Because You Can

“There are things in life 

I took for granted until 

they were gone”

Hi, my name is Hal Lawson and I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1986. I was blessed enough to be able to walk until 1997. From that time on, I faced a slow twelve-year regression, using manual and then power wheelchairs and, finally, becoming paralyzed from the neck down, completely bedridden and totally dependent on others.

Over the years, I have experienced many stages of MS - physical as well as emotional.

There are specific moments in my life that changed everything for me physically. I remember my initial stumble before using a cane. I was walking with a 70-year-old woman when I lost my balance and grabbed her arm to catch myself. The next day she showed me her arm. It looked like a rainbow from all of the bruising. I began using a cane the next day because I knew I could hurt someone.

Another moment is when I finally had to begin using a wheelchair. Due to having my legs inactive I began having muscle spasms that, eventually, became severe. In fact, they became so severe that they would throw me out of my chair. Eventually, I had a pump put in around my abdomen that injects a muscle relaxer into my spine to control the spasms.

The inability to feel ordinary sensations affected every aspect of my life: brushing my teeth, eating, shaving, dressing. Every basic physical act of living was taken from me, things most of us take for granted and don’t ever really think about.

Emotionally, it was an even more difficult process.

In the early stages, I was in complete DENIAL.

I’m stronger than this and will use the disease to bear witness for others regarding faith, perseverance, and dignity.

As the losses of simple things in life accumulated, DENIAL quickly faded to ANGER.

I am losing the ability to do the simplest things. My feelings of inadequacy are beginning to intensify. There is no one who understands what I am going through. I am becoming a monster and it is those closest to me who are feeling it the most: my family.

After ANGER, life became overwhelming and I began to PLEAD with God. 

I can’t handle this. Please just take me. I am only living to die.

Coming to the realization that I would have to live this way and couldn’t do anything about it, I became very DEPRESSED.

I am on the verge of losing my family and eventually I will lose my wife. My daughters do not enjoy being around me. The people I could always count on are gone and I have no one to blame but myself, my MS, and my uncontrolled anger. Depression is a deep, dark hole in which there appears to be no hope. I’ve lost my family and my faith. There is no hope.

I basically gave up and that was the beginning of ACCEPTANCE.  

Years before, a friend of mine had shared with me the stages of the Grieving Cycle. I researched it thoroughly and I had been in the classic Grieving Cycle for years. Knowing I wasn’t crazy and that it is a natural reaction allowed me to continue the final stage of ACCEPTANCE. My hope is that this same awareness can offer an understanding as to the behavior of a loved one or the realization to a caregiver that the behavior is not directed at them.

Acceptance is an Attitude Adjustment. I had nothing and basically accepted that fact and, surprisingly, the focus was no longer on ME. Things began to change. To my three daughters’ credit, we remain a family. To my ex-wife’s credit, we remain friends.

We may not consciously realize it, but we come into this world with childlike faith, totally dependent on family and loved ones. I will eventually leave this world with a childlike faith and total dependency on a loving God, the unconditional love of three daughters, a friendship with an ex-wife, meaningful connections with several incredible friends, and the sacrificial love and patience of caregivers.

It is no wonder we who suffer from MS are a mess and our loved ones are confused. MS robs you of your dignity. Do not allow it to rob you of your hope and your family. Without those pillars holding us up, it is truly hopeless. May God bless those of us afflicted with MS and the saints that put up with us. AMEN.