Column: There’s always time to talk about MS

Can I be honest, 100% transparent, naked and unafraid with you?

Whenever I meet a new doctor, nurse, therapist or curious onlooker, I school them, a necessary task with multiple sclerosis.

I don’t want to sound haughty, but MS is different for every patient and different for every patient any given day. I have found the perfect icebreaker, smile maker, completely naked way to reveal my life with MS to the experts. I tell them for the past 18-plus years the only constant in my life has been that I am numb from the nipples down. My dear friend, Theresa Schwartz, wrote about her nipples in her columns about surviving breast cancer, so with her as inspiration, I figured I would just go for it.

Now that I have your attention…

There are those rare days when I wake up determined to shine for Jesus by evangelizing anyone and everyone even using words if necessary. Then there was today, Tuesday…

Years ago, I cared for the sweetest little preschooler, Adam Toborg. He was all puppy dog tails and tadpole eggs. Muscatatuck was heaven on earth for us. We would take our Anne Comstock Handbook of Nature Studies and make our own discoveries according to the imagination of precious tiny Adam.

In him, I saw rare love and tenderness for nature. Another slightly unusual delight of ours was Tuesdays, the trash day of our little northeastern Seymour neighborhood. Adam loved Tuesdays. He would arrive early, and with wispy black hair and clear brown eyes, he would grin saying, “Pegi, it’s Tuesday! Let’s go clean up the earth.”

We would glove up, gather Wally Bags, a few snacks and we’d head off toward Shields Park, making our way down side streets all the while filling our bags with treasures to put in trash bins at the curb. Adam turns 21 next week. I miss him.

This being Tuesday, I set out with my replacement helper, our little Heinz 57, Cocoa. I put on Deb Bedwell’s pink hat, gathered supplies, loaded up my walker and set sail with Cocoa high and mighty at the helm on the seat of my rollator. He looked for stray cats and wild squirrels while I searched for those bothersome Polar Pop cups and Cinnamon Whiskey bottles. Both of us absolutely determined to shine for Jesus and honor Adam.

It’s late March in Indiana, so the winds were a tad fierce, to put it mildly. Being the overachiever I am, we went north on O’Brien Street. Try not to roll your eyes as you picture this scene, a senior using a walker with Cocoa, aka Killer, barking at the blowing cardboard while I dodged overturned trash bins, tree scraps, wild bushes and drivers racing around that blind hairpin turn near Brookhaven.

We push uphill on the crumbling almost nonexistent sidewalk. And what the heck just happened to my right leg, which went from aching to completely disappearing altogether.

From the casual eye, my situation tends to appear mildly comical and completely unsuccessful. But God. My mom always said, “This too shall pass.” To be honest (remember, I’m Christian), “this too” usually does pass, but while I’ve been waiting on the passing, I have discovered the finding. But God. I see it all through my life, his goodness, always faithfully taking situations meant to harm me turning them into blessings.

I didn’t see them at the time, but clearly, he has never for once left me hanging. Not as the proverbial clumsy overweight kid in a new school, not as a suicidal teenager enduring mental institutions and shock treatments, especially not as an arrogant, bitter, hate-filled young adult, never as a perfect-in-my-own-eyes, stay-at-home homeschooling mother, nor as a prideful, hypocritical Christian into busyness for God, he has never forsaken me in my mess. Not. Once.

“Hey, Bertha!” kids shouted on the playground. But God opened the doors to music and Girl Scouting.

“Just bite down on this,” the psychiatrist said as he administered ECT. But God helped me finish nursing school with honors.

“Your tibia is shattered. The fibula has snapped,” the orthopedic surgeon informed my parents. But God slowed me down to write letters to my pen pal in basic training who would come home from Fort Dix and ask me to marry him. 2021 is Year 34 for us.

Your son is gifted and your darling daughter refuses to get on the school bus, what do you do? You call your new friend, Linda Higginbotham, who homeschools her three children. But God. Joey and Karen both graduated, earned the Gold Congressional Award for Youth and are passionate, caring adults who learned how to learn.

“You have multiple sclerosis.” But God (here is the biggie But God). I went from 90 mph busyness for my Lord to intimacy with my Jesus. He has filled me full of abundant life from peak to peak, not valley to valley. My life of unspeakable joy and un-understandable life testifies of God’s faithfulness, goodness and agape love.

We didn’t catch one piece of flying trash or see one squirrel, so Killer and I went home after only a short time. But God … we both reclined in my overstuffed chair as I reread some of the gospel of John, then I prayed for Mr. Adam to find his own “But God” testimony.

Pegi Bricker is a Seymour resident who has lived with multiple sclerosis for the past 18 years. Send comments to [email protected].