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Who Am I?

By Richard M. Cohen
January 9, 2014

When battling a chronic illness occupies the better part of a lifetime, it is tempting, though a trap, to use health issues as the focal point to focus the camera on your own life. What do you do? Oh, I have multiple sclerosis. But what do you do? I have MS. That’s a fulltime job, pal. For the many who feel doctored to death, it sure does feel that way. The idea that we are trading in a broader identity can be lost. Pity. We can lose sight of who we really are.

I am the husband of a beautiful, successful woman. Our identities have merged, and we take from each other. Our bodies, too, have come together, and we have given to the other. Who are you? A guy with MS. Perhaps I am missing something here.

Who am I? you ask. Well, a father, I say. I have three who are young adults. The oldest works in Shanghai. He works building nuclear power plants and is fluent in Mandarin. His brother is a television reporter in Spokane, his sister studying in Prague now. If you ask them who I am, they will say a New York Times best selling author or simply a pain in the ass. I doubt the letters MS will cross their lips.

I, of course, do not lose sight of all I no longer can do. Those limitations stare me down and wear me down. I am less than I was and feel doctored to death. People like me spend too many hours in ruts and no longer see ourselves for who we really are.

I am legally blind, having endured too many bouts of optic neuritis, which steals vision from many in broad daylight.  Also, I am blind in a more far reaching way. No longer do I see myself for what I am. I am a captive of loss and can only see what is missing. What is intact and still there is around the bend, out of sight and sadly beyond memory.

Another connection broken.

Richard M. Cohen

Richard is an award-winning journalist, television producer and author that has been living with MS for over 40 years.  Published works include Blindsided, which chronicled his battles with multiple sclerosis and cancer, and Strong at the Broken Places, both New York Times best-sellers.  Richard is a frequent blogger who writes about his life with MS  – you can follow his blogs on his site Journeyman at www.richardmcohen.com.

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