I’m so happy to introduce the FUMS audience to Jennifer Digmann via her guest blog today. She and her husband Dan are both incredible human beings – and both happen to have Multiple Sclerosis. Jennifer was diagnosed in 1997; Dan was diagnosed in 2000. She has secondary-progressive MS. His is relapsing-remitting. Through their writing, public speaking and advocacy work, the Digmanns have inspired countless friends, colleagues and perfect strangers with their amazing love story and passion for life. See for yourself in their book “Despite MS, To Spite MS,” a compilation of their heartfelt essays, accented by haiku-style poems by Judy Williams.
Click here to order a copy now:
Chair of the club
by Jennifer Digmann
I belong to an exclusive club. It’s unlike any other club to which I’ve ever belonged.
It is not like the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority I was a member of as a student at the University of Michigan-Flint or like the Immanuel Lutheran Church group my husband, Dan, and I meet with each month.
No, this club is something special because membership in it was not by my choice.
I am a member of the “wheelchair user” club. And for as much as I do not want to be a member, I consider myself fortunate to include myself in this group.
I did not immediately gain wheelchair user membership upon my diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis back in 1997. MS signed me up in 2002 when it took away my ability to walk. At first, I didn’t think my wheelchair dependence would last.
“Certainly this is a bad dream. As soon as I wake up, I’ll be back on my feet,” I naively thought.
Twelve years later, I’m still in my chair. I hate just about every single aspect of my wheelchair reliance, including the continued concerns about accessibility, decreased circulation, risk of pressure sores and the invisible barrier that surrounds me and prevents me from getting close to just about anything.
But then something like the recent conversation I had with a complete stranger reminds me just how lucky I am to be a member of this club.
As Dan and I were out with some friends at our local watering hole, a fellow wheelchair user I had never met rolled up to me and frankly opened the conversation, “So, how long have you been in that thing?”
There is no need to pussyfoot around the subject. Really, if I’m going to be offended by a no-nonsense question like that, I’m not dealing with my condition as well as I thought I was. And besides, who doesn’t like chatting with someone interesting in a bar?
Undeterred I answered him, “Twelve years. And you?”
He introduced himself as Bill and told me his story. Bill explained his near-paralysis caused by an accident almost fifty years ago, his successes and failures, and proudly talked about his two sons and the love of his life, Nancy. They’ve been married for 58 years.
He then attentively listened as I answered his question about how I ended up in my wheelchair a dozen years ago. When I told Bill it was because I have MS, he sympathetically grimaced as he said, “That’s a bad deal.”
I agreed, but then went on to explain how I’ve worked to make the best of the situation, found strength in my friends and my church (which interestingly is only two blocks from Bill’s home), and in my husband.
When he asked how long Dan (who also has MS) and I have been married, I boasted that we will celebrate our ninth anniversary this September.
Just like that, I met another wheelchair user who can relate to my mobility challenges, frustrations and triumphs. These are among the reasons I am grateful I belong to such a group of open and understanding people who are eager to listen and share stories about how we all were initiated into our exclusive club.
Before Bill rolled out of the bar, he made sure to introduce me to Nancy, his wife, who he calls his angel. And I introduced them to Dan, my husband, who is my angel.
In making fast friends like Bill, I see another way us reluctant members of the wheelchair user club, in an ironic sort of way, are truly blessed.
Special thanks to Jennifer, for this guest post, for your wonderful, inspirational book, and for being such a great example of all that MS‘ers can accomplish “Despite MS, To Spite MS“. To catch up with Jennifer and Dan, please visit them at www.danandjenniferdigmann.com
Remember, sometimes it helps the stress, just to say F-U-M-S.
Special thanks to www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net for providing the cool wheelchair clipart. And the background is orange. How cool is that!!??!!