For the last fifteen years or so, Father's Day has been filled with mixed emotions for me. I'm thankful and happy that I still have my father in my life (I have many friends who do not), but I'm sad because each year I watch M.S. take away more and more of the Dad I remember from childhood. On Father's Day I can't help but think back to childhood when Dad would take us to the Springfield Reservoir to swim. He always had us for a week in the summer (I'm a product of divorce) and we'd often head for the beach or somewhere different like Cumberland Falls, KY.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system. The body’s own defense system attacks myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system. The nerve fibers themselves can also be damaged. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing the variety of symptoms that can occur. (http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/what-is-ms/index.aspx, June 20, 2010).
My father started showing signs of M.S. when I was about eight years old; however, back in the 1970's they didn't have the tools they have today to diagnose it. He was officially diagnosed with Primary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis when I was in college. Each year I watch the disease rob him of more and more of his independence. Today, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, and with diagnosis occurring most frequently between the ages of 20 and 50, many individuals face a lifetime filled with unpredictability. And each Father's Day and each Christmas I wonder if it will be his last.
So why am I writing about all of this depressive stuff on Father's Day?
I do have a point.
You never know what lies ahead. So embrace life and live it to the fullest! Sometimes my friends think I'm kind of crazy. My husband, Mark, and I enjoy our adventures. In our few years together we've gone rafting, caving, kayaking, skiing, hiking, rappelling, ziplining, and more. This summer we are doing a 100 mile bike ride to benefit M.S.
We have healthy, capable bodies now. And we're going to use them to experience as much life as we can, while we can.
My father always likes to ask us what we've been up to. He knows the answer will be something out of the ordinary. When we sat with him over dinner this evening he asked us what we did over the weekend. We told him that yesterday we took a tree climbing class and today we biked 50 miles. He just shook his head and said, "You two are crazy!" But in his eyes I can see that he yearns for an adventure. And, I really think he enjoys vicariously experiencing them through us.
My Dad's body was taken away from him far too early. At my age, he was already starting to feel the devastating effects of the disease. And so often that seems so unfair. But it has also taught me a life lesson.
Live now. Make your life an adventure. It's the only one you have.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.
- J.J. Kunkle
- I am the owner of The Fit Life, LLC. The Fit Life, LLC offers fitness instruction and nutrition counseling in a holistic way. I focus on personal training using mainly your own body strength--very little equipment. I also hold a certification in holistic nutrition. Because nutrition counseling regulations are very strict in Ohio, I'm still working on what nutrition services I can provide to my clients; however, I'm happy to provide general nutrition information. I enjoy teaching TRX, Indoor Cycling, and Boot Camps.
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