There are over two million stories of people living with Multiple Sclerosis worldwide. The great thing about the internet is that it tightens the circle of people living with MS and allows us to connect and share our stories and experiences. The story that I would like to share is that of Dan and Jennifer Digman.
The Digman’s have a compelling story. They met at a National MS Society event. Jennifer was a group leader and Dan was attending the event. The two met, fell in love and were married in 2005. The thing is that both of Dan and Jennifer have MS and are not only husband and wife, but each other’s caregivers. Since getting married, Dan and Jennifer have dedicated their lives to inspiring others with their love story and passion for life despite both having MS.
As the New Year approaches, we often think in terms of resolutions. Resolutions are change and when you live with MS you can not always change your quality of life. However, like Dan and Jennifer, you can redefine what having MS means to you.
By Dan Digmann
Seems like the majority of my Facebook status updates, Twitter Tweets and weblog posts in some way link my wife, Jennifer, and me to Multiple Sclerosis.
Kind of hard not to, you know? I mean, we both have MS and it pretty well has a say in everything we do and don’t do.
I am well aware of the warning to “not let the disease define who you are.” I hear what they’re saying, and I don’t disagree. I somehow still continue to connect myself to MS.
When others think of MS, they think of me.
But a recent incident at work helped me to realize that this is a very empowering position for me and the more than 2.1 million people worldwide who have MS to claim as our own.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
I am inexplicably excited about what’s happening at Central Michigan University – my place of employment – the end of February to fire people up for National MS Awareness Month in March 2014.
CMU’s Park Library will formally open its “Falling Into Place” exhibit featuring photos by artist and photographer Patricia Lay-Dorsey, a retired social worker who has progressive MS. Plus, Patricia will be at the university’s Mount Pleasant campus to share her MS stories and experiences with taking these compelling photos.
Jennifer and I were introduced to Patricia a few years ago at a NMSS Michigan Chapter event in Detroit. Jennifer and I recently had published our book, “Despite MS, to Spite MS,” and because Patricia also had self-published a book of her photos, our chapter president thought we’d have a lot to talk about. We did, and we occasionally connected via email in the months that followed.
Fast-forward to June 2013, and I saw an online story about an art gallery in New York exhibiting Patricia’s photographs. I wondered what it would take to get her photos exhibited in the university library.
I’m a writer and editor in CMU University Communications, and the library’s newsletter is one of the projects I’ve managed for the past decade. I quickly called the library’s exhibit coordinator with my question. That’s all it took to get the ball rolling and bring Patricia’s work to campus to educate people about what MS is and what it’s like to live with a disability.
When the exhibit coordinator began contacting campus program and office directors to give them the heads-up about Patricia’s upcoming visit, many of them offered the helpful direction, “You know who should know about this? Dan Digmann.”
And just like that I realized that within the Central Michigan community, people think of me when they hear about MS. I suddenly was scared that my openness and actions to increase MS awareness was inadvertently allowing the disease to define who I am.
Not so fast, I said. MS is not defining who I am. Instead, I am redefining what people picture when they think of MS.
However people define MS, it in no way represents who I am as person living with this disease. I am a writer. A runner. A husband. A caregiver. A CMU graduate student. I do all these things, and I just happen to have relapsing-remitting MS.
And Jennifer is an author. A wife. An advocate. A public speaker. A 2013 CMU alumna. She does all these things, and she just happens to have secondary-progressive MS.
MS doesn’t define us. We are defining MS.
So, how are you redefining MS and making it your own?
I would like to thank Dan for dropping by and sharing his story. To learn more about the Digman’s story please visit their website: http://www.danandjenniferdigmann.com/