At five years old I walked to school on the last day of class before winter break. Excited for our Christmas party, I carried a trash bag full of home popped popcorn in paper lunch bags for each student in my kindergarten class. We lived in Ontario, Canada, and I walked to school with another of my sisters three years my senior.
With the wind chill bringing the temperature to 20 below, my sister and I were bundled up with winter coats, mittens, and scarves for the cold walk to school. I carried the large bag of party treats in my right hand. On the way, I cried I was cold. By the time we arrived at school, my eight year old sister was carrying my bags and had given me her hat and scarf to wrap around my hands. I’m not sure how far or how long I carried the bag without moving my hand, but it was long enough to do irreversible damage.
My sister saw me wheeled out on a gurney from the school. I endured a month of soaking my hand daily for a half hour at a time in lukewarm water. For years I was convinced I soaked my hand in boiling water. With the severe frostbite on my hand, lukewarm water felt like it was boiling water. A large blister covered my right index finger from middle knuckle to fingernail. Twice doctors peeled an outer coating that grew and encapsulated my hand like a lobster shell to reveal raw skin beneath.
Years later I learned there was discussion of amputating my right index finger. They spared it, and I’m lucky I have full use of my hand. The bones grew in a way that stunted the length of my fingers and expanded the bone at the knuckles. My right hand is about ¾” shorter than my left.
People notice my hand doesn’t look normal, but rarely do they ask. Some people assume it has to do with my MS. Others are just shy and wonder. If they ask, I’m open about explaining why it looks odd. But mostly I don’t think about it. It’s just a part of the way I am. It’s a part of my history and experiences as well as my physical body. I don’t flaunt it, but I've stopped hiding it. For me it’s a lot like how I feel about having MS.
|My hands are significantly different from |
having frostbite. I was lucky that I was able to
avoid amputation & retain full use of my hands.
We all have scars. Some are emotional, and some are physical and visible. I’m not ashamed of having MS. I don’t rejoice in it, but I choose to embrace it and rejoice in life. I can’t cure myself of MS, but I can accept the limitations it places on me and maximize my joy and life experiences. My MS, like my malformed hand, is a part of who I am. And given I can’t change either of them, I’m okay with them. I choose to look at the bright side. Experiencing severe pain as a young child that couldn’t be avoided helped me become resilient. My resiliency is probably my strongest asset in living with MS and living through adversity in general. While I wouldn’t choose the conditions that taught me these life lessons and built up my resiliency, I appreciate that something good can come from them.