. Movement in my chair keeps me alert. I play with a balloon with my aide. It’s good for balance and we have a lot of good laughs. Laughter really is great medicine. My routine varies from ten minutes to forty. There are many exercise programs available online, YouTube has 5-minute TaiChi, stretching, and suggestions for maintaining a healthy diet - common sense. Taking care of my body is a good way to relieve stress.
I have several activities I do for fun. I paint with acrylics and do digital art, play computer games, especially puzzles and SODUKO. I’m terrible at it, but the challenge forces me to use my brain and the computer doesn’t call me “Stupid” no matter how many mistakes I make. I try to maintain as much social contact via phone, FACETIME, and ZOOM, even attending religious services that way. I spend a great amount of time writing. It has become my new avocation. I’m working on my third novel and have written several articles for an online newspaper. I want to help others and have become more active in politics. It keeps me in touch with the world, isolation is stressful. Admittedly, there have been many obstacles I face—UTI’s, injuries from falling, fatigue. I try very hard to be kind to myself and to accept help from others. I spend as much time as possible on my terrace which is full of plants, I don’t take care of, leaving the work to my aide and my husband. Find enjoyable pursuits, learn new things, laugh, and ask for help (don’t sweat the small stuff). Life isn’t perfect for me, but I am grateful for whatever I can do.
More About the Work of Debbie Eiseman
I retired from a long career as a teacher in DeWitt Clinton High School. I was an adjunct instructor for several universities training teachers. My two adult daughters have left the nest and I love to brag about my brilliant eight-year-old grandson. Physical challenges due to the unpredictability of secondary progressive MS have limited my independence and I’ve become more dependent on my wonderful husband and a part-time caregiver. I hate being so dependent but I am forced to accept the reality that I need help. Realizing I’ve entered a new phase in life, I needed something to do to give myself a purpose, a reason to get out of bed.
I turned to writing and acrylic and digital art. So far, I’ve written and published two novels and I’m working on a third. IN A MOTHER’S ARMS a fictional saga about three generations of women from 1882 to 1958. I wrote about the challenges these women faced in the tumultuous first half of the twentieth century. My second novel, PORTRAIT IN DESPERATION, is a romance suspense story. A young Albanian-American girl is forced to marry a sadistic Albanian crime lord. Her innocence destroyed, she flees to another city, takes on a new identity and finds romance.
Now I have a new reason for getting out of bed in the morning. I’ve written several articles for an online newspaper, thisisthebronx.info/magazine and will be marketing my novels at the Book Expo in the Jacob Javits Convention Center this Spring. I even have a website, deboraheisemanbooks.com.
It is easy to despair when this disease steals very basic abilities away like dressing and self-care. I had to redefine myself. I also had to learn a hard lesson in humility. I need to accept the help of other people to do things for me. It’s a struggle but in many ways, it makes me stronger, more disciplined and grateful for the love and care I receive.