Kevin Byrne: Sharing My MS with Others
My diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis came while I was serving in Korea, commanding an air cavalry troop (D/1-6 Cav). I remained in-country for several months, using the time to prepare for when I would come back to the US and have to start my life beyond the Army. I spoke with a recruiter several times who helped me begin the job search and transition into this new life. His first point of guidance to me, and my biggest takeaway to share with you, was to become familiar with ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act) and my rights as a disabled veteran. For me though, sharing my MS with others goes so far beyond my rights; it’s my pride and fears that are the toughest issues!
I guess I am one of the lucky ones because people say, ‘you don’t look like you have MS’. I have been told that before, though I’m not sure what that really means. What I do know is that I spend a lot of time managing the appearance of my disease. How do others see my MS? That is my focus because how others see my MS is how they see me. There is always that battle within me; the fight between avoiding the stigma I don’t deserve while at the same time getting the support and understanding that I need. I hope that I am doing it right.
Hi, my name is Kevin and I have Multiple Sclerosis
“If that’s the case, then why tell them about your MS at all?”
My other reason to talk about my MS is a bit more selfish. I want to use my disease to help generate support and to educate others. As a fundraiser for the National MS Society’s Bike MS, I use my MS as a personal appeal to others. I figure that talking about my MS and its effect is a great way to solicit donations and support for the organization. I talk about my challenges and the ways that the VA and the NMSS have supported me. It has become my mantra. Here is an excerpt:
It has been 11 years now since I first heard those words "You have MS"; a young captain in command overseas when my life instantly changed. Like many others, my course has been a daily struggle with pain and damaging effects ever since the first onset of my disease. I am able to fight back! Through the amazing medical treatment that I receive from my doctors at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, my body is strong. Through the constant love and guidance from my friends and family, I have been able to maintain my daily life. All the time, the support from advocacy groups like the NMSS have kept me prepared for today and whatever may happen next!
It is a fight. For approximately 400,000 people with MS in the US and 2.5 million worldwide, the fight is not over and it won't be over until the cure is found.
It will never stop….nor will we
Please support our fight!
Lie about MS? Sort of…
Sometimes, my MS reminds me that I might not be in total control of this disease. Those are the times I fear. I want to be control of with whom and when I share my MS with others, because it makes me feel helpless in the face of the opinions and reactions I might receive from others. My last battle with that was in early 2009 when I started my current job. It was a dream job as a Sourcing Manager with Iberdrola Renewables, a renewable energy company based here in Portland. I showed up Week #1 ready to again demonstrate myself as capable, successful and strong. I showed up Week #2 with an eye patch because I was losing my right vision again. Weakened by steroids, I had to come clean about my MS much earlier than I wanted to…and not on my terms. Halfway through my jumbled explanation of my MS, why I didn’t mention it before and what to expect, my director cut me off: “Don’t worry about it. Tell me whatever you need; now about that contract you’re working on….” My fears set aside; I was able to focus on reality instead of worries about reactions and impressions from others.
After 11 years I am still learning that fate, fortune, and circumstance can’t compete with the support provided by positive employers, colleagues, and friends! For that maybe I am a lucky one!
Please feel free to visit Kevin’s website at www.brieandkevin.com
Date Posted: January 2011