Carmen Amundsen, the hard-working CEO and Founder of WAMS Foundation, graciously invited me to be the first Guest Blogger on the WAMS Blog. WAMS aims to not only aid and support those diagnosed with MS, but also the family members, spouses and friends of those with MS. For that reason, we’re adding voices from this group to the blog and it starts with me. Carmen is my dear cousin, which puts me in an ideal position to provide insight into what you can do when someone you love has MS.
Carmen is five years younger than me, but even with that age difference I have many happy memories of playing with her when we were young. Many hours staying up late playing video games and summer days swimming in her pool. We were briefly in the same school when I was in Grade 6 and she was in Grade 1, so my friends and I would give her and her friends piggy-backs around the schoolyard. Unfortunately, when I became a teenager, all of a sudden the five year age difference became a gulf. We still saw each other at family events, but it wasn’t the same as it was when we were younger. Then some unfortunate circumstance made us lose touch almost completely for about 15 years. We’d hear news of each other once and a while through family, but that was it.
Then three summers ago, my father told me Carmen had been diagnosed with MS. My heart dropped. How could the girl, still the rambunctious little 6 year old in mind, possibly have MS? It felt like the whole world had been shaken up and everything was wrong. By this time Carmen and I were both living in Vancouver and had seen each other occasionally, so I was close by and thankfully in a position to reach out, so that’s what I did. Today, Carmen is a huge part of my life and I proudly sit on the Board of the WAMS Foundation. That five year age difference has again shrunk down to nothing.
What have I learned about loving someone with MS? And what can someone do to help a loved one with MS? I think the most important word is “support.” Give them support whenever they need it and even sometimes when they don’t think they do. Give them support even when it gets uncomfortable for you. Anyone who knows me well realizes I hate being up in front of groups or in any situation where I’m drawing attention to myself, but for Carmen, I stood up in front of 300 people at our recent fundraiser, and following that I walked proudly with her in the Pride Parade in front of 500,000. These were not things I thought I would ever willingly do, but if she can be strong in the face of MS, I can certainly get over my phobias and properly support her. Who knows what she’ll be getting me to do next! 🙂
Bottom line; support in any shape or size is the best thing you can give your loved one with MS. It may be as simple as a ride to the doctor or lending a supportive ear, or it could be something harder and scarier for you, but know that all your support is appreciated and needed. The world can become very small for someone with MS, and it’s up to us, their loved ones, not to let that ever happen.